It is an extremely high misconception that gaining weight is easy, especially healthy weight gain. Not to mention, the whole process is rather expensive – or so we always thought. But since I’ve already done the research, you’ll find some of the best cheap high calorie foods in this article!
Putting on body weight to get away from those skinny calves is more than just about slogging for hours at the gym, and I know the perils oh, all too well. I am so certain that every other person that you have spoken to regarding your weight gain has told you at least one of the following things:
- Protein powder/Protein Bars/Other overpriced supplements: Unless you are looking at getting an amazing physique(here are supplements for that), these products are extremely far from necessary(while they certainly help). Yet, anyone and everyone seems to think it is the obvious first suggestion to provide anyone who needs to gain even an ounce.
- Eat only lean meat and as many eggs as you can: Impractical, the short-lived solution you’ll likely give up on in a week or so- simply because your taste buds cannot handle it anymore.
- Hit the Gym! There’s no other way!: Well, do hit the gym for real. It’s necessary. But the “no other way” part isn’t necessarily true. There are plenty of cheap foods to gain weight with that you could consume which I shall list out- that don’t cost anywhere as much as a gym membership!
If you are tired of hearing these things as an ectomorph and wish to take matters into your own hand (and mine), continue to read on about the cheap high calorie meals!
How does a Calorie Surplus help in Weight Gain?
The science behind weight loss and weight gain is very simple- to lose weight, consume fewer calories than your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR, the energy your body burns when you’re at rest doing everything it should be doing to keep you alive such as digestion, assimilation, respiratory functions, circulation, etc.).
To gain weight, consume more than your BMR! It’s really that simple. Your body requires to be in a calories surplus in order to help you gain more muscles than waste it during exercise.
Recommended: Learn more about Calorie Surplus and Weight Gain.
Succinctly, the more calories you consume- the more weight you gain. Not empty calories though, as you’d find in coke or chips. We are talking about yummy healthy meals.
How do you Gain Weight?
Here is something anyone trying to gain mass and build muscle must know: your body shall never waste its time trying to build muscle unless there’s more than enough calories left after its daily functions (i.e. the BMR) to actually indulge in such activities.
These extra calories to be in a calorie surplus have to come from additional food consumption (there’s quite literally no other normal way).
Your muscle tissue is extremely taxing to your body- it is highly active- always contracting or expanding, burning away a lot of calories in the process!
Hence to build muscle, you’ll need a lot more than what it decides to burn away! That’s a huge amount indeed. (And yes, there are cheap high calorie foods that are not heavy on your pocket!)
Recommended: If you are a hard-gainers, here’s how you can increase appetite and gain weight.
Let’s also talk about all that other energy that gets expanded along the way via non-exercise thermogenesis– jargon for burning calories doing daily things like walking, running and even just simply sitting.
This requires some serious calorie intake indeed to compensate for. Thus, you always need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight. And how do you do that? Hail with me: EAT HEALTHY CALORIES!
Now that you know and understand that I completely get where you’re coming from and what brings you to this article let me get to my cheap calorie dense foods list without much ado!
Here I present to you 30 calorie dense cheap foods (in no particular order) that shall definitely help you with regulated, healthy weight gain, so you don’t get fat- just put on weight!
List of Cheap High Calorie Foods:
1. Canola Oil
Extremely affordable, highly usable and calorie-dense to the point that you won’t believe, canola oil is indeed a wonder food for those trying to gain weight the non-carb way. 886 calories loaded into just 100 g!
This is an apt choice for those looking to gain some serious weight and convert all that into muscle mass. That’s why it stands at the top of my cheapest food per calories list to be honest.
And how do you consume it? Anyway, you like! Deep fry some of your favorite meats, roast some heavenly potatoes. Or just simply drizzle it all over some crispy salads! Canola oil is highly versatile that way. Besides calories and traces of Vitamin K and E, the Canola oil does not have many other nutrients, however.
Price: $1.8 for 2.2 pounds.
Carbs are your friend, if you’re looking to gain weight. And what better-tasting carb-rich food can you find that compares with the magical potatoes that can be mashed, roasted, deep-fried, cooked in stews or salads.
Excuse me while I stop drooling and turn my mind away from a bag of salty fries. Drizzled with ketchup. Boiled potatoes contain about 86 calories per 100 g (costing about $1.79 for 2000 calories) and contain about 1.9 g of protein, 20.1 g of carbohydrates and 1.8 g of fiber.
Besides this, potatoes are also a good source of potassium, Vitamin C and not to mention, pure gustatory joy. One of the cheapest food per calorie!
Price: $1.79 for 2000 calories.
3. White Rice
Quite the staple- simple, delicious, comfort cheap high calorie food. It is really cheap at just $0.41 to obtain a solid 2000 calories from it!
100g can provide you with 130 calories and 28g of carbohydrates- which is a really good amount of carbs! Besides that, white rice serves as a decent source of protein at 2.7g, iron, Vitamin B6 and calcium as well!
You can eat it almost every day as they do in the east, and with almost anything- fry it with vegetables, cook up some stew or gravy, boil it with chicken or sauce it up! You can flavor and season it any way you like- and enjoy multiple cuisines from around the world depending on how you choose to eat it!
Price: $0.41 for 2000 calories.
4. Pancake Mix
Delicious hot pancakes drizzled all over with maple syrup and lots of melting butter- breakfast doesn’t get any better than this unless you’re making waffles with the same mix!
Store-bought pancake mixes are priced at roughly $2.2 per 2.2 pounds and can provide you with 2000 calories at just $1.74. A family favorite, this should be easily found at almost every store.
And it is also extremely easy to cook with – so get whipping. That delicious pancake mix can be cooked up with some delicious pancakes, crepes or waffles and eaten with ice cream, fruits. The list doesn’t end just there; there’s also chocolate/strawberry/maple syrups, caramel or anything savory too.
Maybe some omelette or cheese sauce to give it that delicious South-East Asian twist! Besides carbohydrates, pancakes are rich in calcium. But they do contain rather high amounts of sodium, something to throw caution to.
Price: $1.74 for 2000 calories.
5. Chicken- Whole
There’s no denying the goodness of chicken. The richest and most obvious choice of protein, this lean meat is an extremely popular meal choice- be it dinner, brunch or just fried snacks time for the Super Bowl!
Providing 2000 calories at just $1.79, one kilogram of chicken can be purchased at roughly $2.15. Every 100g of whole chicken can give you 240 calories, up to 30g of protein- no wonder those looking to get skinny to buff constantly stock up on this!
Chicken can be on the menu any way you like- boiled whole, deep-fried, stewed, in soups and salads, with rice! A wholesome meal idea, comforting your tummy and giving you a whopping amount of calories. So fire up the grills and get roasting!
Price: $1.79 for 2000 calories.
6. Sunflower Seeds
These high-calorie foods are dense in nutrients and provide you with a lot more than just a delicious snack.
Compared to the other foods listed here, sunflower seeds may appear to be slightly more expensive, priced at slightly over $6.5 per kilogram of seeds. But the good news is, you can achieve your calorie goal of 2000 at merely $2.25 as a 100g of sunflower seeds contain 584 calories!
Other than being calorie-dense, they are also protein-rich- 21g of protein in a 100g serving and roughly the same amount of carbohydrates as well! Vitamin B6, Iron and Magnesium are other nutrients you can find in high quantities in sunflower seeds. ‘
Eat them straight from the packet- or make some multigrain bread with them, they’re crunchy, healthy and yum.
Price: $2.25 for 2000 calories.
Peanut butter sandwiches must be a go-to for anyone looking to gain weight in a cheap and healthy manner. Costing about $5 per kilogram, this high-calorie food provides 2000 calories at just $1.7.
Just like sunflower seeds, peanut butter is extremely dense in calories and provides 588 calories per 100g serve. Much healthier than regular butter and arguably so much better with toast and jelly, this is also a highly recommended source of proteins and healthy fats.
Besides lathering your toast with it, you can add it to shakes, eat it directly from the jar or spread it over your cookies, apples and bananas! Try it with apples and some cinnamon; you will not be disappointed.
Price: $1.7 for 2000 calories.
8. Coconut Oil
Highly acknowledged as one of the healthiest oils besides Olive oil which is present down as you scroll through this list of cheap calorie-rich foods, coconut oil is rich in saturated fats.
The consumption of coconut oil has plenty of health benefits including weight gain, improved quality of hair and skin, etc. and all this and 2000 calories at a mere $1.01. 100g of saturated fats include 87g of saturated fats and 862 calories.
The consumption of coconut oil is easy because it’s extremely heat stable and hence perfect for deep frying- if you’re into the tropical dishes especially.
Yummy fried fish, delicious deep-fried coconut ice cream and coconut flavored pancakes- the unique taste of coconut oil can be experienced through starters, main courses as well as desserts!
Price: $1.01 for 862 calories.
9. Pinto Beans
Mexican street foods often have the comforting taste of pinto beans written all over them and for very good reason- affordability ranking right up there with the slurp factor.
Providing 2000 calories for just $1.39, 100g of pinto beans provide 350 calories of energy and 21 g of protein (muscle whoop whoop), total fat of 1.2g, sodium-12 mg and 63g of carbohydrates.
Besides spicing up pinto beans with delicious Mexican spices, yummy burritos, tacos, etc. can all be made with this filling protein-rich bean!
Price: $1.39 for 2000 calories.
10. Ramen Noodles
The ultimate lazy food, a close friend of those on budget meals, gamers too tired to cook up a real meal, students who couldn’t cook up a real meal if they wanted to and a guilty pleasure cheat meal for actual grown-ups,
Ramen has earned its reputation of being a people’s favorite and no surprise that it’s loaded with calories- in fact, 100g of ramen noodles contain about 436 calories and 63g of carbohydrates but ramen isn’t advisable as an everyday food option due to the extremely high sodium content!
There are only two ways to eat ramen- with a spork or without. Slurp away the salty goodness.
Price: $1.82 for 2000 calories.
11. Whole Milk
Well, there is a lot to be said about plain old whole milk. However, let us let the numbers speak for us. Costing just about $1.37 on average for 2000 calories worth of milk, it is plentiful in its nutritional value- 149 calories for 240 ml of milk, 3.25% fat (8 g), 12g of carbs and 7.7g of proteins.
Whole milk can be consumed as it is or whipped up with some cocoa or any flavor, fruit or protein powder to make a delicious shake. You can also enjoy this blissful liquid with a whole bowl of cornflakes.
Price: $1.37 for 2000 calories.
Go bananas for bananas if you want to gain weight the cheap way! Costing just $2.3 to obtain 2000 calories, this potassium-rich fruit offers a great deal both nutritionally and monetarily! 100g of bananas contains 89 calories. They’re also rich sources of Vitamin B6 and carbohydrates- 25 g per 100g.
Freeze them, top them up with some ice cream or peanut butter- to enhance the calorie count!
Price: $2.3 for 2000 calories.
13. Whipped Cream
No one can say no to whipped cream, especially you if you’re trying to gain weight! This delicious topping (or dessert depending on what kind of person you are) costs just about $2.55 for 2000 calories, and every 100g contains
345 calories and 36g of fat. Not many people know this, but whipped cream has Vitamin A as well! Top your coffee, your brownie, your apples, strawberries or just tilt the can onto your mouth.
Price: $2.55 for 2000 calories.
14. Olive Oil
When you think of olive oil, it is often synonymous with healthy food choices. Popular for both pan-frying as well as salad dressings, olive oil is not just rich in calories (862 per 100g) but also in healthy fats.
It does not cost much at all – in fact, 2000 calories worth of Olive Oil is just priced at $2.02. You can drizzle it all over your salads, to add a soothing flavor to your pasta or use it to shallow fry some delicious meat and veggies.
Price: $2.02 for 2000 calories.
15. Whole Grain Bread
Seriously what can you say about bread that’s not been said already? And of fresh loaves of whole-grain bread? Nothing at all really. 2000 calories at just $0.83, 100g of this superfood give you 387 calories and 41g of carbs.
You also gain a lot of dietary fiber: 7g per 100g and 3.4g of fat. Toast it and add butter, jam, peanut butter, ham, cheese or just about anything you want to make a sandwich of and munch your way to gaining good weight.
Price: $0.83 for 2000 calories.
16. Whole Grain Pasta
While we are on the carb galore, there’s no ignoring a good old bowl of yummy pasta. Costing just $4.55 for a 2000 calories worth amount, pasta is both inexpensive and highly versatile as a salad and a full-blown main course dish.
100g pasta provides 37 g of carbohydrates as well as 7.5g of protein, as well as 174 calories. Red sauce, white sauce, cheese, meat, wine- really what doesn’t go well with pasta?
Price: $4.55 for 2000 calories.
17. Brownie Mix
This might not be the healthiest option in this list, given the level of sugar that this is known to have. However, honestly, who can say no to a large portion of warm, soft brownie that offers as much as $5 only for 2000 calories.
It provides over 650 calories per 100g, along with 27g of carbs. This yummy dessert food can be consumed warm and gooey topped with chocolate syrup. And/or some ice cream as well.
Price: $5 for 2000 calories.
By the dozen? Yes, please! Rich protein sources meet cheap calorie rich food when it comes to eggs. 2000 calories can be derived from eggs for just about $1.6. 100g of eggs contain about 3.3 g of fat, 1.1g of carbs and 13g of proteins.
It is not exactly advisable to skip the egg yolk. It is a rather good source of healthy fats. Eggs are the one food you can literally eat in all ways possible. Boil, scramble, fry, whip, slice into sandwiches and salads. Or cook with rice, for that fact. It is going to be pretty delicious either way.
Price: $1.6 for 2000 calories.
19. Apple Juice
Clear, cool and calm- exactly a chilled glass of what you need this summer. Not just to survive the heat but also to keep the doctor away. $2.66 per 2000 calories is the price range that apple juice is available at and every 100 ml of apple juice contains about 46 calories.
If you were about to drink 500 ml a day, you would be adding about 250 calories to your day for around 30 cents. Apple juice is also plenty rich in Vitamin C.
Price: $2.66 for 2000 calories.
20. Ketchup Sauce
I am not going to pretend that this is a super healthy addition to the list. But the fact that this is among the cheapest calorie-dense foods around certainly does add to the appeal.
Especially the fries’ soulmate. Costing just around $5.48 for 2000 calorie worth addition, every 100g of ketchup sauce contains about 112 calories. Ketchup cannot be consumed on its own.
You know why! It is a proper dressing or condiment sauce. Pour it all over a steaming hot plate of fries, dip your pizza slice into it or use it in your sandwiches.
Price: $5.48 for 2000 calories.
Arguably the most popular breakfast food after cereal, this low carb high-calorie meat is priced at just $2.8 to obtain 2000 calories from, and 100g of bacon provides as much as 550 calories!
The total fat content in bacon is rather high: 42g in a 100g serve. But the carb levels are extremely low. On the brighter side, the protein levels are pretty high at 37g. Bacon can be eaten crisply following a good pan fry in bacon grease.
Price: $2.8 for 2000 calories.
Avocados are a rich source of antioxidants and make quite a delicious addition to the healthy weight gain menu. At $3.67 for a 2000 calorie return, this celebrity-endorsed food has quite the fan following.
100g of avocado has 160 calories, 9g carbs, 7g fiber and 2g proteins. Avocados can be consumed by placing them on toast as a spread. Even better you can enjoy these by whipping up some excellent guacamole as a dip for chips.
Price: $3.67 for 2000 calories.
These delicious, actually healthy little snacks are amazingly dense in calories. Good part? They cost no more than $3.9 for providing 2000 calories.
A hundred grams of raisins contain about 320 calories and have about 79g of carbohydrates. The sugar content is rather high in raisins. Hence it is recommended to be consumed in moderation for healthy results. These can be consumed just as they are or added to cakes and other desserts.
Price: $3.9 for 2000 calories.
Crunchy, simple snacks that can be eaten at any time of the day- crackers are extremely affordable, making it to the list of cheap foods to gain weight. They can give you 2000 calories for just $2.81. 100g of crackers contain over 500 calories, 26g of fat and 61g of carbohydrates.
These can be munched on just as they are or topped with cheese, jam, peanut butter, jelly or just about anything that you feel like topping it with. The sodium levels must be kept a watch on, however.
Price: $2.82 for 2000 calories.
25. Tortilla Chips
How can we be on the topic of snacks and not include chips? Mexican food stalls cannot seem to give them for free soon enough. And it’s obvious why when you look at the pricing.
You can gain 2000 calories from them at just $3.2, and in just 100g of tortilla chips, you shall find 488 calories. I recommend eating this with cheese sauce as well as a salsa to enhance the experience and gain as many calories as possible. In the most delicious manner.
Price: $3.2 for 2000 calories.
26. Whole Milk Powder
You will definitely be lying to me if you tell me that you have never tasted milk powder. Or deny the fact that you have then gone back for some more. Well, if you are looking to gain weight, then you might want to go back for some more as well.
Dry milk powder is very inexpensive and costs just about $4 for 2000 calories. From every 100g of milk powder, you can expect to gain 496 calories, not to mention plenty of calcium!
Add a few heaped spoonful to make your milk rich and creamy, or just dive in with a spoon.
Price: $4 for 2000 calories.
Everyone associates butter with fat and for a good reason. Butter is extremely affordable and almost a staple in every household- costs less than $5 per 2000 calories.
Every 100g of butter contains 717 calories, 81g of fat. It is rich in Vitamin A as well as Vitamin C. Spread this goodness all over your warm toast, your pancakes, while you are frying some vegetables or rice, prepare some garlic butter so that you can add it onto bread for a delicious snack.
Price: $5 for 2000 calories.
28. Cheddar Cheese
Everyone loves cheese in all its forms. Those looking to gain weight can take full advantage of this delicious snack without any guilt whatsoever. Costing roughly about $6.6 per 2000 calories.
Just 100g of cheddar cheese bombards you with over 400 calories, 33g of fat and 25g of protein. Cheddar cheese can be used in Mac and cheese, pizzas, lasagnas, sandwiches, even as a sauce.
Price: $6.6 for 2000 calories.
29. Trail Mix
Blending nuts, dried fruits and granola with some candy seem to be and actually is an amazingly delicious snack to munch on during movie nights when popcorn just isn’t enough.
2000 calories worth of trail mix does not cost more than $2.92. Every 100g gives 462 calories, 45g carbs and 14g of proteins. You can try eating this with milk or just as it is. Or enhance it by adding some gummy bears or more candy.
Price: $2.92 for 2000 calories.
30. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds have gathered a well-deserved reputation of being simply good for you, along with being cheap calorie dense foods. And the fact that it costs so less makes it so much better. Every 2000 calories barely cost $2.92.
Whereas 100g of flax seeds contains 500 calories, 27g of fiber, 18g of protein and a whole lot of potassium and calcium. It is best consumed by adding it to overnight oatmeal. Or by powdering it and adding it to regular dishes for easy consumption
Price: $2.92 for 2000 calories.
That’s all folks!
That brings me to the end of my list of cheap high calorie foods that you can actually afford and start stocking up on right away.
You can easily find all of these nearby stores, but do remember that healthy weight gain is a combined effort of both exercise as well as enhanced diet. Good luck gaining weight the way you want it, start lifting and start munching on sunflower seeds right away.
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Swati is a Content Writer and Blogger based in India, who is fervently passionate about nutrition, and supplements – anything that sounds synonymous with fitness and health. She has been certified for completion of online courses in Nutrition, Essentials of Sports Nutrition, and Bodybuilding Supplements. Apart from online courses, she is constantly looking to absorb factually correct information on health and fitness, personalizing workout and diet routines for herself and people in her circle, who wish to adopt a better lifestyle.
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