Everyone knows protein is essential to building muscle, but you don’t always have the time to cook a meal every night or the money to constantly buy fresh meat from the butcher. If you’re having trouble fitting a protein-packed meal plan into your daily routine of working and working out, here are some nutrition-saving tips to make sure you’re getting all you need to make sure your gym gains aren’t going to waste with the wrong fuel.

Join a Warehouse-Style Store

The annual fee (usually 50 bucks or less) is well worth the savings you’ll accrue by regularly shopping at a discount warehouse. You’ll find almost all the foods on your menu at a club store, simplifying your weekly shopping trip.

Buy Meat in Bulk

Whether you shop at a discount-style store or a regular grocery store, you can often save as much as 50 percent by buying in bulk—boned chicken breast, lean cuts of beef or even pork—buy large discounted packages. Divide them into individual portions. Freeze most of them (make certain they’re properly wrapped so they don’t spoil or get freezer burn), and put those that you’ll be using within a day or two in the refrigerator.

Eat Foods with Fat

Cheese, nuts, and egg yolks are great high-protein foods (and nuts and cheese, if properly stored, also stay fresh for a long time). They contain fats, making them satisfying snacks to curb junk-food or carb cravings. Reduced-fat cheese is probably the best option, but don’t fear the real thing, either. Great snack choices include boiled eggs, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, mixed nuts, cottage cheese, and white cheeses, such as mozzarella and Swiss.

Drink Milk

Milk usually stays fresh for a week or two after purchase. For those times when you don’t even have what it takes to mix up a protein shake, you can just pull milk out of the refrigerator. Consume 32 ounces, and you get 36 grams of protein with about 360 calories. To boost your recovery and anabolic drive, add fat-free or low-fat milk to your protein shake for an infusion of carbs.

Prep Food Once a Week

Doing most of your food prep once a week provides a solution to one of the most difficult bodybuilding-nutrition issues: time management. Devote a couple of hours to cooking once a week, and the rest of the week you will be able to make bodybuilding meals in a modicum of time. The goal is to prepare as much food as you can without spending all your time in the kitchen.

Defrost in the Refrigerator

Move meat from the freezer to the refrigerator a day before it will be cooked. It takes longer to defrost meat this way, but it will add storage life after it’s been cooked (and help you avoid food poisoning). Put only as much meat in the refrigerator as you plan to cook the next day.

Prepackage Your Meals

Once you’ve cooked several portions of meat, package it so it’s safe and convenient to eat. Place servings into individual containers that are safe to use in a microwave oven. (Some plastic containers are not microwavable and should be avoided.) As an alternative, place what you’ve cooked into one large container and parcel out your meals on a daily basis (cooked meat should safely last in a fridge for three or four days).