Affordable protein sources that don't break the bank!

  • 2 Minutes Read

While quality affordable protein, in particular, sounds like an oxymoron, still, budget-wise, healthy eating is possible. Check out these tips for building healthy meals using nutritious, protein-rich foods that don't break the bank.

Affordable protein

Affordable protein's importance and factors impacting its price

Meeting daily protein needs is required for muscle building, cellular regeneration, maintaining a healthy immune system, losing weight, and much, much more. And yet, it can take some serious hunting at the market to find affordable protein sources.

When you hear the term protein, you may think of meat. A complete protein, meat from animal products contains all essential amino acids. It is more expensive than most plant-based, healthy, protein-rich foods because meat production is resource-intensive, which drives up production costs.

Healthy protein-rich foods for the budget-conscious

Eggs

When it comes to affordable protein sources, you can't beat good, old-fashioned eggs. One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, and roughly 70 calories. If you are trying to lose weight, eggs need a regular space in your fridge. Versatile and filling, eggs are rich in vitamin B2 and selenium.

Eggs vary significantly in price, depending on whether they are organic, free-range, or produced locally. Prices can range anywhere from $1.00/dozen to $7.00/dozen.

Great Value large white eggs are $1.21/dozen, $0.10 per egg, or $0.0167 cents per gram of protein.

Eggland's Best farm fresh eggs are $2.67/dozen, $0.22 cents per egg, or $0.037 cents per gram of protein.

Beans/peas (legumes)

Legumes work double duty for you. In addition to protein, you also get high-fiber carbs. For reference 1/2 cup of cooked beans equates to about 4.6 ounces and provides about 7 grams of protein. Dry beans expand about 2.5-3 times their size, so just under 3 tablespoons of dry beans will make about 1/2 cup of cooked beans.

Dried vs. canned beans

By cooking your own dried beans, you save money and lower your sodium intake. Many canned beans contain added sodium. Look for low-sodium and no-sodium canned beans, though they may cost more.

Great Value dried red light kidney beans ($1.32/pound). This translates to $0.01/gram of protein.

Great Value canned red light kidney beans ($0.72/15.5-ounce can). This translates to $0.03/gram of protein.

Tip: How to cook dried beans

Chicken

Buying a whole chicken and cooking it yourself saves money over purchasing a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken or fresh or frozen chicken breasts. For the best prices, buy whole chickens in bulk when they go on sale.

Note that one pound is 16 ounces (or 454 grams). One pound of raw chicken yields about 11 ounces of cooked meat. One ounce of chicken provides about 8 grams of protein.

A cost comparison of different types of chicken from Walmart

Let's say you plan to eat six ounces of chicken a week. During a year, you will save $76.96 if you cook whole chickens vs. buying a small package of skinless chicken breasts each week.

Canned Light Tuna

Just because money is tight doesn't mean you have to go without fish. You will get a decent amount of omega-3 fats (DHA) with less cost and mercury than fancy albacore tuna. One ounce of fish contains about 7 grams of protein.

If you buy canned tuna instead of the pouch, eating 6 ounces a week (the recommended serving of fish per week), in a year you would save $83.00.

A difference of pennies per gram of protein might not seem like much, but if you consume the same foods regularly, these savings add up over time!

A few of my favorite recipes for affordable protein-rich meals

Easy Lentil Soup
Chipotle Chicken
Chicken Vegetable and Bean Soup
Tuna Tomato Salad

Other resources

Ways to save your food dollars
Tips to save money on groceries

Adapted from original content by Kathy Isacks MPS, RDN, CDCES

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Nutrients->Protein
Jan 11, 2021
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDE - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)

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