- 10 Top Affordable Protein Sources
- Low cost protein-rich foods
- 10 Low Cost Protein Rich Foods
- 1 – Peanut Butter
- 2 – Whole Milk
- 3 – Eggs
- 4 – Turkey Breast
- 5 – Chicken Breast
- 6 – Canned Red Kidney Beans
- 7 – Whey Protein Powder
- 8 – Ground Beef
- 9 – Canned Tuna
- 10 – Canned Salmon
- 23 Cheapest Sources of Protein to Build Muscle on a Budget
- Why Does Protein Matter
- #1 Chicken (frozen)
- #2 Chicken (thigh)
- #3 Beef mince
- #4 Secondary cuts of beef (learn to stew)
- #5 Protein supplements
- #6 Beans/Chickpeas
- #7 Lentils/Quinoa
- #8 Frozen White Fish Fillets
- #9 Steamed Ready Meals
- #10 Turkey (Mince and Beyond)
- #11 Lower-Quality Meats (e.g. sausage meat)
- #12 Eggs
- #13 Greek yoghurt
- #14 Cottage cheese
- #15 Liver
- #16 Tinned fish
- #17 Canned meats
- #18 Edamame
- #19 Almonds
- #20 Sunflower seeds
- #21 Wheat bran
- #22 Hard cheeses (e.g. swiss)
- #23 Milk
- Final Thoughts
- 15 Cheapest Proteins in the Supermarket
- Bang for Your Buck: The Cheapest High Protein Foods
- WHY CONSUME MORE PROTEIN?
- CHEAP ANIMAL PROTEINS
- CANNED TUNA
- OTHER BITS OF CHICKEN
- PROTEIN POWDER
- CHEAP PLANT PROTEINS
- SUNFLOWER SEEDS
- 6 Surprisingly Affordable Protein-Rich Foods
10 Top Affordable Protein Sources
- Canned Tuna [40g protein per can]
- Eggs [6g protein per egg]
- Pork Mince [20g protein per 100g]
- Chicken Breasts [31g protein per 100g]
- Frozen Wild salmon [25g of protein per 100g]
- Peanut butter [23g protein per 100g | 5.3 protein per serving]
- Greek Yoghurt 2% [10g protein per 100g]
- Milk 3% fat [8g protein per cup]
- Canned giant beans [6g protein per 100g, 15g per can]
- Whey Protein [1 scoop of whey is 25g in which around 20g, depending on the brand, is protein] At two scoops a day a 10lbs container will last you around ten weeks.
If you buy discounted meat with 30% off you’ll save a significant amount of money. There is nothing wrong with meat that was full price yesterday and is discounted today. The clever thing to do is to buy in bulk whenever there is special offer or a promotion and freeze the meat. Make your own burgers from pork or turkey mince and freeze them for a later date.
Meat can be frozen for up to two months just make sure you separate the portions so you don’t have to defrost the entire container – once you defrost something you can’t put it back in the freezer.
When it comes to dairy, buy low fat milk and yoghurt simply because you don’t need the extra calories. If you are skinny and you need to gain weight go for full fat. If you drink a litre of full fat milk a day it’ll help you gain higher muscle mass.
Frozen wild salmon isn’t all that expensive especially if you wait for better offers at the nearest supermarket. Try to buy wild salmon and have it at least once a week with rice and steamed vegetables. You can also find it canned which will be an even better option than tuna. Also keep in mind that tuna is high in mercury so it may not be a good idea to eat more than 250g a day.
Beans may not be everyone’s food of choice but they are cheap, accessible and easy to make (re-heat in the microwave and you are done). Cans of giant beans in red sauce are the perfect quick, cheap, nutritious meal to have during the week with whole wheat tortillas. A plate of hot, giant beans + 2 tortillas will give you 25g of protein.
When it comes to protein powder bodybuilders buy, most people are skeptical. Most people do not intend to get bulky and anything that comes in powdered form, comes with its own set of question marks attached. The truth is however that there is only so much you can physically eat all day and still have time for a life. This is why we looked at protein powders.
Whey protein which is in fact a by-product of cheese production and that seemed to make more sense than some of the more medically formulated options available.
There are different types and health claims (anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer properties) attributed to whey protein powders and there aren’t any actual drawbacks to speak of except of milk allergies some people might experience.
It can be used as a supplement for post-workout protein blends, blended with a low fat yoghurt, fruit or berries of any kind it counts as a micro-meal. Basically, that’s just enriching an ordinary yoghurt with high amounts of protein. Ordinary whey protein is preferable here to any super mixes or engineered formulas.
For a great taste and the feeling of satisfying your hunger try low-fat Greek yoghurt. You can eat it with a little bit of cinnamon sprinkled over the top and it’s an awesome hunger-killer.
The more muscle you have the more calories you burn daily – muscle is kind of high maintenance energy wise. People who try to lose weight often overlook the importance of muscle growth that will actually aid them in burning the fat later on.
If you are afraid to get bulky make sure you get enough cardio in your training. As your body optimises the muscle density is not going to increase so you stay lean. Long distance runners can’t get huge muscle because of that, for example.
Your body is smart and it optimises itself for the lifestyle you lead. If you eat carbs and sit on your arse all day long it’ll take the shape of your sofa. If you run daily and you eat protein you’ll get a lean muscled body.
It’s very smart that way. If growing big muscles and gaining weight is your goal you’ll need to eat extra high protein meals during the day for higher calorie intake. The more calories you eat the more building material you’ll have.
If you need to lose weight protein diets are the best. Low calorie diets may work fast but you lose too much muscle in the process and then gain fat back a lot faster.
If you keep your meals high protein and low fat you’ll not just lose weight but you’ll get to see the muscles you already have.
Long-distance runners usually carry an extra few pounds for their long runs but if they need to drop them they often use protein diets to shed the weight.
Low cost protein-rich foods
Most people with an interest in fitness know they have to eat a diet high in protein to aid muscle recovery and repair.
They also know that a high-protein diet is usually more expensive than eating a standard high-carb diet.
But eating for strength and fitness doesn’t have to cost the Earth – the savvy shopper can make some sensible choices to bring down the weekly protein bill. Here are five excellent cheap sources of protein.
Liver Approximate price 17p per 100g, 100g contains 21g protein (less than 1p per gram)
Ox liver is among the cheapest protein sources available and, most offal, it’s also among the most nutrient-dense foods.
But because the liver is the major organ of detoxification for mammals, it can harbor toxins the animal has been exposed to, and liver from bigger, older, non-organic animals is potentially more toxic.
Your best bet is chicken or lamb’s liver – organic if possible. Liver contains massive amounts of vitamin A, b12, iron and the full range of B vitamins as well as protein.
Mussels Approximate price 50p per 100g (frozen), 100g contains 11.9g protein (around 4p per gram)
This is the most expensive protein source here – but at 4p a gram mussels are still great value, especially since they it also contain high levels of minerals such as zinc, selenium, iron and vitamins B12 and C. They’re also high in healthy omega 3 fats. The other advantage is that they’re seriously delicious. Try cooking them in wine, garlic and chilli. Tip – if they don’t open when you cook them, don’t open them.
Quark Approximate price 34p per 100g, 100g contains 13.6g protein (2½p per gram)
This protein-rich creamy cheese is a good source of calcium and B vitamins. You can also use it to thicken up sauces – in fact, you can even throw it into your wine and garlic sauce for the mussels to achieve both a creamier texture and a double protein hit.
Beef Approximate price 30p per 100g (frozen), 100g contains 20g protein (1½p per gram)
Not a surprising protein source, although not usually cited as a cheaper one – but frozen beef can be bought cheaply in bulk and is just as high in protein as fresh steak. Beef also contains good levels of iron, B vitamins, and other useful minerals such as zinc.
Lentils Approximate price 18p per 100g, 100g contains 25.8g protein (0.7p per gram)
You can get lentils for this ridiculously low price if you buy in bulk – and they keep for ages. But even if you buy small packs they come in at around 25p per 100g, so they’re still a remarkably cheap protein source. They also contain vitamin B6, iron, magnesium and folate, plus plenty of natural fibre.
Whey Approximate price £2.20 per 100g, 100g contains 75g protein, depending on brands (3p per gram)
Real food should come first but if it’s too expensive or impractical – you may not have anywhere to keep a liver or mussel-based snack fresh until your workout – whey is a convenient and fairly inexpensive source. You can easily add it to smoothies, pancakes and porridge. It also has high levels of cysteine, which helps the body produce cell-protecting antioxidants such as glutathione.
Kinetica Sports brand ambassador Matt Lovell is a nutritional therapist with a special interest in elite sports performance. Visit kineticasports.com
10 Low Cost Protein Rich Foods
Whether you’re building muscle mass, trying to lose weight, or looking to stay in shape, it’s important to include protein in your diet.
However, most people who want to eat a high protein diet struggle to find foods to match their budgets. Fortunately, cheap sources of protein are not hard to find.
The following 10 low-cost protein foods will help you to keep your diet in check and budget under control.
1 – Peanut Butter
Average Cost Per 1 Tablespoon Serving = $0.08
Protein Per 1 Tablespoon Serving = 7.5g
Calories Per 1 Tablespoon Serving = 87
Peanut butter is a super tasty snack that can be consumed with sliced bread, sliced fruit or on its own. 1 tablespoon of peanut butter costs only $0.08 and contains an impressive 7.5g of protein. It also packs less than 87 calories which makes it a great snacking option if you’re trying to lose weight.
2 – Whole Milk
Average Cost Per 1 Cup Serving = $0.16
Protein Per 1 Cup Serving = 7.5g
Calories Per 1 Cup Serving = 142
Milk is a great high protein beverage and drinking a cup per day will give you 7.5g of quick, convenient protein. It’s also loaded with vitamins A, D and K which boost your skin, provide your body with antioxidant protection and promote healthy vision. The average price for a gallon of milk is $2.99 which means you can enjoy this wholesome protein source at a cost of $0.16 per cup.
3 – Eggs
Average Cost Per Large Egg = $0.17
Protein Per Large Egg = 6.1g
Calories Per Large Egg = 79
Whether you love them scrambled, fried or boiled, eggs are a healthy and affordable addition to your diet. One large egg provides you with 6.1g of protein plus a wide range of health-boosting nutrients and contains only 79 calories. A 12 pack of large eggs usually costs around $2 which equates to just $0.17 per egg.
4 – Turkey Breast
Average Cost Per 4 oz. Serving = $0.50
Protein Per 4 oz. Serving = 34.2g
Calories Per 4 oz. Serving = 154
Turkey breast contains similar amounts of protein to chicken breast but costs significantly less. You can expect to pay around $2 for 1lb of this lean meat which equates to a notable $0.50 per 4 oz. serving. You can eat turkey in many different ways. When cold, it goes great with salads or pasta dishes and when hot it can be consumed with vegetables, rice or as part of a casserole.
5 – Chicken Breast
Average Cost Per 4 oz. Serving = $0.87
Protein Per 4 oz. Serving = 35g
Calories Per 4 oz. Serving = 187
Chicken breasts are many people’s number 1 protein source due to their low cost, versatility and high protein content. They currently cost around $3.50 per pound which equates to an extremely low price of just $0.87 per 4 oz. serving.
6 – Canned Red Kidney Beans
Average Cost Per 1 Cup Serving = $0.94
Protein Per 1 Cup Serving = 15.3g
Calories Per 1 Cup Serving = 225
Red kidney beans are an excellent source of non-animal protein and if you’re a vegetarian they will serve as 1 of your bodybuilding cornerstones. A single cup serving of beans contains 15.
3 g of protein along with other health boosting nutrients such as magnesium and phosphorus. In terms of cost, you can expect to pay an average of $2.40 for a 16 oz. can of red kidney beans which works out at $0.
94 per 1 cup serving.
7 – Whey Protein Powder
Average Cost Per Scoop (1 oz.) = $1
Protein Per Scoop (1 oz.) = 19.7g
Calories Per Scoop (1 oz.) = 322
Whey protein powder is probably the fastest way to fill up on protein and can be easily consumed while you’re on the move. It’s also great value for money with a single scoop serving costing around $1. This scoop will provide you with 19.7g of high-quality protein which gets instantly absorbed by your muscles.
8 – Ground Beef
Average Cost Per 4 oz. Serving = $1.05
Protein Per 4 oz. Serving = 32.3g
Calories Per 4 oz. Serving = 219
Ground beef is a low-cost alternative to other cuts of beef and contains an impressive 32.3g of protein per 4 oz. serving. Ground beef also provides you with various nutrients that support your immune system, reduce inflammation and strengthen your vital organs and more. You can enjoy a 4 oz. serving of ground beef for around $1.05.
9 – Canned Tuna
Average Cost Per 4 oz. Serving = $1.12
Protein Per 4 oz. Serving = 28.9g
Calories Per 4 oz. Serving = 131
Canned tuna is another brilliant protein source that is also rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. It’s incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed with pasta, rice, vegetables or even straight the can as a quick and easy healthy snack. Plus, it’s one of the most economical protein sources out there with a 4 oz. serving costing just $1.12 on average.
10 – Canned Salmon
Average Cost Per 4 oz. Serving = $2
Protein Per 4 oz. Serving = 23.2g
Calories Per 4 oz. = 174
Canned salmon is a great way to enjoy all the nutritional goodness salmon has to offer at a much lower cost than fresh salmon. Not only does salmon provide you with around 23.2g of protein per 4 oz.
serving but it’s also a good source of multiple B vitamins and omega 3 essential fatty acids. A 6 oz. can of this nutritious fish costs around $3, so you can fill up on a 4 oz. portion for just $2.
The low-cost protein rich foods listed above are a great starting point if you want to start filling up on protein with a limited budget.
However, there are lots of other high-quality protein sources out there which are great value for money. So once you’ve tried out these 10 foods, do some more research on the topic and experiment with more low-cost high protein foods.
23 Cheapest Sources of Protein to Build Muscle on a Budget
Protein is the key to muscle growth, but it’s also a real pain when you’re on a budget!
High-quality protein sources fresh chicken breast and salmon can be incredibly expensive. In an ideal world, we’d all have our choice of foods for the best nutritional health, but the reality is never quite so easy.
Building a protein-rich diet on a budget can be challenging. Today we’re going to talk about cheap sources of protein. Whatever your situation – whether you want to save money on your groceries or you’re trying to handle the costs of a huge intake – we’ve got you covered!
Why Does Protein Matter
Protein has some awesome benefits that extend beyond simply being the number one nutrient for physique enthusiasts and serious athletes:
A diet that is rich in protein is one that is easy to stick with, a tool to change body composition, and fantastic for long-term health. You need to balance this up against proper vitamin and mineral intake – as well as your overall calories – but when all things are equal, a protein-rich diet is better for your health, appearance, and performance.
#1 Chicken (frozen)
Frozen chicken breast is a relatively cheap way to get your protein fix. While a 500g bag may cost a few bucks, the huge protein content is enough to keep the cost-per-gram low. You only need 2 chicken breasts for around 50g of protein which is plenty for a single meal.
You can get frozen chicken breast at almost any grocery store but, of course, bulk buying is the best way to make sure you’re getting the best value for money. This is especially helpful if you’re planning to food prep anyway!
#2 Chicken (thigh)
While it’s not as lean as chicken breast meat, chicken thighs and drumsticks are often available quite cheaply at your local store. They’re not as prized as chicken breast due to the slightly higher fat content, but they make for much better eating, and they’re an amazing way to cut your costs while keeping your protein intake high.
2-3 chicken drumsticks or legs can provide the same protein intake as 2 chicken breasts and you can usually catch them at low costs. Bulk buying is a great choice, and we strongly recommend a good marinade – the fattier cuts hold flavour much better.
#3 Beef mince
Mince is an easy way to make the most of your beef purchases. It’s versatile, takes on the flavour of good seasoning, and you can get it much cheaper than full cuts.
While it’s not the same level of luxury that you might get with a new York strip, it fits almost any meal and can add protein to your diet at a decent cost. Don’t worry about getting super-lean steak mince. A higher-fat mince will be a good balance and make sure you’re not over-spending.
#4 Secondary cuts of beef (learn to stew)
If you’re really determined to focus on beef, make sure to look for those cuts that are often neglected.
As with the mince, a second-choice cut isn’t a bad cut. It just means it’s not as popular. If you learn to stew or cook beef cuts properly, you can make a great saving by switching from the choice cuts to the flank or cube steaks.
Stewing these cuts is a great way to keep them tender, delicious, and cut out a lot of the cost of more popular cuts of beef.
#5 Protein supplements
There’s a reason that protein supplements are so popular – and its certainly not because of the taste.
A protein powder is an easy way of increasing your protein intake on budget. Whether you’re a broke student trying to keep up with your needs or an athlete with an exorbitant protein requirement, saving money here is a popular choice.
There are countless protein powders on the market but the simple ones are the best for this. Avoid frills and big names that have fancy words on the label. You want a simple whey or vegan blend protein – they’re pretty much all the same. Go cheap and add a little bit extra to each serving if you’re worried about protein content!
The best protein and carb source on the planet, these two types of pulses make a big difference to anyone’s diet.
They can be purchased at around half a dollar per can if you look in the right places. We don’t recommend buying huge bags of beans as soaking them can be a real challenge and takes a lot of time.
Buy tins of beans/chickpeas and slow-cook them in a casserole together with a simple pomodoro sauce to provide a great, high-protein base for a casserole. Easy and delicious!
More classic plant foods! Lentils and quinoa have become popular recently with the rise in plant-food diets. They’re popular in these groups as a source of fantastic protein at a ridiculously low price.
You can acquire a pound of lentils for a few dollars and make them go a long way. One bag of lentils is plenty and you can mix it with other foods Quinoa and fish to make easy, fantastic muscle-building meals.
#8 Frozen White Fish Fillets
If you’ve been to your local store and seen “white fish fillets”, you might wonder what they actually are.
Crucially, they’re cheap and protein-rich. This is key. Fish is a great lean protein source on a budget and these non-descript fillets (usually cod, tilapia and similar fish) are high in protein, easy to cook, and one of the most versatile cheap high-protein foods.
If you’re looking for the best protein sources on a budget, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’ll cost almost nothing compared to fresh fish and a few lbs of fish will cost equally few dollars.
#9 Steamed Ready Meals
These are pretty popular in frozen food stores and they’re often designed to provide lots of protein, few calories, and cost almost nothing.
These are usually “ready meals” – they steam in the microwave – and contain foods chicken breast, calamari, or fish. These are an easy way to get high-quality proteins and veg into your diet with almost no effort.
If you’re working or studying a lot, these take around 10 minutes to prepare, but provide plenty of protein and micronutrients. Look for chicken- and fish-heavy dishes to make sure you’re getting the best nutritional values.
#10 Turkey (Mince and Beyond)
While it’s less popular than chicken, turkey is an amazingly lean food source with a wealth of easy cooking options. It soaks up the flavour of anything it’s cooked with and can be combined with other foods easily.
This is key to putting together a high-protein diet. You can get turkey mince, breast or thigh relatively cheap – especially if you opt for frozen options. Ground turkey is sold by the pound and stocking up in advance might save you some serious cash.
#11 Lower-Quality Meats (e.g. sausage meat)
If you’re looking to save money while also eating super-clean, you might need to pick between the two. Eating clean can be an expensive habit.
Lower-quality meats ground sausage meat and bacon may not be the healthiest option all the time, but they’re a much cheaper choice when you look in the right places. As with ground turkey, you can find sausage meat by the pound and it is a versatile foodstuff.
Just make sure you combine these foods with plenty of high-quality veg, and you should be able to save money, increase your protein intake, and eat well along the way!
You knew they were going to be on this list!
Eggs are the quintessential cheap protein source. An egg contains 6 grams of protein and you can get packs of 30 for almost nothing. With cooking options from frying to poaching to hard-boiling, eggs are appropriate for any meal or snack.
If you’re really struggling for cash but need to keep your protein intake up, eggs are your saviour. They’re especially easy to save on when you’re bulk-buying.
#13 Greek yoghurt
Another cheap option, a low-fat Greek yoghurt is super-high in protein. It comes with around 30g of protein per container and you can get large packs with a great per-gram discount.
We recommend combining half a tub of Greek yoghurt with some fruit and the nuts/seeds on this list. This is an easy dessert and combining these two types of protein-rich foods is an easy way to boost your intake on the cheap.
#14 Cottage cheese
A bodybuilding classic, cottage cheese is a liquid cheese of unbelievable nutritional value.
It’s not the most exciting food in the world, but it does come with great value for money. You can get a case of 6 cottage cheese tubs for a handful of dollars. You get dozens of grams of protein per tub and it can be used in a variety of meals.
If you’re ready to deal with the unusual texture and taste of cottage cheese, it’s a key to getting jacked on a budget!
Offal is underrated – liver is one of the best, most nutrient-dense animal foods on the market.
Liver contains huge quantities of a number of key vitamins, is high in protein, and you can get it relatively cheap. This is also true of heart and kidney – two other unpopular foods.
These are easy to get at your local butchers or market, and they’re some of the cheapest foods on a cost-nutrient basis. Because they’re relatively unpopular, they’re usually very cheap and provide tons of hard-to-find nutrients!
#16 Tinned fish
Whether its sardines or tuna, you can get a lot of protein from tinned fish without the huge price tag of salmon.
These tinned fish foods are a great way of saving money on your weekly protein food shop. They’re some of the best foods for gaining muscle on a budget. Despite being some of the best protein sources – especially when we talk cheap protein – you should eat them 1-2 times a week as these fish can contain a lot of mercury.
With a balanced diet and good variety, you can make tinned fish work for you, your diet and your budget!
#17 Canned meats
Much tinned fish, canned meats are much cheaper than their fresh counterparts.
While canned chicken, turkey and beef aren’t often considered to be the best, they’re much cheaper and can make a serious difference to your diet. You can buy cans of chicken in white sauce (for example) relatively cheap but this is still the same chicken breast that contains dozens of grams of protein.
Get familiar with your local canned meats aisle if you feel big savings on protein-rich foods.
These peas provide another example of plant foods that provide plenty of protein.
Edamame are rich in protein – hence their use as the source for pea protein supplements – and are relatively cheap. If you buy them by themselves (rather than as part of sushi or other meals), these peas are relatively cheap and make a great snack all by themselves.
With a light salting, as part of a balanced diet, they can be a delicious source of protein – even on the go!
Despite being less popular than peanuts, almonds are a superior protein and fat source. They contain more protein than other, popular forms of nuts and are very filling. This makes them a great food source for those looking to add a protein-rich snack food.
Flaked almonds are cheap, easy to use, and provide around 6g per ounce. These are respectable values – especially for a food that you can buy for a dollar or two in some stores.
#20 Sunflower seeds
Sunflowers seeds are our favourites – they’re an easy and versatile food but come with all the high-quality fats and proteins you might expect from the plant equivalent of an egg.
Designed with all the protein and fats a fledgling shoot might need, they provide a fantastic array of macros and micros for your diet. You can buy a bunch of sunflower seeds relatively cheap, but they’re a filling and nutrient-dense food for improving your diet.
#21 Wheat bran
Wheat bran is underrated. While it’s not the most exciting food, it has two of the most important ingredients around: dietary fiber and protein. With half a dozen grams of both per serving, it’s an easy addition to your diet that can improve both metabolic and digestive health.
The beauty of wheat bran is that it’s also a fine powder, which makes it a great addition to your diet in a number of ways from baking to mixing into your breakfast. Versatile and one of the cheapest forms of protein. We love bran.
#22 Hard cheeses (e.g. swiss)
Hard cheeses are a great place to start for delicious protein-rich food sources.
Cheese is a great part of many foods, and hard cheeses (e.g. Swiss) are high in protein compared to their regular counterparts. While they’re not going to be the same as melted cheese on your fries, they’re a great way of adding some familiar savoury delights to your diet and a cheap protein source.
Obviously, there are some very expensive cheeses out there. Avoid those, shoot for the nutritional info, and just put faith in these cheaper cheese options.
While it’s a bit of a cliché at this point, milk is one of the easiest ways to get cheap protein into your diet.
While some diet plans recommend a gallon of milk a day, most people only need to drink a half-pint or so to get an extra dozen grams of protein into their diet. This is easy when you look at the cost of a gallon jug of milk.
On a per-gram basis, milk is one of the cheapest protein sources on the market. It’s not technically a protein rich food – but it’s a great protein rich drink!
If you’re on a budget and you need to improve your protein intake, these are some of the easiest, cheapest high-protein foods you might want to look at.
You need to balance your dietary protein with other aspects – your overall calorie intake and personal goals – but making a few switches in your diet can improve your muscle growth and keep your savings safe.
There’s not a lot of money in hard training, but if you’re an enthusiast and you want to get into better shape or improve performance, these cheap protein-rich foods might just make the difference in your diet and recovery!
15 Cheapest Proteins in the Supermarket
When you're looking to build muscle, burn fat, and boost your metabolism, adding more protein to your diet is a prime resolution.
And while the recommended dietary allowance for protein remains at 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women per day, research shows that upping your intake may be more beneficial for your body goals.
In fact, a study in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism reveals that folks who dug into double the daily recommended amount of protein were better able to build and maintain muscle as well as keep their metabolism revving at lightning speed.
Now that you're convinced to pack your diet with this magical macro, find out how to do so without breaking the piggy bank. All of our go-to cheap protein sources below cost less than a dollar and provide at least six grams of satiating protein per serving. Scribble these cheap protein foods onto your grocery list to get lean on a budget.
Go ahead and don that milk mustache on the daily.
If you buy a gallon of 2 percent milk, pouring yourself a cup of the cheap, protein-rich drink will nourish you with 8 grams of the muscle-maintaining macro as well as all nine essential amino acids and a respectable 30 percent of your daily recommended amount of calcium—for just about a quarter per serving! Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is essential for maintaining strong bones and teeth as well as proper hormone secretion.
For less than 20 cents a serving, you can bulk up your chilis, thicken soups, and add an extra dose of fiber and protein to salads. Black beans are brimming with saponins, phytochemicals that have been shown to lower cholesterol and may decrease the formation of fat, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Pairing berries and carob chips with Greek yogurt is one of our slimming healthy snacks for good reason: The cheap, protein-packed snack makes a wonderful post-workout nosh that'll help you build lean muscle and replenish energy thanks to its protein-to-carb ratio. Plus, the gut-benefiting probiotics will help keep your tummy taught and lean just in time for swimsuit season.
Jazz up your breakfast parfaits and morning oats with a sprinkle of hemp seeds. The subtle nutty flavor and high omega-3 content will help keep you satisfied and satiated, guilt-free.
The cannabis-plant-derived seeds are a solid superfood that can be incorporated in almost any diet, providing a vegan source of complete protein and Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that's been shown to relieve PMS symptoms, a study in Reproductive Health found.
The miniature fish may not be the epitome of a drool-worthy dinner, but that doesn't mean you should shun the canned superstars.
A mere two-ounce serving packs in an impressive 12 grams of protein in addition to anti-inflammatory omega-3s, mood-boosting vitamin B12, and hormone-regulating vitamin D.
Stack the seafood over whole-grain toast, pair with sliced avocado, and top with freshly-squeezed lemon juice for a satisfying snack we bet you'll become obsessed with.
For an easy way to up your protein intake for the day, couple cottage cheese with fresh or slightly frozen fruit.
The curdled cheese provides a solid dose of calcium and B vitamins, and can even help you banish hunger come bedtime thanks to its supply of slow-digesting casein.
What's more, the low-cal cheese contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps induce sleep. Add this cheap protein to your breakfast and even into smoothies for an extra dose of the muscle-building macro.
Whenever you stock up on the sandwich staple, go for the chunk light tuna—it's harvested from the smaller fish, which reduces the amount of mercury in your can.
The cold-water swimmer is loaded with both DHA and EPA, which are fish-derived fatty acids that have been linked to maintaining weight loss, preventing cardiovascular disease, and boosting cognitive function in those with very mild Alzheimer's disease, a study in the international review journal Advances in Nutrition found.
Whether you're blending a batch of homemade hummus or tossing the legumes into a hearty salad, chickpeas are one of our top cheap protein foods thanks to their stellar nutritional profile.
The low-glycemic legume plays a beneficial role in weight management as well as glucose and insulin regulation and may even provide a positive impact on some markers of cardiovascular disease, according to a study in the journal Nutrients.
We love Smucker's Natural peanut butter because it's undeniably creamy and more affordable than other high-end brands that feature the same short ingredient list.
Un the jars you grew up with (we're looking at you, Skippy and Jif), this pick contains just two ingredients: peanuts and salt.
And the main ingredient is no nutritional wallflower: A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found a link between the consumption of peanuts and a decreased risk for heart disease.
Fried, scrambled, baked, or poached, eggs are one of our favorite and most affordable proteins thanks to their stellar nutrient density.
Eggs are packed with metabolism-boosting choline, which helps you keep your bod in tip-top shape—but this nutrient, along with vitamin D, is only found in the yolk! The oft-avoided orb also contains half the egg's protein content, so make sure you're using the whole egg in your omelets to reap the greatest benefits.
Small but nonetheless mighty, lentils are as versatile as they are nutritious. For just 33 cents per serving, you can sneak them into homemade desserts, add them to a vegetarian stew, and mash and mold them into a high-fiber pizza crust. The tiny legumes are a healthful source of anemia-fighting iron and DNA-repairing folate.
Whole grains pack in essential amino acids and fiber—and quinoa is no exception. It's a great cheap protein source for vegans and vegetarians because it contains all nine essential amino acids, deeming it a complete protein, as well as packs in more protein per gram than any other grain you'll find stocked in the supermarket.
Wild Planet Foods/
Fresh, wild-caught salmon fillets may boast a pretty steep price tag, but you can get the omega-3-rich fish for much less when you grab the cans. For just under a dollar per serving, you'll get 13 grams of metabolism-revving protein as well as heart-healthy omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins. We especially Wild Planet's sustainably-caught pink salmon.
Looking to add more protein to your go-to snacks? Just grab a handful of raw almonds. We Blue Diamond's whole natural almonds because they contain just one ingredient (almonds, duh!) and are free of added sodium and sketchy preservatives.
If you're looking to boost your workout's fat-burning capacity, aim to nosh on the nuts before hitting the gym. These subtly sweet nuts contain L-arginine, which has been shown to improve performance by helping athletes train for longer, a study in Biology of Sport found.
Sounds it's time to swap out that pseudo-berry-flavored pre-workout!
Organic tofu, House Foods', is a smart cheap protein source to add to your cart—it's inexpensive, jam-packed with our star macro, and it's plant-based.
The organic variety will ensure you're not getting all the pesticides that come with traditionally-grown soybeans.
Grab the silken tofu and add it to our best smoothie recipes for weight loss to boost the bev's slimming powers.
Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!
Bang for Your Buck: The Cheapest High Protein Foods
Take a moment to imagine an ideal world where you could eat whatever you wanted all the time – where money was no object.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast, this probably conjures up images some of the most amazing high-protein foods: wild Alaskan salmon, wild venison, grass-fed beef, fresh chicken breast and that really fancy branded protein powder you keep being tempted by.
The sad part is these foods can easily break the bank if you’re not too careful, so you’re going to need cheap protein sources, especially if you’re trying to sustain a high-protein diet whilst at university or on a tight budget.
WHY CONSUME MORE PROTEIN?
Because ‘more protein = more muscle gains’, right? Well, protein is for much more than building muscle and plays a huge role in the way your digestive system and metabolism work.
Proteins contain amino acids, which the body uses for just about everything: repairing tissues (which also means repairing and building muscle between workouts), make up the antibodies that fight infection and are the enzymes that make life possible.
It’s fair to say protein is the dietary building block of muscles, organs, and other key tissues you need to live and grow.
Protein is also massively important for weight loss as it is the most filling nutrient… so regardless of whether your goal is muscle gain, recovery or weight loss – you need to make sure you are eating enough protein, which for many people on a budget can be a challenge.
CHEAP ANIMAL PROTEINS
Most of us get our protein from animal sources: meat is made of muscles (for the most part) and muscles are made from proteins. Chicken breast is basically synonymous with the fitness lifestyle and many other animal products are rich in protein, iron, B12 and other key vitamins and minerals. The problem is these also tend to be the most expensive protein sources.
Next time you’re shopping for food, consider these low-cost protein sources…
Canned tuna is a great source of protein at a relatively low price. Tuna is a plentiful source of protein, with around 24 grams per 100. This makes it a great choice, even more so when you realise that you can get 100g for as little as 58p in many supermarkets.
OTHER BITS OF CHICKEN
“Other bits of chicken” might sound suspicious, but chicken breast is not the only high-quality protein source available on the market.
Frozen chicken breast is just as high in protein as its fresh counterpart, and chicken thigh fillets make a great cheap, high-protein food choice.
Chicken thigh meat is also far tastier and is a versatile food – try it in a simple, healthy stir fry, for example.
You probably predicted this one: eggs are a staple of many fitness enthusiasts’ diets, with a high protein content and some of the best fats and nutrients you’ll find in any food.
Eggs are technically dairy, making them a versatile, cheap protein source for vegetarians.
If you’re looking to keep the calories low, you can remove the yolk from your egg, or combine whole eggs and whites to improve the protein content whilst keeping the texture and nutrient density.
We know, protein powders can be expensive. However, finding a good, cheap protein powder is difficult, but rewarding. A protein powder that is both good tends to be expensive, whereas a cheap product will tend to be low-quality.
However, they do exist and if you can get your hands on one, you can make protein shakes relatively cheaply with water or milk.
By simply adding in fruit, leafy greens or other supplement powders, you can make it a whole meal, and really get the best bang for your buck.
CHEAP PLANT PROTEINS
We get it, you’re sick of the age-old question, “where do you get your protein from?”, and you’re here to figure out what kind of quality, cheap protein for vegetarians we have to share with you. These protein sources are a great addition to anyone’s diet, and boost your fiber intake, too!
Beans are a great source of protein, and should make up a portion of any plant-based diet.
Whilst some argue that beans contribute to a heavy anti-nutrient burden, or cause universal inflammation, the evidence suggests that this is a heavily dose-dependent relationship.
What this means is the effects of beans require you to eat a lot of beans to suffer a significant amount of nutrient malabsorption.
Beans are incredibly cheap and can be bought in bulk for less than 50p per can, with foods black beans providing around 15g of protein per cup. This provides a great accompaniment to other high-protein, high-fibre plant foods and goes a long way towards meeting your daily protein requirements.
Sunflowers seeds are a great source of protein, at approximately 19g protein per 100g, but they are also incredibly high in fats. The fats in these seeds are good fats, but they should mainly be considered as a protein and fat source when you’re attempting to gain quality weight.
Quinoa (keen-wah, so you don’t embarrass yourself) is a small seed, often mistaken for a grain, and has become immensely popular in recent times. Quinoa only contains 9g of protein per serving, but it is a great “filler” food that can be added to most curry, soup, or casserole dishes to boost the protein content.
Chickpeas are one of the best legumes in existence, as a fantastic filler food for casseroles and other dishes, as hummus, or simply by themselves in a sauce. They provide as much as 15g of protein per cup, with all the fibre and nutrient perks you’d expect from a plant food.
Tofu is a common replacement for meat in many vegan and vegetarian dishes, being made from various fungi and containing around 15g of protein per serving. The only problem is that tofu is incredibly nutrient-sparse, so make sure to pair it with other fruits and veg.
Bookmark this post, so next time you’re out food shopping, you’ve got a handy list of cheap and healthy protein sources!
6 Surprisingly Affordable Protein-Rich Foods
Lean Protein on the Cheap: Maximizing your Grocery Budget AND your health
Whether you’re a bodybuilding gym-goer or a weekend warrior, you’ve ly heard about the benefits of including lean protein in your diet.
This macronutrient is important for everything from maintaining muscle mass to strengthening hair, skin and nails, and research has shown that eating more protein can be an effective weight-loss tool.
High-protein foods take more work for our bodies to break down and convert into energy, meaning that you burn more calories digesting them. They also help you feel satiated earlier in a meal and keep you fuller for longer, both of which are great if you’re watching your waistline and trying to keep calories in check.
The RDA (or Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day for adults over 18 years of age, which was defined as the minimum amount needed to meet requirements for most healthy individuals.
Most general recommendations state that women should consume at least 46 grams and men at least 56 grams daily, but protein requirements vary depending on body type, age and activity level, so fitness enthusiasts yourselves may need to bump up your daily protein intake to promote optimal health.
If you want to include more protein-rich foods in your diet but are also concerned about your grocery budget, you’re not alone.
A recent survey by the International Food Information Council Foundation revealed that one third of participants believe high-protein foods are more expensive than other foods—a misperception that is far from the truth.
In fact, it’s easy to find plenty of high-protein, nutrient-rich foods to add to every meal without breaking the bank. Read on for healthy, lean sources of protein to include in your diet, no matter the size of your budget:
1. Eggs: There may be no more versatile, cost-effective protein source than a carton of eggs. One egg packs 6 grams of protein (if you eat the yolk) and many vitamins and minerals into only 70 calories, for an average price of less than $0.22. It’s a perfect protein, for less than a quarter per serving!
In the past, eggs received an undeserved bad reputation since they contain cholesterol, which was considered to be a risk factor for certain health conditions.
Yet, many studies have determined that the cholesterol content in eggs does not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels in most people. What’s more, over half of the fat in eggs comes from mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which are the heart-healthy kinds we should eat.
The possibilities for incorporating eggs into the diet are endless, but here are a few recipes to get you started:
2. Canned (and Pouched!) Tuna and Salmon: Canned tuna and salmon are cheap, quick sources of both lean protein (approximately 25 grams per serving) and heart-healthy omega-3 fats, for between $0.25 and $0.75 per serving.
The American Heart Association recommends getting at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish per week. To do this on the cheap, keep cans or pouches of tuna or salmon handy and use them to make sandwiches, top salads or shape into fish cakes.
- Avocado Tuna Salad
- Salad Nicoise
- Salmon Cakes with Ginger Sesame Sauce
3. Lean Ground Beef: Lean ground beef is one of the most budget-conscious animal proteins in the supermarket.
Just 3 ounces—about the size of the palm of your hand—provides 18 grams of protein along with vitamins and minerals iron, vitamin B12 and zinc, for about $1.20.
Choosing ground beef that is 90% lean (compared to ground round or ground chuck, which are 85% and 80% lean, respectively) ensures that you’ll be trimming the fat content, while still reaping the benefits of high-quality protein. Try it in this healthy version of a taco salad:
- Beef Taco Salad with Tomato Dressing
4. Low-Fat or Non-Fat Dairy Products: Dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cottage cheese, are great lean sources of protein that are also easy on the wallet. One cup of skim milk provides 8 grams ($0.35/serving), while ½ cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 11 grams ($0.60/serving).
Plain Greek yogurt is an especially concentrated protein source, packing 18 grams into just one cup ($1-1.50/serving). Blending yogurt with frozen fruit and milk into a smoothie or spooning yogurt into a bowl with granola and honey are quick, easy breakfast and snack options. You can also use yogurt as a replacement for other foods mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes.
For an interesting twist on low-calorie veggie dip, use Greek yogurt in a whole new way:
- Garlic-Chive Greek Yogurt Dip
5. Canned Beans: Canned beans come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, and they’re also one of the best sources of protein for vegetarian meals. Most beans clock in around 8 grams of protein per ½-cup serving, and they’re also a great source of fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate and vitamin B6.
A can of most types of beans will be anywhere from $1-2 and includes 3.5 servings, for a grand total of $0.30-0.60/serving. Including beans in dishes salads and soups can be as easy as getting out the can opener and tossing them with other ingredients.
If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy beans, try this recipe for a spicy, crunchy, high-protein snack:
- Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
6. Soy: Soy products, including tofu, tempeh and dairy alternatives (think: soy milk, soy yogurt, etc.) are a great source of complete protein for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or for anyone looking to add variety to their protein repertoire.
Cooked soybeans (also known as edamame) have 10 grams of protein in a ½-cup serving, and a cup of tofu provides about 16–20 grams for just $0.50.
And the benefits don’t stop at protein; soy foods are great sources of fiber and calcium, and may reduce risk for heart disease as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Try one of the following recipes:
- Tofu and Broccoli Stir-Fry
- Grilled Tempeh Salad
- Edamame Ginger Dip
For More Information:
Protein Fact Sheets for all Ages
Protein for Recreational Athletes
Putting Protein on Your Plate Infographic
Average costs referenced from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service National Retail Report, Volume 82, Number 35, (publication date: 9/4/2015).
|Food||Serving Size||Protein (g)||Price Per Serving|
|Canned tuna or salmon||3 ounces (84 grams)||16||$1.25|
|80–90% lean ground beef||3 ounces (84 grams)||18||$1.20|
|Nonfat milk||1 cup||8||$0.35|
|Low-fat cottage cheese||1/2 cup||11||$0.60|
|Plain Greek yogurt (nonfat)||1 cup||18||$1.00 to $1.50|
|Canned beans||1/2 cup||8||$0.30 to $0.60|
|Edamame||1/2 cup||10||$0.55 to $0.75|
—By Megan Meyer, PhD for IFIC.