A balanced diet means adding enough protein to your meals to get your body’s needs. How many grams of protein you might need depends on a few factors, but once you know how much this is, you must get it into your diet. The tricky part can be doing this without making your grocery bill suddenly a lot more expensive! The good news is that you can incorporate many cheap protein sources into a shopping budget. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Before we look at what foods contain complete protein, we must remember why we need it. Protein is one of the building blocks of life and is used by the body to repair cells and make new ones. It is essential for development during childhood and teenage years and for pregnant women. Before we look at what foods contain complete protein, we must remember why we need it.
Alongside protein, we also need essential amino acids. These break down the proteins for our bodies to be able to use. So when looking at cheap protein foods, keep an eye on if they contain those fatty acids that help keep the whole process working nicely.
Best Sources of Cheap Protein
Now we know why we need protein and how much protein to aim for in our diet, let’s look at some of the most popular foods that are cheap and tick the box as high-protein foods.
Eggs top the list in terms of protein-rich foods, with around 6 grams per large egg. They are also full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats that help us process protein.
While they might no longer be one of the very cheap protein sources, they are still a vital part of a healthy diet. Having eggs for breakfast can also help with weight loss and avoiding that craving for something sugary just before lunch that many of us suffer with.
Pork is one of the least expensive meats you can find. And due to regulations, it does not have to be organic to get the best health benefits. You can get a package of pork chops for under $5.
Tofu is a fantastic source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. With around 10 grams of protein per 100 grams, it provides all essential amino acids.
Additionally, tofu is low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and contains beneficial nutrients like iron and calcium, supporting muscle growth and overall health.
Milk is another dairy product that is a great way to get protein in your diet without spending a fortune. Different fat percentages and organic milk products are available, so costs vary, but it is still a great addition to your list of cheaper protein sources.
As well as a cup containing 8 grams of absorbable protein, it also has loads of calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones. If you are looking for protein-rich ingredients for weight gain or to add muscle mass, including milk in smoothies, soups, and other drinks is a great idea.
5. Ground Turkey
Ground meat is always cheaper than other cuts of meat, and the same is applied to turkey. You can get more ground turkey for your money than you would turkey breasts, and it is a lean and low-calorie meat option. A 3-ounce portion will contain 23 grams of absorbable proteins and only 195 calories.
6. Chicken Breast
You can buy chicken breasts in packs or whole chicken and separate them into different cuts for different meals. A great source of animal protein, chicken is versatile, and there are thousands of recipes you can make with it.
A 4-ounce serving will provide 27 grams of protein and be very valuable and tasty!
7. Canned Tuna
While most of us will think of meat and eggs as a great source of protein, fish can also help. Fresh fish is brilliant but more expensive, while canned versions such as tuna can be more budget-friendly.
A 3-ounce can of tuna is less than 100 calories but also contains 20 grams of high-quality protein. Plus, it contains omega-3 fatty acids to help combat inflammation.
Sardines may be one of the most cost-effective sources of fish-based protein. A can of sardines has around 23 grams of protein and nutrients such as Vitamin B12 and D. They also give a good source of calcium as you eat them whole, including the bones, which supply this.
The canned versions are much cheaper than the fresh fish and have a long shelf life in the pantry.
9. Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a little different from regular yogurt due to the way it is made, and this increases the amount of protein it contains. You can get around 17 grams of protein from natural Greek yogurt versus the regular version. Watch for ones with live and active cultures in them for extra probiotics that also help improve gut health.
You can buy large containers of Greek yogurt for reasonable prices in the dairy products aisle of the store. You can add it to anything from a smoothie to a dip, but it is excellent on its own or with some fresh fruit as a breakfast option.
10. Brown Rice
Brown rice is an affordable and nutritious source of protein. With roughly 5 grams of protein per cooked cup, it’s a budget-friendly option.
Additionally, brown rice is a complex carbohydrate that offers dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It serves as a versatile meal base and provides sustained energy, making it an excellent choice for those seeking affordable protein options.
11. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is high in protein but low in calories and has a mild flavor that makes it easy to use in many recipes.
A cup’s worth will have 23 grams of protein while only being around 200 calories. It is also a popular option for people trying to build muscle mass due to the protein content, and it keeps you feeling full for longer.
Lentils are a budget-friendly option for getting your daily protein requirements covered. They can be included in stews, soups, and curries; a single cup will provide around 18 grams of protein.
They are also a natural fiber, iron, and Vitamin B source.
Oats top the list in terms of the amount of protein it contains compared to other types of grain. It is also a great source of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that helps lower cholesterol levels.
You can buy it in bulk in many stores, and a half-cup will contain 13 grams of protein.
Quinoa is a good source of protein, offering all nine essential amino acids. With about 8 grams of protein per cooked cup, it’s a versatile and plant-based option for meeting your protein requirements.
Quinoa’s protein content makes it suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets. It is also gluten-free and packed with fiber, minerals, and antioxidants, promoting overall health and satiety.
15. Natural Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a cost-friendly option that’s full of protein. A two-tablespoon portion will have around 8 grams of it. It has also been shown to help with chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
There are many easy ways to use it, from adding it to a smoothie to spooning it on top of fresh fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Just stick with natural versions, so no extra sugar or unwanted oils are involved.
16. Black Beans
Black beans are an affordable option for protein sources, with a cup containing around 15 grams of protein. They are also a great source of fiber that helps with good digestion and help you feel full for longer, so they can assist with weight loss.
They are inexpensive to buy and can be used in soups and salads. They are also popular in many Mexican-inspired recipes, such as chili or tacos.
Edamame is a bright green bean and a top source of plant-based proteins. They are immature soybeans that can be bought in and out of their shells. They are easy to use in salads as well as adding to stir-fries.
One cup of beans will give around 17 grams of protein, and they are classed as a whole protein source as they also contain those essential amino acids to break down the protein.
They are budget-friendly and can usually be found freezer section of the grocery store.
18. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are one of the cheapest protein sources; just an ounce contains 6 grams. They are also a source of vegan-friendly plant protein and are ideal as a healthy food as they contain things like magnesium and Vitamin E.
The seeds add a lovely crunch to a salad or combine them with Greek yogurt in a parfait. Many people enjoy them as a simple snack, which is great to eat on the go.
19. Pumpkin Seeds
Like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds are small packages containing much goodness. They can be your best friend when you want a snack option with plenty of protein. Plus, they contain antioxidants such as Vitamin E that reduce inflammation. You can get around 7 grams from a one-ounce potion.
As well as eating them as a snack, you can add them to granola, yogurt dishes, or even top your salad with them.
20. Canned Salmon
Canned salmon is a budget-friendly protein option that packs a nutritional punch. With approximately 22 grams of protein per 100 grams, it supplies essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids, benefiting heart health.
Canned salmon is also convenient, versatile, and offers long shelf life, making it an affordable protein choice for many. You can get it with or without bones.
Although not among the cheapest nuts, almonds are an economical protein source with numerous health benefits. They offer a good protein-to-price ratio with about 6 grams of protein per ounce.
Almonds are also rich in healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins, promoting satiety, aiding in weight management, and supporting overall well-being on a budget.
22. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are one of the healthy protein sources that can be added to a range of different dishes without really impacting their flavor. They are a popular addition to smoothies and nutritional shakes.
For every 100 grams of chia seeds you consume, you’ll get 17 grams of protein.
Tempeh is like tofu, a fermented soy product that makes it a soy protein source. It works well as a meat substitute if you cut back on animal products and can be baked, steamed, or fried.
A cup of tempeh will give you 33 grams of protein.
24. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are a cost-effective protein source that delivers numerous health benefits. With around 10 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons, they offer a favorable protein-to-price ratio.
Hemp seeds also provide essential fatty acids, fiber, and minerals, supporting heart health and aiding digestion. Their versatility and long shelf life make them a budget-friendly protein option for many.
25. Whey Protein Powder
If you are looking to make a protein shake or add protein to a smoothie, then why protein powder is one of the best bets for this. It is made from the liquid portion of milk left after cheese is made and comes in an easy-to-use powder. You can add it to any drink and mix it with things like cottage cheese or yogurt.
A single 28-gram scoop contains 20 grams of protein and is ideal for a high-protein diet.
26. Nut Milk
Nut milk, such as almond or cashew milk, are affordable protein option suitable for various dietary needs. While they might not contain as much protein as their whole nut counterparts, they still offer a decent protein content.
Nut milk is lactose-free, vegan-friendly, and can be used as a versatile dairy alternative in recipes and beverages.
They are also shelf stable so that they won’t spoil like cows’ milk.
27. Split Peas
Split peas are an economical and protein-packed food choice. With approximately 16 grams of protein per cooked cup, they are a fantastic source of plant-based protein.
Split peas are also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, providing essential nutrients at an affordable price.
They are versatile, easy to cook, and make a nourishing addition to soups, stews, and salads.
28. Canned Mackerel
Canned mackerel is an excellent and budget-friendly protein option. It offers a substantial protein content with around 20 grams of protein per 100 grams.
It is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, promoting heart health. Canned mackerel is readily available, has a long shelf life, and can be used in various dishes, making it a cost-effective protein choice.
Spirulina is a highly affordable and nutrient-dense protein source. It is one of the richest plant-based protein options, weighing approximately 60-70% protein content.
Spirulina is also packed with essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. As a versatile and easily digestible supplement, it offers a cost-effective way to increase protein intake for vegetarians and vegans.
30. Canned Anchovies
Canned anchovies are a surprisingly economical yet nutritious protein source. Packed with around 14 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving, they offer a significant protein punch.
Anchovies are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and other essential nutrients. Their long shelf life, affordable price, and versatility in recipes make them a cost-effective protein option.
Final Thoughts about Cheap Protein
Undoubtedly, our bodies need protein in the right amounts to stay healthy. But with the cost of food, it can seem an expensive nutrient to get. These sources of cheap protein show that you can stay within your grocery budget to get this essential component of a healthy diet.