Protein is so important in our diets, but it can also be one of the most expensive parts. So how can you get enough protein without breaking the bank?
Beans & Legumes
Beans are a staple here at our house! Bean burritos are my go-to quick meal and lentil and bean soups warm us up in winter. A bag of dry beans just can’t be beat! Take a look at the nutrition info on the bag of beans and you’ll see protein, fiber, vitamins, and very little fat. Plus beans come in such a variety of shapes, sizes and colors! Black beans, red kidney beans, navy beans, chickpeas lima beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, various lentils, and the list could go on..
You can use beans to cut back on meats by either replacing the meat in a meal with beans, like bean burgers, or by using the beans to stretch the meat, like using beans to stretch the meat in chili.
Other Vegetarian Options
Okay, so I mentioned beans and legumes, but if beans aren’t your thing, there’s plenty of other options. Eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts and seeds are great protein sources. Try quiches, egg burritos, smoothies, or sunflower seeds sprinkled on your salad. Check out this list of fruits and vegetables high in protein…a few of them really surprised me!
Hunt, Fish or Raise Your Own Meat
This isn’t an option for everyone, but even if it is, make sure you don’t spend more on tools and equipment than you save in meat. We’ve received quite a bit of free venison from people we know getting more deer than they need and generously giving us some. It’s been a huge blessing to us!
Another option, if you want to raise your own, but can’t is to purchase a side of cow. I’ve never done this but you can go to this article to read more about it. I imagine you could also do this for pork and other animals.
Some cut of meat is pretty much always on sale at your local store, if it happens to be the kind of meat you like, you could always plan that week’s menu around it or buy extra to freeze for future use. For example, if whole chickens are normally 99 cents a pound in your area, but you see them go on sale for 79 cents a pound (20 cents less for every pound), you could decided to cook up a whole chicken that week, or buy a couple of chickens for the freezer to tide you over until the next time they go on sale.
Other options are to buy meats with price matching, if you know of a good sale at another store. Just make sure to check your store’s policy. You can also keep a look out for “reduced for quick sale” meats. I used to buy hamburger a lot at Sam’s Club this way. As long as you cook or freeze it soon after, it’ll be fine.
Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat
Even with sales, there are certain cuts of meat that are usually cheaper than others. For example, whole chickens are a lot cheaper per pound than t-bone steaks. At our house we eat a lot of hamburger meat, whole chickens and chicken breasts (even though bone-in breasts are cheaper, I usually opt for the boneless skinless kind).
Canned salmon is a great way to get cheap fish. Canned salmon is really healthy with omega-3, and doesn’t have as much mercury as some other types of fish. We’ve used canned salmon for salmon patties and salmon melts.
You can easily stretch the meat in recipes. I’ve started putting black beans in chicken tortilla soup to stretch the chicken, or make your layer of meat thinner in shepherd’s pie, but add a thicker layer of mashed potatoes. I like to make my taco meat half with hamburger meat and half with black beans.
Serve an Abundance of Sides
Let’s say you’re making roast for a crowd, you can make sure to add lots of extra potatoes and carrots to help fill everyone up and stretch the meat.
Only have enough hamburgers for everyone to have one, but you’re feeding some hungry teenage boys? Serve up plenty of home-made oven fries or another filling side to guarantee they don’t go away hungry!
Make Broth with the Bones
When you’re done with your meat, don’t toss the bones, instead use them to make a hearty broth perfect for soups, stews and even casseroles! Sometimes I make chicken broth at the same time as cooking the chicken. Recently I read an interesting article about how important bone broths are for the health of your gums and teeth! Talk about a healthy reason to not waste bones!
How do you get protein without spending an arm and a leg?
This post is linked at Frugally Sustainable.