Affordable protein sources that don't break the bank!

  • 1 Minute Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

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 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


When it comes to affordable protein sources, you can't beat 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 refrigerator. 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.

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. Dried 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.

Tip: How to cook dried beans


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.

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.

Favorite recipes for affordable protein-rich meals

Easy Lentil Soup
Slow Cooker 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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Meal Planning & Diets->High Protein Nutrients->Protein Weight Loss->Appetite & Satiety
Jul 8, 2022

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