Regardless if you are a strength athlete or someone who wants to eat healthy, eating enough protein is important. Protein needs differ for each person and other factors such as if you are a strength athlete or not.
A general rule of thumb for protein intake is 1 gram of lean mass. Most people do not know their lean mass so 1 gram per pound of body weight works. If you are large like me and weigh upwards of 300 pounds, you should aim anywhere from 200-240 grams of protein.
The healthiest and cheapest way to get enough protein in your diet is through eating whole foods. Buying whole foods mean you are going to have to learn how to cook, but it will be the best thing you can do for your health and wallet.
Protein is expensive and you need a lot to be able to build muscle or sustain a healthy lifestyle. Below is the 11 cheapest sources of protein sources.
Top 11 Cheapest Protein Sources
1.) Canned Tuna is extremely cheap and a good source of protein; a staple in any tight-budgeted person’s diet. The tuna in water is cheapest but if you need to get more dietary fats into your diet, canned tuna packed in oil is a great alternative. A can of tuna, tablespoon of mayo, relish to flavor, salt and pepper and you have a cheap and easy tuna salad.
2.) Canned Salmon is a great alternative to tuna; it has a lower metal content and more omega 3 fats. Salmon patties are my favorite canned salmon recipe.
3.) Whole eggs have 6-8 grams of protein per egg. An egg white contains 3-4 grams of protein if you are worried about cholesterol. Scramble some eggs and mix in a little salsa, wrap in some corn tortillas and you have a tasty meal.
4.) Whey protein is a great source of cheap protein and has anywhere from 24 grams to 30 grams of protein per scoop. In a 5 pound tub you can get 70-75 servings and costs $45-$60 dollars. You need a variety of protein sources in a healthy diet, I would not suggest getting more than 2 scoops a day for non-athletes. Blend fruits, milk or yogurt in with you protein shakes to make them more tasty and contain more protein.
5.) Ground turkey is very lean and packed full of protein. Home made turkey burgers taste great if seasoned properly. This also makes a mean meatloaf.
6.) Whole milk is not the cheapest but one of the easiest ways to get some protein in. A cold glass of whole milk goes great with some brownies or mixed in with a protein shake.
7.) Frozen chicken breast is one of the most popular sources of protein. This is not the cheapest but in the top 11. You can find frozen chicken breasts or chicken breast tenders on sale and use them in anything you can imagine. Grill em, make BBQ chicken, chicken salad, chicken pot pie, or anything else you can imagine.
8.) Dark meat chicken (legs and thighs) is a cheaper source than chicken breasts. Marinade chicken thighs and grill for a delicious protein meal.
9.) Cottage cheese is cheap, easy, and accessible nearly anywhere and also a great source of protein. Mix peaches or pineapple with cottage cheese and enjoy a tasty treat. You can always do like me and eat it out of the tub like a boss.
10.) Ground beef is my favorite source of cheap protein. Ground beef is versatile and can make anything from burgers, meatloaf or nachos. A favorite of mine is to cook a pound of ground beef, mix in a few tablespoons of sour cream, a handful of cheese and you have a flavorful and healthy concoction of flavor.
11.) String cheese is a simple snack and packed with 6-7 grams of protein per stick. Whether you take the time to string the cheese or eat it in one bite, this is a great snack.
Bonus: Tips to get meat cheaper
When purchasing meat of any kind, the leaner the cut the more expensive. I made this mistake with ground beef; I would buy the 93% lean/7% fat ground beef and paid $4.99 per pound. I notice that the 80/20 is around $2.99 per pound. It cooks the same and you can drain the fat.
Buy meat on short sale. Fresh meat has a shelf life and stores have to sell it or throw it out if it goes bad. If meat is close to the sell by date, stores mark it down to help move the product. Finding meat marked down $0.50 to $2.00 or more is not uncommon and you can buy it all and freeze it. The closer to the sell by date, the more they will cut the price down so check frequently. Stock up on this meat when you see it on sale and freeze it.
Buy generic or local for more savings!
Have another tip on getting cheap protein or another source you don’t see listed? Leave a comment below!