Cook Fast, Live Young: Money Saving Protein Foods

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Image by pietroizzo via Flickr

Besides being delicious (sorry, vegetarians and vegans), meat, fish and poultry are important sources of protein in our diet. Unfortunately, they can often be quite expensive, and too much meat can negatively impact your health.

Luckily, there other ways to get protein, and many of them are healthier and far less expensive. Legumes. AKA beans, peas, and lentils, this versatile food group is an excellent source of protein, and tends to be low fat, contain no cholesterol, and have a lot of folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. Beans also have “good” fats and fiber.

Eggs. For the amount of calories they “cost” you, eggs are an excellent source of protein. Even better, they contain choline, a nutrient that helps with brain development and memory, and lutein, which helps your vision.

Tofu. The chameleon of foods, tofu is not only an amazing source of protein with about 10 grams per half cup, but packs in a lot of calcium as well. Better yet, research has shown that regular intake of soy protein lowers cholesterol levels by as much as 30%!

Learn your loins and rounds. For the meat you do eat, make sure you buy lean cuts. Generally speaking, the leanest cuts of meat have “loin” or “round” in the name. This isn’t necessarily less expensive, but it will save you on potential medical costs and extra time spent at the gym that fattier meats could cause. Besides, yo”ll save money anyway because you’re going to eat…

Smaller portion sizes
. Have your meat. Just have less of it for each meal. This will extend your budget while helping your waistline at the same time. Supplement the protein you’ll be losing from eating less meat with one of the options above.

Buy DIY meat. Cuts of meat will always be more expensive because they have to pay someone to do all of that cutting. But if you’re willing to do it yourself–say, by purchasing a whole chicken or super sized “family packs” in the meat section–you’ll save yourself some cash.

How do you incorporate protein into your diet without busting your budget?  Share your tips with us in the comments!

Juliana Weiss-Roessler has ten years of professional writing and editing experience. For four years, she managed the web content for the star of an Emmy-nominated reality series. Currently, she is an editor for the geek girl e-zine PinkRaygun.com, a contributor to the career blog at Resumark.com, and owner of the food blog CookFastLiveYoung.blogspot.com. Follow her @cookfast on Twitter and learn more about her work at WeissRoessler.com.

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  1. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    Eggs, ground turkey and other lean meats. I try to keep red meat eating to a minimum as it’s fatty and more expensive. Tofu is good too. Salmon and tuna have protein as well and are better for you.

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  2. Susan.Yoo-Lee

    3 years ago

    I love legumes. Just the other week, I had a bean theme going on and basically everything we ate centered around our bean meal.

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  3. Allegra.Ringo

    3 years ago

    I love lentils! Two of my favorite recipes are lentil loaf: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/lentil-loaf/detail.aspx and vegetarian shepherd’s pie: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/vegetarian-shepherds-pie-ii/detail.aspx

    They’re both really tasty and filling.

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  4. snarkydeals

    3 years ago

    GREAT TIPS. And actually, these work super well for vegans/vegetarians for the most part as well – eating beans, soy, eggs (for vegetarians) and tofu, us veg-heads can get our protein on the cheap. Tofu blocks at my local grocer are like $1 per block! That’s enough to feed two people for a normal tofu meal or for 1 person if they’re very hungry.

    I’d highly recommend the books from the Hungry Girl series for some recipe help too – taking the cheap foods and making them into healthy dinners, breakfasts, lunches, desserts, and snacks is super helpful, vegetarian or omnivore :)

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  5. rmoritz

    3 years ago

    Great list! The one other item I would suggest is… Quinoa!! Super tasty, high-protein grain that couldn’t be simpler to prepare.

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  6. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    We eat beans here and then pay for it later, ugh.

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  7. ashleywade

    3 years ago

    I have to echo the tofu love- it’s all in the preparation (and buying the right type- silken vs. extra firm) for what the dish requires.

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  8. ebbeszoo

    3 years ago

    for vacation, we had chicken necks to go crabbing with. anyway, we had extra we didnt use so we grilled them, they were good.a nyway, the idea of getting a whole chicken to eat isnt bad idea. the chicken necks werent bad so i imagine the whole chicken can be used to eat too. also, i agree, beans i too eat. i’m not much of a red meat eater myself so i eat more chicken and turkety

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