Here's the first post in our Clean Eating on a Budget "series"! We are SO EXCITED to bring our money saving tips to you! (P.S. If you still haven't started our 12 Month Money Challenge, you have time to join!) We all know protein can be one of the most expensive components of clean eating. And with so many options to choose from, how do we know which protein source gets us the most "bang for the buck"? Or should I say "pump for the penny"? ;-)
When comparing the cost of protein sources, it's easier to compare meats based on actual cost per pound (beef vs. chicken or turkey vs. bison), but it gets very confusing when you start adding in other options like fish, dairy, eggs, peanut butter and so on. So, what we've done is analyzed the cost per 20 grams of protein for individual sources. Why compare the cost per 20 grams, you ask? Well, 20 grams should be an average serving size of protein of an active individual. A chicken breast will have about 20 grams of protein and a cup of Greek yogurt has about 20 grams as well. So, check out the chart below to see how your favorite protein source stacks up.
There are a few things to consider when looking at this chart...first of all, finding budget-friendly vegan sources isn't all that hard, but it does come with a nutritional cost. In order to get a decent amount of protein, you have to consume well beyond the recommended serving size and consume additional calories from either fat (additional 15 grams of fat for peanut butter) or carbohydrates. So, while dry red lentils seem to be the most budget-friendly vegan protein, it probably makes more sense to consume the raw shelled hemp seeds due to the balanced amount of fat, carbs (mostly fiber) and, not to mention, it's a perfect protein. Hemp seeds also provide an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and GLA (gamma linolenic acid). Read more about all the excellent benefits of hemp seeds here.
Our favorite sources of proteins are organic eggs (the whole egg, don't worry about the cholesterol unless your LDL is already high), liquid egg whites (we use them in protein shakes, oats or cooked with veggies), and canned, wild-caught albacore tuna. Tuna is a great option, because it's somewhat affordable ($1.84 per 20 grams) and it provides a TON of Omega-3s, it's loaded with selenium and provides a great amount of B vitamins (B3, B6 and B12). One interesting thing to note is that our Costco has the brand tuna we buy (Wild Planet) which costs 50% more on amazon ($4.60 per can) and at least 100% more at our local grocery stores ($6.00 per can) than it does at our local Costco ($3.00 per can).
All protein sources listed in the chart are of very high quality and are similar to what we would purchase on a regular basis (except salmon). This chart is meant to show the extremes in costs per servings between types of proteins.
We hope this chart helps guide your decision-making when it comes to filling your pantry (or fridge) with budget-friendly protein sources!