Welcome to the 4th month of our year to “Whittle Our Waist and Fatten Our Wallet.”
Protein, the building blocks in a healthy diet. It helps build strong muscles, ensures our body doesn’t need to break down muscle for fuel, and it keeps us full longer. So why not eat a lot of it? Because any standard store shopper will agree with me when I say it can be expensive! That means playing it smart is important when you’re trying to eat right on a budget.
COMPLETE PROTEINS AREN’T ONLY IN MEATS
Turns out, meat isn’t the only place for complete proteins (though I do love meat). So to keep grocery costs down in the budget, I do a few meatless meals per week. The important thing is I don’t forgo protein. Here’s how to keep this important building block in your diet without watching your wallet shrink.
Quinoa is a super food because, despite not being an animal protein, it’s complete– all essential amino acids. Now my kids are still getting used to the idea of quinoa. For some reason they’re not on board with the texture, so I served it with Swedish meatballs and mushroom gravy– they loved that.
Yes, the magical fruit. Beans are amazing! They are low in calories and high in fiber and protein.
My preference is dry beans (lowers the cost even more). I like to soak extra beans and throw them in the freezer which really helps in a “I need to get food made right now” pinch. One bean I love to buy in a can is garbanzos. I love roasting garbanzos when I am in the mood for a crunchy, salty snack. To kick some flavor in, put ranch seasoning on top. They taste a lot like ranch corn nuts. Yum!
The only way to stock up on meat is when it’s on sale. I almost never pay full price for meat because I stock up when prices are low. It stores great in the freezer, and saves major buckage throughout the month.
TIP: Buy the less expensive cuts of meat. I love to buy chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts. They are less expensive, but they are also juicier and packed with so much more flavor. Also, they are smaller, so they cook faster.
One chicken thigh is the perfect portion for my littles, which is a huge help because that means less gets left on the plate. I also love to use whole chickens from the local butcher. I can find them for killer deals, and there is nothing quite as good as a whole roasted chicken!
In the steak department, my personal favorite is flank. It is considered an inferior cut, but if seasoned and tenderized correctly; it can actually taste better than top end steaks. Cheaper AND holds it own.
Don’t Forget Dairy.
Since dairy is an animal product, it’s both a complete protein and often less expensive than meat. My husband and I are into cottage cheese lately– that, and tuna fish (another excellent cheap protein source) stuffed into a tomato.
Anything from yogurt (less processed and sugary, the better), cheese (like Tillamook), and milk are a few of the staples to your meals, as well as getting the best bang for you buck in protein.
Last of all, Eggs!
I am a huge fan of eggs; skillet, poached, scrambled, sunny side up– eggs are my jam. Good protein, complete amino acids, and serve well in so many meals.
Some of you know, a few years ago I actually brought home a few hens for egg laying. Took some subtle husband convincing, but within a few months, we were the proud owners of egg poopers. Not a must to make this inexpensive, just remember to keep eggs in the mix.
I make my kids several variations of eggs in the morning because a high protein breakfast keeps them full much, much longer– Let’s be real: the mornings you feed your kids Cap’n Crunch, they’re groaning for more food only 20 minutes. Yeah, I’m over having my kids be little hobbits. Protein fills up the stomach much longer and with better effect on the body.
How do you lower the cost on protein? Sounds off below.