I think you'll agree with me when I say:
"I need protein for gains....but protein is expensive!"
But is it really?
Getting a good amount of lean protein in your daily diet doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need to know what to buy and how to buy it.
Today I’m going to show you 17 awesome whole food and supplemental protein sources that are high quality and cheap! I’ll list the average price of each protein source so you can see just how inexpensive it can be.
Cheap Protein Sources: Whole Foods
1. Whole Eggs
Do not fear the yolk! Whole eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fat. The average cost of a dozen eggs is $2.13 and each egg provides 6g protein, 5g quality fat, and no carbs.
$2.13 for 72g of protein
2. Pasteurized Egg Whites
If you are concerned about eating whole eggs for whatever reason or are looking for a way to reduce calories and keep you protein high, egg whites are an awesome source of protein. With close to the same amount of protein per serving as whole eggs with 5g protein, 0 fat, and 0 carbs, you don’t get a much cleaner source of protein than egg whites.
$4.98 for 100g of protein
Fish is an awesome source of clean, quality protein. Cod is one of the most affordable types of fish. With the national average being around $9 per pound for fillets (the price drops to around $3 per pound for the whole fish,) you get a pretty solid deal on good quality protein. For a 3.5oz fillet of cod, you are getting 17g of protein, under 1g of fat, and 0 carbs.
Under $10 for 70g of protein
4. Ground Beef
Red meat is a great source of iron as well as protein. Plus, who doesn’t love a good burger? The average cost of ground beef is $5.35 per pound according to reports from the USDA. For a 3 oz serving of lean ground beef you get 22g of protein, 10g fat, and 0 carbs.
$5.35 for 120g of protein
What list of quality, economical protein would be complete without canned tuna? For under $3, you get a 3oz can with 20g of protein, 1g of fat and 0 carbs.
$3 for 20g of protein
6. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
The default choice for anyone searching for a cheap, good quality source of protein. The national average cost of boneless, skinless chicken breast is $3.52 per pound. One 3oz serving of chicken breast contains 27g protein, 3g fat, and no carbs.
$3.52 for 108g of protein
7. Cottage Cheese
Dairy is an awesome place to get protein and there is no better source than cottage cheese. The national average cost of cottage cheese is $2.19 per pound. For a ½ cup serving of 4% cottage cheese, you get 13g protein, 4.5g fat, and 3g carbs.
$2.16 for 52g of protein
8. Greek Yogurt
A close second to cottage cheese is Greek yogurt. For a 32oz container of Greek yogurt the national average cost is $3.95. Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt has 23g of protein, 0 fat and 9g of carbs for an 8oz serving.
Under $4 for 94g of protein
9. Lean Pork Chop
Pork has been ignored as a source of quality protein, but no longer. Lean pork chops will cost around $3.87 per pound and boast 26g protein, no carbs, and only 6g fat for a 3oz serving.
$3.87 for 104g of protein
10. Ground Turkey
Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving and is a great source of good quality protein. The average cost for ground turkey is $3.51 per pound and it provides 21g protein, 8g fat and no carbs per 3.5oz serving.
$3.51 for 84g of protein
11. Boneless, Skinless Turkey Breast
Chicken’s big brother, the turkey breast goes for $4.49 per pound and has 26g of protein and 1g of fat per 3oz serving.
Under $5 for 104g of protein
12. Sirloin Steak
There’s nothing better than a good piece of steak! You aren’t stuck with just ground beef if you're on a budget. The average market price of sirloin is $5.10 per pound which is only $1.50 per pound off of chicken breast. You get 23g of protein and 12g fat from a 3oz serving of sirloin.
Just over $5 for 92g of protein
13. Canned Pink Salmon
Another great, affordable fish protein, canned pink salmon can be purchased for around $4 a can and is a great source of omega-3s as well. A 3oz serving of pink salmon contains 20g of protein and 4g of healthy fat.
$4 for 40g of protein
14. Soy Beans
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, quality protein can be more difficult to come by. Soy qualifies as a complete protein which means that it provides the complete sequence of essential amino acids your body needs. A one pound bag of soybeans costs around $4 and a 3oz serving of soybeans provides 33g of protein, 18g fat, and 27g of carbs.
$4 for 132g of plant based protein
Cheap Protein Sources: Supplements
15. Whey Protein
What would a list of proteins be without whey protein? There really isn’t an average price for whey protein. However, you can get good quality whey protein for under a dollar per serving and you can choose to purchase it in bulk or smaller quantities. Most whey protein powders provide around 20-25g of protein per serving with fats and carbs varying from manufacturer to manufacturer. Find a brand that digests easily and tastes good that doesn’t break the bank!
Typically under $1 for 20-25g of protein
16. Soy Protein
If you are vegan or lactose intolerant and looking for a source of supplemental protein, soy may be the way to go. Once again, you get around 20g of protein with varying carbs and fats per serving depending on the brand you choose.
Typically under $1 for 20g of protein
17. Casein Protein
A milk based protein like whey, casein protein is a great slower digesting protein that works well in-between meals and before bed to give you a steady supply of amino acids for hours after consumption. Most brands provide 20-25g of protein per serving and keep the cost per serving under a dollar. Remember, find a good brand that digests easily and tastes good to ensure that you don’t get stuck with a giant tub of powder that you will never finish.
Typically under $1 for 20-25g of protein
As you can see, there are a lot of cheap sources of protein that you can take advantage of without emptying your bank account. It’s easy to forget the variety that you can have in your protein sources when you get used to eating the same meals day in and day out, but there are alternatives out there if you are willing to look.
Remember that nuts, seeds, whole grain carb sources, and even some veggies have protein in them too! Often when people are planning their meals they forget that most whole foods have more than one macronutrient in them. This can make the prospect of reaching one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a little less of a chore.
This list is by no means all inclusive - what are some of your favorite budget sources of protein?