8 Cheap Sources of Protein

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Whether you follow a strict workout routine or only lift occasionally, you’ll want to get enough protein to stay healthy and strong. Moreover, you need enough to fuel your workouts — regardless of how many you complete each week. Unfortunately, some guys only consider expensive meats like steak when choosing proteins. Use this Modded guide for 10 cheap sources of protein to strengthen your body and relieve your wallet. 

1. Peanut Butter

Get a little nutty and spread peanut butter on your toast tomorrow morning. This creamy spread packs eight grams of protein into a two-tablespoon serving. It tastes terrific with smoothies, oatmeal, fruit and even vegetables like celery!

Choose natural peanut butter and avoid ones with added sugars when you can. Alternatively, you can make it at home and control the ingredients in each jar — all you need are peanuts and a food processor. Add honey or a low-calorie sweetener for a tad more flavor in this cheap protein source. Experts say peanut butter is also great for heart health, so put a spoonful on your toast or smoothie for a healthy cheat code. 

2. Eggs

an overfilled carton of brown eggs
Image Credit: Jakub Kapusnak

Some guys use breakfast for pancakes and bacon, but you can up the protein content with eggs. You may like them poached, broiled, scrambled or over easy — regardless, they’re terrific cheap forms of protein at breakfast. While egg prices fluctuate, you can consistently find a dozen at $2 or $3 or less in normal market conditions. 

The Department of Agriculture says a large egg has about 6.3g of protein, so two eggs will get nearly 13g before you add anything else. If you want more protein and fewer calories, consider getting a carton of egg whites from the store. A half cup only has 63 calories while delivering 11g of protein, so add it to your plate for a great start to your morning. 

3. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is among the most versatile and cheapest protein sources, making it popular for guys working on their fitness. You can use Greek yogurt for sweet treats like smoothies, desserts and parfaits. Add the yogurt, berries and honey for a smoothie bowl, or blend it for a high-protein drink!

You can also wield Greek yogurt for savory recipes because it tenderizes meat well. For instance, use Greek yogurt to marinate chicken and create a tasty high-protein dinner. Replace your sour cream with plain Greek Yogurt and use it for tacos, chili and more. Best of all, it’s inexpensive at the grocery store.

Greek yogurt also lets you choose between non-fat and regular cartons in the refrigerated aisle. Full-fat Greek yogurt is a bulking diet as it can put you in a calorie surplus and gain the muscle you desire. Conversely, you can get non-fat yogurt and cut the calories if you have weight-loss goals. 

4. Sunflower Seeds

A pile of sunflower seeds
Image Credit: Engin Akyurt

When you think of sunflower seeds, you likely imagine carrying a bag at the baseball park. You might share the seeds with your friends and see who can launch them the farthest. Yet, sunflower seeds deserve a better reputation for their protein content. Bring a quarter cup of seeds to your next outing for about 6g of protein and nearly 4g of fiber. 

Whether you buy in bulk or a small pack at the gas station, sunflower seeds are cheap, so load up for whatever meal you’re craving. While you can eat the seeds alone, sunflower seeds are terrific for salads, Asian-inspired dishes, oatmeal and more. Various flavors like barbecue and ranch make them ideal for a fantastic snack if you want inexpensive sources of protein on the road.

5. Black Beans

You can’t discuss the cheapest protein and fiber sources without mentioning black beans. The black turtle bean is a versatile food you can eat by itself or put into your soups. A can of black beans typically costs a dollar or two at your local store and contains 26g of protein for the entire thing. The price tag alone makes black beans one of the cheap forms of protein you should add to your grocery list. 

Like the other foods on this list, black beans are versatile for breakfasts, dinners and desserts. Add a serving to your salads, soups, burritos, omelets and other fan favorites for a protein and fiber boost. You can even incorporate this food into your sweet treats with black bean brownies and other unorthodox desserts. 

6. Sardines

Sardines might not be the most popular food, especially among the squeamish. However, these little guys are full of protein and relatively cheap. You can get a whole can and roughly 23 grams of protein for just a few bucks. Sardines are also high in calcium, vitamin D and B12, helping you take a more holistic approach to your health.

Add them to a salad, whisk a few into tomato sauce or use them to top a pizza. Some people eat sardines straight out of the can! However, don’t be afraid to experiment if you want more flavor. For instance, spicy sardine dip uses cayenne pepper and smoked paprika for a wonderful kick. Use non-fat Greek yogurt to cut the calories and make a cheap protein-packed dip.  

7. Cottage Cheese

Like yogurt, cottage cheese is a low-calorie dairy product that’s cheap and high in protein. A single tub costs about $3 and can contain 50 grams of protein or more. Of course, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Cottage cheese contains high amounts of sodium, which can cause dehydration and inflammation, so moderation is key. Enjoy it with fruit, applesauce, granola or even toast to get your daily protein intake.

Cottage cheese can be an acquired taste, so you may have difficulty acclimating to it. If you are wary of cottage cheese, try incorporating it into other foods instead of eating it alone. For instance, mix the cottage cheese with your scrambled eggs because you can hardly taste it. Mix this cheap protein source with mashed potatoes for a creamier side dish.

8. Oats

a pile of loose dry oats
Image Credit: Melissa Di Rocco

Oats are hearty, healthy and filling. Plus, they’re super cheap and packed with protein. A one-pound container may only cost a few dollars, and each serving contains 13 grams of protein, making oats a worthwhile purchase for health nuts. Whip up a bowl of oatmeal each morning or toast some oats to use as granola for diet-conscious snacking. Like beans and yogurt, their high fiber content will also keep you fuller longer.

If you want an easy, high-protein oats recipe, try overnight oats. This dish requires no cooking, and you only have to leave it in the fridge overnight before getting a quick breakfast. Combine oats with Greek yogurt, chia seeds, peanut butter, fruit and other desired toppings. 

9. Canned Tuna

Like sardines, canned tuna is one of the best inexpensive sources of protein from the ocean. Each can is practically a protein cheat code with over 42g of this muscle-building macronutrient and only 191 calories. If you’re trying to get lean and eat your gains, it’s hard to go wrong with tuna — especially considering the price. One can will cost you about a dollar, depending on your store. 

Canned tuna brings flexibility when considering all the different recipes you can make. Maximize your protein with homemade tuna salad featuring canned tuna, non-fat Greek yogurt, celery, dill and other flavorful ingredients.

10. Tofu

If you’re going for a plant-based diet, tofu is one of your best cheap sources of protein because of its simplicity. You can easily find it in your grocery store for about $2 per pound, making it more affordable than your average pack of poultry or red meat. Tofu consistently has a low price tag because it comes from dried soybeans packed with protein. Just half a cup of this plant-based goodness gifts 10g of protein!

Tofu is an excellent food because of its neutral flavor. Its lack of taste means you can add sauces and toppings to make the dish your own! Tofu is prominent in Asian-inspired dishes, but you can incorporate it as a meat substitute for nearly any recipe.

Finding Cheap Sources of Protein for Big Gains

Eating healthy means packing protein and fiber, but it can drain your bank account if you’re not careful. How can you find the cheapest protein sources in the grocery store? Look for unconventional sources like sardines and sunflower seeds. These 10 options provide cheap forms of protein for your diet.

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