Top 5 Proteins on a Budget

Top 5 Proteins on a Budget


steaks on a plate with garnishIt has been my experience that my bipolar moods can be managed if I eat well; specifically, high protein meals with many fruits and vegetables. Carbs really affect my moods. I get cravings and hanger, and I never feel content or satisfied with carbs. With lots of protein, I can fend off those unwanted feelings, and even control hunger.

However, when I was on a keto diet, it was simply too expensive. Convenience meals were at least $10 each, and having as much meat and protein as we were, we simply couldn’t afford it.

Now, I am on a Groundhog Day diet (eating the same meals every day), switching only my dinners every week (breakfast and lunch stays the same). And with that, I have come to realize just how much protein I need in order to feel full and maintain or lose weight.

It’s very simple, really. I eat a good amount of protein each meal: two eggs for breakfast with oatmeal and fruit, a sandwich with yogurt for lunch, and a salad with protein for dinner.

But to keep things spicy, I vary a few things. Here are my top 8 budget protein sources in my diet:

Eggs (0.92 c / 2 eggs)

High in nutrition, this food has been sometimes demonized because of its high cholesterol content. However, studies show that the cholesterol in food does not affect blood cholesterol for most people. So the egg debate is over: eggs can be a nutritious part of your diet, when eaten in moderation! And they are very versatile. Egg salad, scrambled or sunny-side up. You can eat them as part of a sandwich, even for a burger. You can have them boiled for added convenience. I personally love them with rice with ketchup and mustard for a highly economical yet tasty comfort dish.

For breakfast, I ALWAYS have eggs. Eggs are my must-haves every single day, with few exceptions. Otherwise, I’m simply hungry mid-morning. And my Maple Syrup and Walnut Oatmeal helps keep the hunger at bay until lunch.

Canned Salmon ($2/can)

Not as popular as tuna but very nutritious alternative for his high omega 3 essentially fatty acid content. Canned salmon is a cheaper alternative to fresh salmon, and long lasting as a staple pantry item. You do have to watch for the mercury content, so having no more than 2-3 servings a week is crucial for good health. But at about $2 a can, you can’t go wrong.

Dried Beans (0.62 c / 1 cup cooked beans)

You can’t know me without knowing how much of a fan I am of beans. I wish I had more than I do, but I aim for a serving of beans daily. My favourites are red lentils, green lentils, red and white navy beans, black beans, and chickpeas. I like the dried bean variety as opposed to can. Not only is it cheaper, but I prefer the taste of dried beans when cooked. Besides, kitchen appliances like the instapot makes it easier to cook beans. Black beans don’t take as long, and I find it is actually quite good without soaking. White navy beans can be used as part of a dish that I love so much and have used for many years, Boston Baked Beans.

Hamburgers (0.75 c/frozen burger, $5.97 per box)

We buy these hamburgers on sale at Walmart. They have a variety of frozen hamburgers that taste just like homemade burgers, and they are rounded and thick. They are so good! Red meat does have its drawbacks, being high in trans fats. But red meat is also high in iron, so it is good for preventing anemia. I try to have burgers sporadically during the meat, favouring chicken and fish over beef. But sometimes, you just got to have a tasty, homemade burger!

Chicken quarters ($10/tray, $2 ea)

Lately, I have been having a thing for barbecued chicken. The idea of it makes my mouth water. Of course, you have to watch that you reach the recommended temperature for safe poultry consumption (around 165 degrees F). But when well done, the lightly charred chicken skin makes for a smoky, satisfying meal. Of course, chicken leg quarters are not always the cheapest meats on sale. I find that chicken thighs can also be very economical, or even grazing through the clearance section can help you select the cut of chicken meat that is on sale. However way you like y0ur chicken, from barbecued to fried to baked, it is a staple option in my home for healthy and economical protein source.

Whole Mackerel ($2.20 each at a local grocer)

I am going to get really nuts on you. Some people despise fish. For me, I am in love with fish, ESPECIALLY the whole fish. I love the gratifying feelings of preparing and cooking a fish from scratch. It feels very nostalgic to me, like respecting my ancestors or something. I have learned how to gut a fish (slightly gross, but pretty easy), but I still haven’t had the courage to eat a fish head. My local grocery store (not like Walmart or No Frills, but a local grocer) had them for $4.50 for two big whole fish. That was a steal, only slightly more expensive to canned salmon! Mackerel cooks fast on the bbq (about 4-5 minutes per side). I used a simple rub of olive oil, salt, and pepper and rosemary, and I cut lemon slices and insert it in the abdomen for an even better flavour. Yummy!

Lunchmeat ($2.50 per serving)

Lunchmeat is not my go to, but it is a convenient and cheap option. I don’t like how low in iron some of the meat can be, and it doesn’t have the best flavour for me. But when thinking about increasing your protein, it is a safe bet. There are many varieties of lunchmeat, from turkey, to ham, to chicken, to roast beef, it is an easy way to add more protein in your diet.

For my sandwich, I use whole wheat bread and I alternate protein between lunchmeat like turkey or Montreal Steak meat, or my delicious homemade Salmon Patties made with canned salmon and homemade bread crumb seasoning.