This post was written by Georgia Department of Public Health dietetic intern Jamie Jones and reviewed and approved by Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN.
Everyone wants to eat healthy, but how do you include all the food groups in your meals when on a budget? With rising prices at the grocery store, it can take some creativity to include protein in your meals without breaking your budget.
Meat, such as poultry, pork and beef, can take up a chunk of your dinner budget. When selecting meats at the store, first look for sales and stock up if you have room in the freezer. Family packs can be another cost-friendly way to buy meat; you can divide the pack into smaller portions, and freeze extra to use for multiple meals.
Plant protein can be a budget friendly way to include protein in your meals. It can also be a good choice for your health due to being low in saturated fat and high in fiber according to MyPlate.
First, let’s look at America’s favorite spreadable nut, peanut butter. A serving of peanut butter provides 7 grams of protein while adding only 3 grams of saturated fat per one-ounce serving. Peanut butter is less than half the cost of other nut butter options on the shelf, with prices ranging from $2.98-$5.18 for peanut butter and $7.48-$11.48 for almond butter at my local grocery store in the suburbs of the Atlanta area. For more information on alternative nut butters you can visit: The Bottom Line on Peanut Butter Alternatives. Peanut butter is also incredibly versatile, going beyond the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to be used as a dip for fruits and vegetables or for dinner with chicken or soup as a few examples.
Another nutritious plant protein option in the store is nuts providing from 3-7 grams of protein in a 1 ounce serving. Peanuts offer 7 grams of protein, more than any other nut. They’re also more cost friendly compared to other nut options on the shelves. The price per ounce for peanuts is less than half of the price per ounce for cashews, almonds or mixed nuts.
Beans and peas are another protein source you can use in meals. The cost per pound of beans and peas is less than $2 at my local grocery store in the suburbs of the Atlanta area. Beans and peas can be bought dry or canned. Both are budget-friendly options in the store. Dry beans yield more when cooked, but take time with having to soak them first and cook for a longer time. Canned beans are quicker, but can be high in sodium. When buying canned, look for low sodium and/or rinse them before use.
When shopping on a budget, keep these tips in mind:
- Use the unit price as I have in comparing items.
- Always look for sale items and buy in bulk if you have the storage space and will use the items before they go bad.
- Look for coupons and buy in season produce.
- Never go to the store hungry.
- Always shop with a list.
Enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before you go shopping is the perfect way to keep hunger at bay!