Ranked – 14 Cheapest Sources of Protein

Table of Contents

Introduction

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in virtually every process in our body. It is a key component of every cell, serving as building blocks for our muscles, skin, bones, and blood. Beyond its structural role, protein is also necessary for the repair and creation of cells, the production of enzymes and hormones, and supports a healthy immune system.

However, getting enough protein in our diet can sometimes be a challenge, especially when we’re on a budget. High-quality protein often comes at a high cost, with foods like lean meats, fish, and certain dairy products carrying a hefty price tag. This can make it difficult for anyone trying to hit their protein target.

That’s why we thought we’d create this handy list. Our goal is to help you identify cheap sources of protein, allowing you to meet your nutritional needs without breaking the bank. We’ll explore affordable protein sources, discussing their nutritional value and providing suggestions on how to incorporate them into your diet.

Each item will have a cost per gram of protein* and a protein concentration figure to help you decide which sources suit your needs. Protein concentration is the protein contents as a % of the overall weight, in other words, how lean the protein source is. It will help highlight how much other stuff are you going to have to fill yourself up with in order to digest that sought after protein.

Whether you’re a student, a parent, or just someone looking to eat healthily while saving money, this guide is for you. Let’s dive in and discover the top cheapest sources of protein.

*Disclaimer: This list is based off of pricing (in GBP £) per gram of protein at time of writing. Prices vary across the globe, across brands and they change as time goes on. Our researched prices and nutritional values were last updated July 2023.

1. Milk

Milk, specifically semi-skimmed milk, is one of the most affordable sources of protein available. It’s a staple in many households and is easily accessible in most grocery stores. Semi-skimmed milk provides a balance between the low fat content of skimmed milk and the high protein content of whole milk, making it a great choice for those looking for a cost-effective protein source.

Nutritional Values of Milk

A cup of semi-skimmed milk (around 240ml) typically contains about 7 grams of protein. It’s also a good source of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. The protein in milk is complete, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. Additionally, milk is rich in casein and whey proteins, which are beneficial for muscle growth and recovery.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
81.79g per 2722ml (4 pints)£0.0183%
This is based on semi-skimmed milk.

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Milk in a Healthy Diet

Milk is incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in numerous ways. It can be consumed directly as a beverage, added to tea or coffee, or used in smoothies for a protein boost. It’s also a key ingredient in many recipes, from savoury dishes like mashed potatoes and soups to sweet treats like puddings and baked goods. For those who are lactose intolerant or prefer not to consume dairy, lactose-free and plant-based milk alternatives are also available, though the protein content may vary.

2. Black Beans

Black beans are an excellent and affordable source of protein, especially for those following a plant-based diet. They are widely available in grocery stores, either dried or canned, and are a staple in many cuisines around the world.

Nutritional Values of Black Beans

A cup of cooked black beans (approximately 172g) provides about 13 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, black beans are also high in fibre, which can aid in digestion and help to keep you feeling full. They are rich in several vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and folate.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
30g per 400g pack£0.0217.5%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Black Beans in a Healthy Diet

Black beans are incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. They can be added to salads, soups, and stews for a protein boost. They are a key ingredient in many Mexican dishes, such as burritos and enchiladas. Black beans can also be mashed and used in burger patties as a vegetarian alternative to meat. Additionally, they can be used in baking as a substitute for flour in certain recipes, like black bean brownies, providing a gluten-free and protein-rich option.

3. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a delicious and cost-effective source of protein. It’s made from ground peanuts and often contains added salt, sweeteners, and oils. Available in most grocery stores, peanut butter is a convenient and versatile protein source that can be used in a variety of dishes.

Nutritional Values of Peanut Butter

Two tablespoons of peanut butter (approximately 32 grams) provide about 10 grams of protein. Besides being a good source of protein, peanut butter is also high in healthy monounsaturated fats and provides important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. However, it’s also relatively high in calories, so it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
300g per 1kg pack£0.02230%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Peanut Butter in a Healthy Diet

Peanut butter is incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It can be spread on whole grain toast for a quick and easy protein-packed breakfast or snack. It can also be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt for an extra boost of protein. For a savoury option, peanut butter can be used in sauces or dressings for dishes like stir-fries or salads. Peanut butter pairs well with fruits like apples and bananas, making for a nutritious and satisfying snack.

4. Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is one of the most popular and affordable sources of animal protein. It’s widely available in grocery stores and is a staple in many diets due to its high protein content, versatility, and relatively low cost, especially when purchased in bulk.

Nutritional Values of Chicken Breast

A 3-ounce serving of cooked chicken breast (about 85 grams) provides approximately 20 grams of protein. Chicken breast is a lean source of protein, meaning it’s low in fat. It’s also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B6, niacin (B3), and selenium.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
228g per 950g pack£0.02724%
Protein concentration based on uncooked chicken breast

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Chicken Breast in a Healthy Diet

Chicken breast is incredibly versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. It can be grilled, baked, stir-fried, or poached and used in salads, sandwiches, soups, and more. Chicken breast can also be marinated or seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices to add flavour. For a balanced meal, pair chicken breast with vegetables and a source of complex carbohydrates, like brown rice or sweet potatoes. Remember to remove the skin before cooking to keep the fat content low.

5. Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is a convenient and affordable source of high-quality protein. It’s readily available in most grocery stores and has a long shelf life, making it a great option for those seeking cost-effective and easy-to-store protein sources.

Nutritional Values of Canned Tuna

A 3-ounce serving of canned light tuna in water (about 85 grams) provides approximately 21 grams of protein. In addition to being a rich source of protein, canned tuna is also low in fat and calories. It’s a good source of essential nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
25.4g per 100g tin£0.03125.4%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Canned Tuna in a Healthy Diet

Canned tuna is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. It can be added to salads, sandwiches, or pasta for a quick and easy protein boost. Tuna can also be mixed with low-fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt and served on whole grain bread for a healthy tuna salad sandwich. For a low-carb option, tuna can be served on lettuce leaves for a protein-packed tuna lettuce wrap. When purchasing canned tuna, opt for tuna in water rather than oil to keep the calorie content lower.

6. Lentils

Lentils are a type of legume and are an excellent and affordable source of protein. They are a staple in many cuisines around the world, particularly in South Asian dishes. Lentils are readily available in most grocery stores and are easy to store, making them a convenient protein source.

Nutritional Values of Lentils

A cup of cooked lentils (approximately 200 grams) provides about 15 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, lentils are also high in fiber, which can aid in digestion and help to keep you feeling full. They are rich in several vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, and manganese.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
73g per 1kg pack£0.0347.3%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Lentils in a Healthy Diet

Lentils are incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. They can be added to soups, stews, or salads for a protein boost. Lentils can also be used to make lentil curry or dahl, a traditional Indian dish. Additionally, lentils can be used as a meat substitute in dishes like lentil tacos or lentil-based veggie burgers. They can be cooked in bulk and stored in the refrigerator for several days, making them a convenient option for meal prep.

7. Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a cost-effective and nutritious source of protein. They are a staple in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diets and are becoming increasingly popular worldwide due to their versatility and health benefits.

Nutritional Values of Chickpeas

A cup of cooked chickpeas (approximately 164 grams) provides about 11 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, chickpeas are also high in fibre, which can aid in digestion and help to keep you feeling full. They are rich in several vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, and phosphorus.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
16.08g per 240g pack£0.0376.7%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Chickpeas in a Healthy Diet

Chickpeas can be used in a variety of dishes. They can be added to salads, soups, and stews, or mashed to make hummus, a popular Middle Eastern dip. Roasted chickpeas can serve as a crunchy, protein-rich snack. Chickpeas can also be used as a meat substitute in dishes like chickpea curry or chickpea “meatballs”. Whether canned or dried, chickpeas are a versatile and affordable option for increasing your protein intake.

8. Eggs

Eggs are a highly nutritious and affordable source of protein. They are widely available in grocery stores and are a staple in many diets due to their versatility and ease of preparation.

Nutritional Values of Eggs

A large egg (approximately 50 grams) provides about 6 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, eggs are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin D, and choline. The protein in eggs is considered high-quality, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids in the right proportions.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
6.3g per 50g egg£0.03812.6%
Based on a medium egg’s average weight

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Eggs in a Healthy Diet

Eggs can be prepared in a variety of ways, including boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried. They can be eaten on their own or used in a wide range of dishes, from breakfast items like omelets and pancakes to lunch and dinner dishes like quiches and stir-fries. Eggs can also be used in baking as a leavening agent. For a balanced meal, pair eggs with vegetables and a source of complex carbohydrates, like whole grain toast or sweet potatoes.

9. Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is a type of fresh cheese that’s a cost-effective and nutritious source of protein. It’s widely available in grocery stores and can be a great addition to a variety of meals and snacks due to its mild flavour and creamy texture.

Nutritional Values of Cottage Cheese

A cup of low-fat cottage cheese (approximately 226 grams) provides about 23 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, cottage cheese is also rich in many essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
30.6g per 300g pack£0.04210.2%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Cottage Cheese in a Healthy Diet

Cottage cheese is incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It can be eaten on its own or paired with fruits like berries or peaches for a protein-packed breakfast or snack. It can also be added to salads, used as a topping for baked potatoes, or incorporated into protein pancakes or smoothies. For a low-carb, high-protein meal, try stuffing bell peppers with a mixture of cottage cheese and your favourite vegetables.

10. Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a creamy, tangy dairy product that’s a cost-effective source of protein. It’s made by straining regular yogurt to remove the whey, resulting in a thicker, more protein-dense product. Greek yogurt is widely available in grocery stores and comes in both plain and flavoured varieties.

Nutritional Values of Greek Yogurt

A cup of non-fat Greek yogurt (approximately 227 grams) provides about 9 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, Greek yogurt is also rich in calcium and probiotics, which are beneficial for gut health. It’s also a good source of vitamin B12.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
20g per 500g pack£0.0454%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Greek Yogurt in a Healthy Diet

Greek yogurt is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. It can be eaten on its own or topped with fruits and nuts for a nutritious breakfast or snack. It can also be used as a healthier substitute for sour cream in recipes or as a base for smoothies. For a savoury option, Greek yogurt can be used in marinades for chicken or mixed with herbs and spices to make a healthy dip. When choosing Greek yogurt, opt for plain, non-fat or low-fat varieties to keep sugar and calorie content low.

11. Tofu

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a plant-based protein source made from soybeans. It’s a staple in many Asian cuisines and is becoming increasingly popular worldwide due to its versatility and high protein content. Tofu is also a cost-effective source of protein, making it a great choice for those on a budget.

Nutritional Values of Tofu

A 3.5-ounce serving of firm tofu (about 100 grams) provides approximately 16 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, tofu is also rich in calcium and iron. It’s also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
74.25g per 450g pack£0.04716.5%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Tofu in a Healthy Diet

Tofu is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. It can be stir-fried, baked, grilled, or scrambled and used in salads, soups, and sandwiches. Tofu can also be marinated to absorb different flavours, making it a great meat substitute in dishes like tofu stir-fry or tofu tacos. For a protein-packed snack, try making tofu “jerky” by slicing tofu, marinating it in your favourite flavours, and baking it until it’s chewy. When purchasing tofu, opt for firm or extra firm varieties for the highest protein content.

12. Whey Protein

Whey protein is a byproduct of cheese production and is one of the most popular and cost-effective supplements among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. It’s often sold in powdered form, which can be easily added to shakes, smoothies, or even baked goods to boost protein intake.

Nutritional Values of Whey Protein

One scoop of whey protein powder (approximately 28 grams) typically provides about 20-25 grams of protein, though this can vary between brands. Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s particularly high in leucine, an amino acid that plays a key role in promoting muscle growth and recovery.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration (mixed)
820g per 1kg pack£0.0499.3%
Protein concentration based off of recommended use (25g whey mixed with 200ml water/milk – in this case, water)

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Whey Protein in a Healthy Diet

Whey protein is most commonly mixed with water or milk to make a protein shake, which can be consumed before or after a workout to aid muscle recovery. However, it can also be incorporated into a variety of other dishes. You can add a scoop of whey protein to oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothies for a protein boost. It can also be used in baking to make protein-rich snacks like protein bars or muffins. When choosing a whey protein powder, look for one with minimal added sugars and artificial ingredients.

13. Almonds

Almonds are a type of tree nut that are known for their high protein content. They’re a popular snack among health-conscious individuals due to their nutritional profile and satiating properties. While almonds are more expensive per gram compared to other sources on this list, they’re still a cost-effective option when considering their high protein content and overall nutritional value.

Nutritional Values of Almonds

A one-ounce serving of almonds (approximately 28 grams or about 23 almonds) provides around 6 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, almonds are also high in healthy monounsaturated fats, fibre, and vitamin E. They also contain magnesium, which is important for muscle function and recovery.

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
53g per 250g pack£0.05221.2%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Almonds in a Healthy Diet

Almonds can be consumed on their own as a nutritious snack, or they can be added to a variety of dishes for a protein boost. They can be chopped and sprinkled over salads or yogurt, used in baking, or ground into almond butter. Almonds can also be used to make almond milk, a popular dairy-free alternative. Just be mindful of portion sizes, as almonds are high in calories due to their fat content.

14. Sardines

Sardines are small, oily fish that are often sold canned and are a highly affordable source of protein. They are known for their distinct flavour and are a staple in many Mediterranean diets. Sardines are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.

Nutritional Values of Sardines

A 3.75-ounce can of sardines in oil, drained (about 92 grams), provides approximately 17 grams of protein. In addition to being a good source of protein, sardines are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and calcium (when the bones are eaten).

Protein ContentsCost per gram of proteinProtein concentration
13.1g per 71g pack£0.08818.5%

Suggested Ways to Incorporate Sardines in a Healthy Diet

Sardines can be eaten straight from the can or used in a variety of dishes. They can be added to salads, pasta, or pizza for a protein boost. Sardines can also be mashed and spread on crackers or toast for a quick and easy snack. For a Mediterranean-inspired meal, try pairing sardines with olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese. When purchasing canned sardines, opt for sardines in water or olive oil, and watch out for added salt.

That’s it!

Incorporating protein into your diet doesn’t have to be expensive. As we’ve explored in this article, there are numerous affordable sources of protein that are not only cost-effective but also versatile and nutritious. From dairy products like milk and Greek yogurt to plant-based options like lentils and chickpeas, there’s a cheap protein source to suit every diet and preference.

Remember, a balanced diet is key to overall health and well-being. While protein is an essential nutrient, it’s also important to consume a variety of foods to ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients. Always aim for a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your meals, and try to incorporate plenty of fruits and vegetables for added fiber and vitamins.

Whether you’re on a tight budget, trying to build muscle, or simply want to add more protein to your diet, the options we’ve discussed in this article offer a great starting point. So, why not try incorporating some of these affordable protein sources into your meals? You might just discover a new favourite!

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