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7 protein-packed foods cheaper than beef

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert


The price of meat is sending shoppers into sticker shock. Beef prices are expected to rise 3 to 4 percent this year, according to the USDA.

So what’s the beef? Well, Bloomberg reports the cattle herd has shrunk to a 63-year low.

Aside from taking advantage of weekly meat specials, shoppers may want to consider incorporating other sources of protein into their diet.

"Protein does everything from building powerful muscle tissue to forming our hair and nails," says personal trainer and nutritional counselor Jason Carver. "When it comes to proteins, we want to find sources that fall under the 'complete' category, giving us all of the essential amino acids."

Here are 7 protein-packed foods that Carver recommends.

(Editor's note: At last check, a pound of ground beef was on sale for $4.19, which works out to be $1.05 per serving. The amount of protein will vary in the foods below. But we have noted price per serving for comparison.) 

1. Quinoa - This commonly mispronounced food (KEEN-wah) is becoming a go-to substitute for rice. “When cooked, it's prepared the same way rice is. However, quinoa may also be eaten raw in a salad or may be sprouted in water,” says Carver. Look for it in the natural foods section.

Price: 61 cents/serving

2. Eggs - This old standby is a great source of complete protein and healthy fats. If you buy boxed liquid eggs, the convenience will cost you. Crack the eggs yourself and you’ll save about half the price.

Price: 15 cents/serving

3. Greek Yogurt - If you're not loyal to a specific brand, you'll find this low-fat dairy product on sale regularly. Carver suggests, “Do some label checking because protein per serving could be a difference of about 10 grams depending on the brand.” 

Price: 80 cents/serving

4. Rice and Beans - Carver says, "Not only are they cheap and everywhere, rice and beans are delicious and very nutritious." You can save money by preparing dried beans. They cost less per serving compared to canned beans.

Price: 18 cents/serving

5. Hummus - "All you have to do is add a little bread to the mix and you have a complete protein source once again," Carver explains. Consider pairing hummus with raw vegetables for a nutritious snack.

Price: 20 cents/serving

6. Peanut Butter Sandwich - This combination is cheap and fast. Plus, you don’t have to wait long to find its two main ingredients on sale. 

Price: 38 cents/serving

7. Oats - There are so many benefits to this budget-friendly breakfast staple, you’ll want to start eating it any time of the day. “Research is now showing the antioxidant avenanthramides found within oats can potentially reduce heart disease,” says Carver.

Price: 15 cents/serving

So how much protein do you need for optimum health?

It depends on the person, but protein generally accounts for 15 to 20% of total calorie consumption per day. Carver says, "Keep in mind the foods you’re consuming at each meal and try to include a variety of protein sources to make sure you’re feeding your body the necessary ingredients to manufacture what it needs."

Freelance journalist Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.

For further reading: 


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