Join 220,000+ Fitness Fans

Share your name and email and I'll send you a FREE copy of my eBook - The 10 Forgotten Rules of Weight Loss. Plus, you'll get exclusive articles not found on the blog.

10 Cheap Sources of Protein for the Budget Conscious

closeup of peanut butterCheap sources of protein can be found if you know where to look. Use these 10 protein sources to get the biggest bang for your buck. Each source of protein is broken down cost wise into protein grams per dollar.

Keep in mind that these foods might also contain carbohydrates or fat, so you will still need to ensure they fit into your calorie allotment. If there’s a food I missed that you can add, please leave it in the comments.

10. Greek Yogurt – 21.2 grams/dollar

Greek yogurt contains bacteria called acidophillus. These living bacteria have many benefits, including the health of the digestive tract. Try mixing some frozen blueberries into your yogurt for a high protein snack.

Greek yogurt can also be used in place of sour cream in just about any recipe. This can help lower the calorie content and boost the protein.

9. Frozen Chicken – 32.4 grams/dollar

Frozen chicken tends to be cheaper than its fresh counterpart, but if you look hard enough, you can find fresh chicken for nearly the same price when it’s on sale. Buy it in bulk and freeze it yourself for an even bigger discount.

8. Ground Beef – 34 grams/dollar

This is the high fat stuff – 20% fat 80% lean. Although if the lean ground beef goes on sale, you can get it for the same price as the high fat stuff. Have no fear though, rinse your beef, and you could remove up to 50% of the fat content.

7. Beans – 35.5 grams/dollar

Beans are the vegetarian’s choice for cheap protein. They are packed with fiber and protein, and they are low glycemic – which will keep insulin levels under control so that fat can be mobilized and burned.

Try mixing some garbanzo beans with olive oil and spices for a healthy hummus snack. If you’re willing to try something new, I’m a huge fan of this cookie dough dip made with garbanzo beans.

6. Cottage Cheese – 36 grams/dollar

Cottage cheese is a popular snack/meal for people to eat right before bed. It contains casein protein, which is a slow digesting protein for a long night’s sleep. Need a snack idea? Try adding some cinnamon to cottage cheese and use it as a dip for some sliced apples.

5. Canned Tuna – 36.1 grams/dollar

Any college kid trying to scrape by has probably eaten canned tuna before. The meats don’t get much cheaper or more convenient than this. Throw a can on top of a salad for a quick, cheap, protein rich meal.

4. Peanut Butter – 44.9 grams/dollar

Who doesn’t like peanut butter? It tastes great, but be careful not to eat too much. You could go through a jar in no time. Stick to all natural peanut butter. The ingredients should say peanuts and possibly salt, but that’s it.

I like to throw a tablespoon or two into my oatmeal and milk and then mix it with some frozen blueberries, honey, and cinnamon. It’s a tasty meal that’s easy to make.

3. Whey Protein – 45.7 grams/dollar

Before I made this list, I thought whey protein would take the #1 spot, although it is likely the cheapest way to get protein without adding any extra calories from carbs or fat.

Whey can be added to many things including smoothies and protein pancakes. The possibilities are endless. I don’t use protein powder anymore, as I try to get all my macros from whole foods, but when I did, I used NOW Foods Whey Protein Isolate.

2. Eggs – 48 grams/dollar

Eggs are one of the most nutritionally packed foods out there. Unfortunately, many people get scared off from eating them because of their cholesterol content. The good news is that dietary cholesterol intake does not directly influence blood cholesterol levels. So eat up – yolk and all.

1. Milk – 49.6 grams/dollar

Milk took the #1 spot for the cheapest protein source. It is a combination of whey and casein protein (fast and slow digesting). For those on a tight budget who are not lactose intolerant, milk is a great way to get in extra protein.

  • Matt Ritchie

    I use all of these apart from the beef, peanut butter & beans. Amazing how resourceful you can be when you’re on a budget. I probably use cottage cheese & tuna the most as they are very cheap. Never get tired eating that stuff…which is just as well.

    • Coach Calorie

      Very true. I used to eat on a budget of $100/month when I was in college, and that was getting in 1 gram of protein per body weight. I stick with organic foods now though, so that unfortunately puts me quite a bit higher than $100.

  • Mitchell – Home Fitness Manual

    Tony, Canned Black Beans are always in-stock in my cupboard. Cheap, reliable, and totally tasty.


    • Melissa

      Also don’t forget Quinoa. Its commonly found in the organic grain section and is great for protein and fiber!

  • Tom Parker

    Great post Tony and as Matt says it proves just how resourceful you can be when you’re on a budget. It also proves that the excuse “I can’t afford to eat healthy” just doesn’t cut it. Creating a meal from the above is much cheaper than buying a ready meal or a takeaway.


  • Gloria Kelley

    I take whey Protein & I love it always, With skim milk or 1% milk. Yummmmmmmmmie & smoothies & i put it into my cereal. I also love ground turkey & ground Chicken it is cheaper then Hamburger. they want 10 to 13 Dollars a small roll i pay at walmat is $2.88 for ground turkey & ground chicken & my family loves it. I make my own dip just Peanut Butter with whey Protein mix together for veggies & apples. yummmie & i thank you for your awesome page((:
    Gloria Kelley

  • Amanda

    Salmon is one of my favorite sources of protein, but it doesn’t come cheap. So what I do is check out the fillets that are pre-packaged at my grocery store and look at the “sell by” date. Since I go through a lot of fruits and vegetables I’m at the grocery store 2-3 times during the week, so I make note of the date on my phone where I keep my grocery list and come back. There’s always some left and they are marked down at least 25% or more. SCORE! Whatever I’m not prepared to use I just put in the freezer as soon as I get home. :-) I don’t like tilipia as much as salmon, but it’s also a decent alternative if you’re on a budget.

  • Adam

    Oatmeal 82.5grams/dollar!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Yuki

    Tofu is good, and so are various tinned beans like chickpeas, azuki beans and red kidney beans. Cod is pretty cheap too, as well as ham