T Nation

Low-Cost Protein

I have a problem. I am currently in college and have a wife and two kids. I work at Wal-mart. My total budget for food is $180 for the whole family. I cannot afford as much protien as I should be eating. So, does anyone have low cost protien ideas? If I am forced to eat less protein, what should the rest of my diet look like? Am I good to eat lots of low GI carbs? Any input would be appreciated, thanks.

Rice 'n Beans

  1. Eggs, if purchased in bulk.

  2. Beef – I can find it for 99 cents - 1.49/lb at some (most) grocery stores near closing. I offer to purchase their remaining stock if given at reduced price. Most of the time they have between 12-30 pounds.

  3. Peanut Butter – Calorically dense and goes a long way.

Try TVP “textured vegetable protein”
A vegan friend gets a years supply (for 2 adults)for around $250 Canadian - that should be less than $200 in real money.
You should be able to find it in bulk at a health food store.
Hope it helps!

Ouch. That’s tough. Taking care of a wife and kids on that budget makes it hard.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Purchase as much food as possible from warehouse places such as Sam’s, Costco or Super Wal-Mart. You save money by buying in bulk.

  2. Stick to what fits in your budget (chicken, ground beef, eggs, milk, cottage cheese, canned tuna).

  3. Try to buy frozen veggies in bulk, rather than fresh or canned. Frozen veggies will last longer (won’t go bad like fresh stuff), and they come in larger quantities.

  4. Buy “generic” brands of whatever you need for the family (milk, cereal, etc.)

  5. Do your best based on your budget and family needs.

As well as finding good cheap protein, you might want to cut costs for yourself in other food areas. My budget is better than it was, but it was sorely stretched during a recent stint of unemployment.

I wouldn’t suggest making the rest of the family eat this way (the same things every day), but if you can do a few of these things you may be able to budget in more quality protein as well.

The cheapest convenience food I’ve found is bulk rolled oats. Throw a cup or more in a bowl, toss in some milk and you’ve got a nutritious breakfast. Maybe toss in a little bit of jam or peanut butter for variety. Heck, its good anytime, not just for breakfast.

Someone else on the boards mentioned powdered milk. I’m not sure on the cost, but you might be able to throw a scoop of it on your oatmeal instead of real milk.

Personally, I buy a lot of dry roasted peanuts. A large jar for 2.99 will last for a week or more – even though I eat measured portions several times every single day.

Less convenient, but very cheap and suggested above, are large bags of rice and beans. Combined they represent a complete source of protein with plenty of carbs. It takes time to cook and prepare, but for the price can’t be beat.

If you have all of the above in the house (with leftover rice and beans in the fridge) you’ve got plenty of convenient carb and protein options.

Finally, another convenient protein source is cottage cheese. If you have a quarter tub (125g) every night before bed you’ve got some slow release protein to get you through the night. Toss in some peanuts or oatmeal to bump up the size of the meal a bit.

Don’t know, maybe you are already doing these things. However, if you are working out, you’ve got to get lots of cheap food in you so you don’t detract from the ability to give good nutrition to the rest of the family for regular meals.

You can fill up on all this bulk stuff and then eat small portions of regular family meals so you don’t become a total outcast due to dietary requirements.

Also, on a different note, I think it will be expensive if you try to get protein without carbs. Don’t worry about getting extremely lean and cut, build muscle, stay fit and wait for better financial times before setting yourself those more expensive vanity goals.

Oh yes, and anytime anyone in the family is thirsty, make sure they aren’t throwing your money away with brand name drinks. Be it soda, kool-aid or even juice, it’s a waste of cash. If you are thirsty enough water will be just fine. If its not water it should be for a nutritional purpose… such as milk at mealtime or OJ for breakfast.

Best of luck!

vroom:

That is some great practical advice!

http://www.mommysavers.com/cooking_on_a_shoestring.htm

http://www.mommysavers.com/Recipes/recipes_from_readers.htm

Great low cost recipes at the above website. To make these kinds of recipes more BB friendly, those IQF frozen packages of boneless chicken thighs (~$7.99-8.99/large package)from Safeway can be added to some of the recipes. Safeway also sells the value packs of hamburger- buy these on sale. Iron makes a large pot of hamburger stew- browns and drains the hamburger and adds cream of mushroom soup, vegetables and seasonings- served over rice, this lasts him a week or so.

When in college and dirt poor, I went Vegitarian for a while. You’d be surprised how inexpensive meals are without meat, cheese and milk. The person who mentioned beans and rice is right on. Some of the self-serve bulk foods they sell by the pound at health food stores can be extremely inexpensive. As before mentioned, the self serve beans, soups and textured vegetable proteins can be very economical. Water is free and healthy.

You can do like us Hawaiians do with our sky-high cost of living, and buy the 25 pound bags of rice- which when on sale at Safeway can be extremely inexpensive and goes a long way. Children love homemade soup poured over cooked rice, stews with a lot of gravy over rice, leftover rice seasoned and stir fried with eggs and any leftover meats and vegetables.

Invest in a few good seasonings like garlic, garlic salt, spices to add flavor to meals.

Also, I agree about the vanity stuff, worry about that later when you are more financially stable.

I want to thank everyone for their imput. Your ideas are much apprieciated. And thank you to vroom for suggesting that I wait to get extremely lean and cut, I think that is good advice considering my situation. Thank you all.

Non-fat, powdered milk is an excellent option. Its protein-dense, high quality, and cheap.

Fat free cottage cheese is a godsend for me. I buy a generic brand at wal-mart for about a 1.39 or the same at Publix. Each container has about 6 servings which will last me a week if I stretch it. I extend it by mixing it with nuts for a meal.

[quote]cremaster wrote:
Try TVP “textured vegetable protein”
A vegan friend gets a years supply (for 2 adults)for around $250 Canadian - that should be less than $200 in real money.
You should be able to find it in bulk at a health food store.
Hope it helps![/quote]

TVP is made from soy. Not good.

Bags of raw beans such as red kidney and black are incredibly cheap (but are a pain to cook). Canned salmon can be cheap comparatively if you are looking for some variety and same with bulk tuna, just be careful (mercury) and enjoy the high omega-3 amount. Kids love tuna and beans 3 nights a week.

I’m curious how much protein there is in rice and beans once it’s combined.

[quote]acostine wrote:
I’m curious how much protein there is in rice and beans once it’s combined. [/quote]

not enough for serious muscle building, because that meal doesn’t contain all the essential aminos you need for protein synthesis to happen, but it will keep you alive…

even if you can only eat one small meal of red meat/chicken/fish a day, it’s better than none at all, or going totally vegan.

TS

[quote]TopSirloin wrote:

not enough for serious muscle building, because that meal doesn’t contain all the essential aminos you need for protein synthesis to happen, but it will keep you alive…

TS[/quote]

It was my understanding that rice and beans together provided all of the essential amino acids. Is this not one of the reasons they are sent to third world countries when they are starving?

Nah, it’s because it’s cheap and there is a surplus in the U.S.

Even though they combine to make a complimentary protein source, they don’t have a high amount of protein. You’re always better off with meat, eggs, etc.

[quote]Kinetix wrote:
TopSirloin wrote:

not enough for serious muscle building, because that meal doesn’t contain all the essential aminos you need for protein synthesis to happen, but it will keep you alive…

TS

It was my understanding that rice and beans together provided all of the essential amino acids. Is this not one of the reasons they are sent to third world countries when they are starving?

[/quote]

The problem with the protein in rice and beans is that they have a low Biological Value (BV), which means your body can only utilize a certain percentage of the protein consumed.

White rice has a BV of 64 and dry beans a BV of 58. Compare that to whole eggs - 94, chicken - 85, or whey protein isolate - 155, and you can see that it’s not an efficient source of protein.

Ahh…interesting. Thanks for sorting that out. I generally use beans as a carb/fiber source anyway.