The Best Proteins to Buy when You’re Broke

We’ve all been there.  Funds are limited, but you still have to eat.  Most people think of high carb foods like white bread and pasta when funds are low, but it’s important to get plenty of protein, especially in times of stress.


Eggs average $1 a dozen or 17 cents for a 2 egg serving with 140 calories and 14 grams of protein.  They are full of healthy fats and vitamins too.  With eggs you can make:  egg salad; scrambled eggs; fried egg sandwiches; creamed eggs over biscuits; and frittata.

Chicken Legs

Chicken Legs go on sale at Aldi for $.59 a lb.  There are about 3 legs per pound or 20 cents per serving.   I dip mine in milk then bread crumbs and bake at 350 for an hour.  They can also go in a crock pot with garlic salt for 3-4 hours on high and finished off with some BBQ sauce.

Chicken Breasts

Chicken breasts regularly go on sale for $1.50 a lb and sometimes as low as $1, or 25-38 cents per serving. The thick ones go straight into my slow cooker with garlic salt to be shredded for casseroles, chicken salad, and skillet meals. The thin ones we cut up for homemade chicken nuggets, grilled marinated chicken, grilled chicken salads and other cutlet style dishes.

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is around $.70 for a 5 oz can.  There are 2 servings per can for 35 cents each.  We make ours into tuna salad, tuna casserole, tuna melts
and tuna cakes.

Canned Mackerel

Wal-mart carries Jack Mackerel for $1.38 a 15 oz can.  There are about 4 servings per can for 35 cents a serving.  Salmon is more than twice as expensive ($3 for the same size can) and half as nutritious.   We add egg and cracker crumbs to ours for to make yummy Mackerel Patties.


String cheese is about 19 cents per serving and 7g of protein. 1/2 cup of Cottage Cheese is 38 cents per serving and 14g of protein.  Skim milk is 13 cents per cup and 8g of protein.


Carbs like quinoa, brown rice and beans also combine to make complete proteins in lesser amounts.  By themselves they aren’t good sources of protein but when we use them in a casserole or soup, we can reduce the portion of meat to keep protein around 20 grams per serving.

And just for other math fans like me, here’s a break down of cost per gram of protein and calories per gram of protein.   When taking both into account, boneless skinless chicken when the prize.

Protein Source Serving Size $/Serving g. of Protein $/g. of protein Calories/Serving Calories/g. of protein
Canned Tuna 2.5 oz $0.35 11 $0.032 50 4.54
Canned Mackerel 3.75 oz $0.35 21 $0.017 144 6.86
Chicken Leg 5.3 oz $0.20 14 $0.014 110 7.86
Chicken Breast 4 oz $0.38 23 $0.017 110 4.78
Eggs 2 large $0.17 14 $0.012 140 10
1% Cottage Cheese 1/2 cup $0.38 12 $0.032 80 6.67
String Cheese 1 oz $0.19 7 $0.027 80 11.4
Skim Milk 8 oz $0.13 8 $0.016 80 10
Brown Rice 1 cup cooked $0.11 5 $0.022 216 43.2
Pinto Beans 1 cup cooked $0.30 12 $0.025 206 17.17
Quinoa 1 cup cooked $0.47 8 $0.059 222 27.75

Looking for budget friendly meal plans?  Let me help!

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6 thoughts on “The Best Proteins to Buy when You’re Broke

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad it was helpful to you, Cheryl! Thanks for encouraging me with a comment :). Every time I get a comment notification, it’s pretty exciting :).

  1. Abigail says:

    I appreciate how practical and realistic your posts are! I’ve been following your blog for a few years now and it encourages me in my own endeavors to be thrifty and frugal in my grocery budget while still maintaining health and satisfying meals. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Carol says:

    An old home ec book I read a long time ago had a chapter on what to buy if you only had $5 til payday had on its list had eggs and chicken and oatmeal on list so we are on the right path.

  3. Isabelle says:

    That’s a good list! However, I’m jalous of your low prices!! I knew that groceries are more expensive in Canada than US, but I see here how much more! Here, a good price for:
    Eggs : 2$/ dozen on sale (regularly around 3,50$)
    Cheese : around 4$/ pound on sale (regular 8$). A tub of cottage (2 cups) runs around 4$.
    A good price for chicken breast would be around 3$/pound, but you can easily double that for the regular price.
    Why such a difference??
    Oh well, it’s life!

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