Budget-Friendly Ways to Boost Your Protein at Any Meal

Upping your protein intake doesn't have to cost you.

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Crispy Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Lemon Rinds

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

For many Americans — including myself — it’s hard to imagine a meal without thinking of what protein is going to be anchoring the plate. (I blame my Midwestern roots.) Whether the protein is meat or plant-based, it always helps me feel satisfied. Since feeding my family without breaking the bank is also my goal, I try to be a smart shopper when it comes to the proteins I buy. Here are budget-friendly protein options for high-protein meals.

Opt for Ground Beef

Beef can vary in price depending on the cut. Ground beef is always an affordable option and so versatile! These 50 ground beef recipes are a solid start. One of my favorites are these delicious mini meatloaves. I helped develop them about 10 years ago and still love them today. For a feed-a-crowd option, they can also be made into to one big loaf on a sheetpan and roasted in the oven at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes. Turkish Kofta kebabs are also great as snackable bite or built into a meal.

Lentils Are Miracle Legumes

Lentils are sneaky higher-protein lower-effort legumes. You don’t have to soak them and they’re so affordable. Use them to make Lentil Burgers, which are sure to fill you up. The most expensive ingredient in these burgers is the walnuts, which are more affordable bought in pieces than whole. Aarti Sequeira’s Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils is also a comforting higher-protein dish that is sure to satisfy when the weather is cooler. You can also cook lentils on their own and add them to salads and grain bowls for an extra protein boost.

Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz

Matt Armendariz

Eggs Can Be Used at Many Meals

Eggs are an afforable source of protein that can also be added to many dishes. Hard-boil a batch of eggs for snacking or breakfast on-the-go. Additionally there’s always a trusty frittata packed with veggies from the fridge freezer or pantry, try this Quick Veggie Frittata by Michael Symon to get the hang of it and then expand from there.

Canned Fish Solves Dinner, Fast

I always keep some canned tuna or other tinned fish in my pantry for an easy add-in for dinner. I love how a simple can of tuna can be whipped up into a delicious patty to be enjoyed with a salad or on a bun. This tuna slider recipe is great and has nice little slaw to go with it. Or stir tuna in with seasoned pasta, lemon juice and butter topped with lots of parsley for a super simple tasty dinner, like this one with spaghetti and mint.

Chicken Thighs Are Flavorful and Affordable

When it comes to chicken, thighs and drumsticks are the tastiest parts. Not only are they hard to overcook unlike a chicken breast but they markedly cheaper than breasts and wings. They are versatile for a crispy roast or a quick braise. This Chicken Adobo recipe is sweet and savory slow cooked heaven. And the Crispy Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Lemon Rinds is a perfect dish, and with simple pasta or roasted potatoes it makes dinner with leftovers for the next day!

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