Inexpensive Sources of Protein to Fill Your Shopping Cart

Many of us are adjusting to a new way of life and how that impacts our physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s a challenging time to try and have a healthy lifestyle. The landscape of our communities has changed in light of the pandemic-including our food system.

You may have noticed that your typical food staples at the grocery store aren’t available. Meat, eggs, bread, and other items are harder to come by. This can add stress to our homes, but it’s also an opportunity to get creative and try new recipes that include plant-based sources of protein.

Believe it or not, many vegetables have more protein than meat. Mushrooms, lentils, chickpeas, most beans, legumes. artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, corn, potatoes, peppers, spinach, sweet potatoes, and turnip greens are all great options when the meat department doesn’t have much to choose from in terms of protein. What are plant-based proteins?

Here are 5 recipes to try and ways to incorporate non-meat sources of protein into your weekly meals!

  1. Glowing Lentil Soup This recipe is entirely plant-based and very inexpensive to make. Turmeric gives it a vibrant yellow color and lentils add 18 g of protein per cup!
  2. Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie Add protein to a smoothie with nut butters like peanut, almond, or cashew butter. Just two tablespoons add 6-8 g of protein.
  3. Tomato Sauce with Peppers & Orzo This is an example of how you can substitute beans for meat in your favorite recipes. I love this recipe for chicken meatballs with homemade tomato sauce and peppers. When there wasn’t any ground turkey or chicken at the store, I substituted garbanzo beans instead. They are a neutral flavor and add 39 g protein/cup to the meal!
  4. Walnut Chorizo Tacos with Pineapple Salsa Try making your own meat substitute! This recipe is for chorizo tacos that use cauliflower and walnuts as the base. It sounds strange, but it’s delicious and inexpensive.
  5. Black Bean Salad Make a versatile dish at the beginning of the week that you can turn into multiple meals. This salad can be served on a bed of lettuce with a dressing of your choice or used as a filling for tacos, quesadillas, etc. Try it with a sunny side up egg for breakfast! Black beans have 14 g of protein per cup.

A few more tips on legumes-dried beans are very inexpensive and can be cooked in a crockpot or pressure cooker. Once cooked, they freeze great! If you prefer to have beans that are ready to throw into your recipes, canned is a great option. Look for those with reduced sodium and don’t forget to rinse them well before using.

It was none of our first choices to be forced to stay home, change our lives, and rearrange how we feed ourselves and our family. In the meantime, may these be helpful suggestions on ways to incorporate inexpensive, readily available forms of protein into your meals.

Kelsey is a public health professional who specializes in helping communities increase access to healthy foods and safe places to play. She has lived in Spartanburg, SC for over 5 years and is a native of Michigan. She enjoys cooking nutritious and yummy food for friends and family and spending time outdoors.


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