Today we are focusing on protein. Protein is a tough one because there are a lot of theories on what is healthy. Some prefer to stay away from animal products. Others prefer only lean protein. Others prefer a more traditional diet. Some pregnant and nursing women might be on the Brewer diet which emphasizes high protein intake. Whatever you, your family, and your healthcare provider have decided is the right addition of protein, I hope the tips below give you some ideas on saving money when purchasing protein products.
How to add more protein to your diet:
- Beans, beans, beans. They are inexpensive, easy to prepare, can be used in a variety of ways, and are yummy. Day 1—prepare 1-5 pounds of black beans. Enjoy beans and rice for your supper. Day 2—make burritos using the beans and add cheese and toppings as you desire. Day 3—Make black bean hummus (I’ll include this recipe on the blog today) and enjoy it with pita bread or veggies. Day 4—Make chili using the beans and if desired add beef or turkey. Day 5—Make One Skillet Dinner. Day 6—Make quesadillas using cheese, veggies, and beans. If desired add some grilled chicken. Day 7—Add 1-2 cups of black beans to a vegetable soup base to bulk up the recipe. Freeze the remaining beans for future meals.
- Be choosy with what meats and animal products you pick. We prefer organic and grass-fed beef. Because it costs more than conventional beef, we eat less of it to help even out the budget.
- Don’t forget your eggs! Want a quick and easy supper, make breakfast! Enjoy an omelet, frittata, or another easy egg dish. Boil some extra eggs to have as snacks, a quick breakfast, or to add to a salad.
- Bring along jerky as a snack for camping, hiking, or anytime.
- Nut butters and peanut butters are another good source of protein. Since many children are stuck on pbj for lunch, at least you can have some solace in the fact that they are getting some protein in them.
How to save money when purchasing protein:
- If you have a hunter in your family or group of friends, offer to buy any extra game meat that he/she might have. You can also contact a game processor to see if they have had any meats left by hunters. They are usually happy to sell it to you for the price of processing the meat. (The price usually depends on the size of an animal and how specialized the cuts are). Most meat eaters shy away from game meats because they do not know how to remove the “gamey” taste. When I prepare our venison steaks, the first night I defrost them in the fridge. The next day I take the venison from the package, remove any silver skin and fat, and soak them in a heavily salted brine (water and salt) for at least 10 hours and up to a full day. The following day I remove the venison and give it a rinse. I then marinade it for 1-3 hours. After a quick trip to the grill it is ready to enjoy. This may sound like a long process, but each step takes only a few minutes. It is well worth it! The gamey taste is removed, and it tastes very much like lean beef.
- Stock up when you see a good deal. I’ll never forget the day at Kroger when the butcher was marking down organic beef because they had bought too much and needed the space. He was selling it for $2/lb! Needless to say, I bought all that our budget would allow and froze it. Likewise, buy extra eggs when they are on sale or when your farmer has a bounty of them. Buy extra beans when they are on sale or at a good price in the bulk bins.
- If you prefer to buy locally grown meats, see if you can purchase a whole, half, or quarter of an animal. This year, for instance we are buying a half of a lamb with a friend at a much lower price than we would have been able to get at the grocery.
- I’m not a fan of tofu or many soy products as a general rule. I’ve told you all that my sister has many allergies and soy products have been helpful in her transition into alternate foods. If you prefer soy for whatever reason, you can often find coupons for soy based products on the internet.
- When picking fish and seafood, fresh is the best. Yet, being in East Tennessee, the only place I’ve found good seafood are at the Shrimp Dock locations. Since a lot of my family are from the Gulf area, I am a little choosy when it comes to what I describe as “good seafood”. ;) The Shrimp Dock stores have a coupon in the Knox County School Coupon book, which helps a bit when shopping. If fresh is out of your price range (it often is for us), opt for canned tuna and salmon or frozen fish as less expensive options.
- Don’t waste! When I purchase a whole chicken, we can often make as many as four meals out of it—broth/stock base for soup, pieces for supper, pulled meat for chicken salad, and leftover meat for quesadillas. Save shrimp peels to make seafood stock. Save the bones from meat and poultry to make broths. If you give your dog bones, save the larger meat bones for a treat for him.
- Contact manufacturers for coupons. Laura’s Lean Beef was happy to send me some when I requested coupons on their website.
- Look for coupons in the papers and on line. Many ready made meals and prepackaged products have coupons. Deals on tuna fish, salmon, and peanut butter are in almost every week’s sale papers. Don’t pay full priced for these items! Know what is a good price per unit and when the shelf shows that price or lower couple the deal with a coupon and do the happy dance.
What other ideas do readers have for eating more protein or saving money at the store when purchasing protein items? Please add any tips to the comments section so that all readers may benefit.