8 Easy + Budget Friendly Protein Ideas for your Meal Plan!

Organic and Budget-Friendly Protein Ideas and so many ways to get them into your weekly Meal Plan!

When it comes to meal planning on a budget, finding quality and budget-friendly protein sources is always a question! Lots of people think it has to look like meat, and to keep to our budget we only eat meat about once a week. So in this post, we’re diving into 10 of my top budget-friendly protein sources for family meals in our home. I hope our real life example help you create nutritious, delicious meals without breaking the bank. Whether you’re feeding a family or just looking to stretch your grocery budget, these options can help keep you satisfied and on budget!

Like all of my posts, this post might contains some affiliate links to products we love and believe in! If you purchase through a link, I then make a small commission while you pay no more – and sometimes less!

A note on protein powder:

I don’t personally use a protein powder at the moment. As a family we focus more on whole foods and we can get enough protein that way! In the past I have used a protein powder for supplementing protein – like when I had some dietary restrictions while breastfeeding. For those looking to add a protein powder to their diet for an extra boost, my to choice was the B Corp brand: Form protein for a well formulated and sustainable choice. Form use organic, vegan protein sources and test for heavy metals, to create a clean and healthy supplement in home compostable packaging which I loved. Personally, I loved Form protein most added into baked oatmeal (like THIS one) for easy prep ahead breakfasts.

1. Chicken Carcasses (from Abel and Cole)

We’ll start with the one meat option! Buying whole chickens or carcasses tends be far more economical than purchasing individual cuts. With a carcass you often still get a portion of the meat but you can then boil them for a rich, quality bone broth full of gelatine and flavour. This is something we do weekly for a super budget friendly protein source, as well as the other nutritious benefits of a slow cooked chicken broth. See the organic chicken carcasses we get HERE.

Organic chicken carcasses from Abel and Cole for a frugal protein source
  • Meal Idea: Chicken Soup. Simmer the chicken carcass with carrots, celery, onions, and spices. Add in some beans, corn and shredded chicken meat for a comforting, protein-packed soup. Our recipe HERE.
  • Meal Idea: Separate the meat and broth. Roast the chicken carcass first and strip off the remaining meat. Use this process to extract the broth. Cook pasta in the broth and then toss the hot pasta with spinach and sauteed garlic and cherry tomatoes for a delicious and simple pasta dish. Then either add in the meat, or use it for another meal where a smaller amount of meat works like to go in beans for tacos.

2. Baked Beans

Baked beans are a classic, affordable protein source. They’re not only versatile but also rich in fiber and nutrients and can count as one of your five a day. Half a can of baked beans can have almost 10g of protein, so alongside eggs and sourdough they can make a budget friendly quick meal with a great amount of protein.

  • Meal Ideas: . We simply heat the baked beans and serve on wholegrain toast for a simple light supper when we’re tired. Then top with a sprinkle of cheese or for a heartier meal, add a poached egg on top and or/meat on the side. Make meat go further in baked beans by chopping cooked sausages directly into the baked beans rather than putting them whole on the plate! For a gluten free option, load up baked potatoes the same way. For extra protein, mash greek yogurt into the hot baked potatoes before topping them.

3. Lentils – there are many kinds!

With 18g of protein in a cup of cooked lentils, they are one of my top protein options. Lentils are inexpensive and packed with protein and fiber. There are many kinds of lentils so you can rotate them in different dished for variety. They’re great for soups, stews, and salads. Add bulk lentils to an Abel and Cole order HERE.

  • Meal Idea: Lentil Stew. Cook lentils with tomatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, and spinach. Season with cumin, paprika, and bay leaves for a hearty, warming stew.
  • Meal Idea: Lentil and roasted veggies. Cook lentils with simple garlic, and seasoning until soft. Serve with an assortment of roasted veggies, a grain if you want, and a sauce like pesto, sriracha mayo, or tahini dressing.
  • Meal Idea: Lentil and Beef lasagne. Whenever we make lasagne it’s with a lot of cooked lentils! About (3-5 cups for a pound of beef) stretches the meat brilliantly and adds nutrients and fiber.

4. Eggs

Eggs are to me the most versatile, cost-effective, quick and easy protein source. They can be used in a myriad of dishes to for variety.

  • Meal Idea: Vegetable Frittata. Whisk 6-8 eggs with salt, and pepper. Pour over sautéed vegetables in a hot skillet. Cook in a medium/high oven until set and optionally finish under the grill for a golden top.

5. Beans + Chickpeas

top down photo of cream, pink and black beans.

Beans and chickpeas are another affordable, protein-rich option. They can be used in everything from salads to curries.

  • Meal Idea: Simple Rice and Bean bowls. Soak Sauté onions, garlic, and ginger. Add chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and coconut milk. Season with curry powder, cumin, and coriander. Serve over rice or with naan bread.
  • Meal Idea: Black Bean Tacos. Sauté black beans with onions, garlic, and spices like cumin and paprika. Serve in flour tortillas a sprinkle of cheese, cabbage slaw or any other fillings.
  • Meal Idea: Vegetarian Chili

6. Peanut Butter and other nut and seed butters

Peanut butter is a convenient and protein-dense food that can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It’s also so convenient for making something quick or to go in a pinch that’s got some easy protein with no cooking required! In England, We love the Waitrose one for an organic option in glass at a good price, but usually we get the Meridian 1kg tub every other week. Mostly I’m looking for one that’s just peanuts, nothing added!

  • Meal Idea: Peanut/nut/seed Butter on waffles with fruit. 2 tablespoons have about 8g of protein so on two slices of sourdough toast that’s 16-18g of protein.
  • Meal Idea: Peanut Butter (or alternative) Stir-Fry. Stir-fry your choice of vegetables with tofu or chicken added if you want. Add a sauce made from peanut/nut/seed butter, soy sauce, vinegar, and an optional bit of honey like THIS sauce we use all the time. Serve over brown rice, noodles or quinoa for extra protein.
  • Meal Idea: Peanut butter yogurt bowl. Pair peanut butter with the protein option below Greek style yogurt for a quick and easy protein bowl. We love peanut butter dolloped on yogurt with a few raisins. We’ll also use this after a meal if we’re still hungry but the main is gone, it’s a quick fill up option!

7. Greek Style Yogurt

Greek yogurt is not only high in protein but also versatile and so quick to grab. Like peanut butter, I love it for bring a quick and easy no-cook protein option. We get one of THESE weekly and it’s some of the best yogurt plus it’s organic and made from local UK milk. I love that Yeo valley uses recycled plastic too.

  • Meal Ideas: We love it on waffles, or with granola and fruit on top for breakfast, or mixed with cocoa, nut butter and a drizzle of honey for a protein packed chocolate treat.
  • Meal Ideas: Greek style yogurt mixed with peanut butter is a great dip for sliced apples.
  • Meal Ideas: Throw some yogurt into a smoothie with fruit, nut butter and greens.

8. Sourdough Bread

Ok, sourdough bread isn’t going to get you to 30g without something else on the plate. But it’s a surprising and affordable protein source that’s easy and cheap to make at home. Two slices of sourdough bread can contain about 8 grams of protein or a full sourdough pizza crust can have 20g protein.

  • Meal Idea: Sourdough Sandwich. Use homemade sourdough bread to make a delicious sandwich. Fill with hummus, fresh vegetables, and sliced turkey or chicken for a protein-packed lunch.

Additional Tips for Adding Protein on a Budget

Using Vouchers and Sales for Meat

Meat can be a great protein source but it’s often not budget friendly. Especially if we’re trying to shop with values like organic and more sustainable as well. Always keep an eye out for coupons and special deals on meat. Many supermarkets offer discounts on meat close to its sell-by date, which can be a great way to get high-quality protein for less. I take my meal plan to the shop so I can look first at what’s on sale/clearance and adjust for what’s on sale. Or I’ll write in a “meat meal” and then look at prices before deciding what that is. Tip: I usually get £1 off meat with my Waitrose card, and love their meat for having really high animal welfare. They also have 20% off fish on Fridays for card holders. (This post is in no affiliate with Waitrose or any other shop! It’s just what we use for certain things!)

Waste Food Options with Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go is an app that connects consumers with surplus food from local businesses at a fraction of the cost. This can be a fantastic way to get fresh produce, bakery items, and even meats that are perfectly good to eat but would otherwise go to waste. Check the app regularly to see what’s available in your area and enjoy great food at reduced prices while helping to reduce food waste.

Final Thoughts

It’s more possible than people think to make a high protein diet work on a budget! It might take extra planning (here’s a deep dive into how we meal plan for things like this!), and being flexible with different meals and foods. If you’re on a budget you can’t have it all – but I think it’s helpful to realise that! So you might have to work with the protein that fits in your budget, or do the extra work of soaking beans for budget, or making bone broth, and meal planning really diligently. But once you get your staple higher protein meals down, it gets easier.

These budget-friendly protein sources not only help you manage your grocery budget but also offer a variety of nutritious options to keep your meals exciting and healthy. Remember, eating well doesn’t have to be expensive! By choosing versatile ingredients and getting creative in the kitchen, you can enjoy delicious meals that are kind to your wallet, the planet, and your health.

budget protein ideas

Beans Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

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