We all know protein is one of those nutrients that you don’t ignore when it comes to planning your meals. Protein keeps us strong, healthy, and even influences our brain health due to the way amino acids support neurotransmitter function. Protein is also important for keeping your metabolism running well and enhancing satiety during our meals. But when we choose our proteins, we should choose wisely. Animal-based proteins are inflammatory, they’ve been linked to multiple types of cancer and diabetes, and let’s be honest – they’re not cheap. Plant-based proteins on the other hand, can help all of us achieve more alkaline bodies and support our bones and muscles as much as animal-based sources. They’re better for our bodiesthe environment, animals everywhere, and yes, even our wallets.

Those eating a meat-free diet (or even 100 percent plant-based diet) are already more likely to save money at the store due to the lower cost of plant-based foods. it’s less costly to produce and more affordable per meal. But not all plant-based proteins are equal when it comes to costs, benefits, and which ones will work best for you. Some can cost just as much as meat in more processed forms, while others are so heavily processed, that they’re lacking in true nutrition. To help you make the most out of your money and to also benefit your budgets, here are some ideas to consider to get the most bang for your buck with plant-based proteins.

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How to Choose the Best Plant-Based Proteins if You’re on a Budget

 

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The Simple Option: Whole Foods

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First off, choose whole foods. Not only are whole food sources of plant-based protein less expensive per serving, but they’re also less costly to produce and much better for your body. The best options include: beans, quinoa, oats, teff, nuts, seeds, legumes, protein-rich greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, and if you can swing it, the superfood spirulina, which will last you several months in your fridge. Whole food proteins are packed with amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants, and some of them even have more protein than beef per serving! You can use these to make simple entrees, or combine several of them and make your own veggie burgers. 

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Consider Some Healthier Plant-Based Protein Products

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Next, consider plant-based alternative protein products.  More nutrient-dense options include tempeh and tofu, along with some soy yogurts (choose non-GMO and plain), and raw, unprocessed or non-GMO vegan protein powders. While these aren’t as affordable per serving or as pure as the options above, they are healthier compared to options like highly processed veggie burgers made with GMO soy, highly processed TVP and refined flours or protein isolates. Keep a look out on ingredients in processed plant-based foods for any form of soy that’s not certified GMO, fillers like carrageenan, sugar, soybean oil (likely GMO and very inflammatory), yeast, and milk derivatives- which yes, can actually be found in many vegetarian burgers and breads. When you purchase plant-based protein products, they should be preferably organic or at least certified non-GMO, should have no refined sugar, dairy, refined oils like soybean or corn oil, and should be made of ingredients you all recognize.  These foods can also add variety, some people tolerate them better than beans and nuts, and for some, they’re just helpful for cooking, blending, and to-go meal options.

Learn How to Portion Them Out and Spread Them Out at Meals

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Now that you’ve decided what plant-proteins work best for you, you’ll need to learn how to spread them out per week and per day so you can utilize your proteins to make them more cost effective and to help keep you full. One helpful trick for this is to choose three different protein servings per day and aim to get in three different ones the next day. This will give your body variety, ensure you’re eating three sources of healthier protein choices versus processed foods or take out, and will help you learn which ones work best for your body and budget.

For instance, one day, you might enjoy a tofu scramble for breakfast, lunch might be a hearty bowl of bean chili with a salad, and dinner might be a superfood salad topped with seeds and hummus.

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The next day you might have a protein smoothie for breakfast with a vegan protein powder and chia or hemp seeds,  a veggie-packed protein rich sandwich for lunch, and for dinner, you might saute some tempeh with veggies or go for some lentil tacos.

 

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Oh, and let’s not forget snacks. Protein rich snacks are easy to make into bites or bars with nuts, seeds, a little dried fruit, and are much healthier for you than store-bought bars.

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Implement Easy, Hassle-Free Budget-Saving Tips

Another way to get the most protein for your budget per meal, is to buy what you can from bulk bins and buy generic brands whenever possible. Nut butters like peanut and almond, lentils, black beans, grains such as oats and quinoa, and seeds like hemp and pumpkin can all be found in generic form. Many can also be found in the bulk section at your local store or online for lower costs. Organic greens are also cheaper when purchased on sale or at farmers markets, and broccoli is incredibly cheap when you buy it frozen (it also lasts longer and won’t spoil as quickly).  See more hacks to shop healthfully while on a budget here, and other budget-saving tips you can try too.

These are some of the most simple ways to get more protein for your money, all without a lot of huss and fuss. See all of our plant-based protein recipes, tips, and check out our helpful articles in our Green Monster’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition: Protein for more plant-based goodness.

Do you have a tip for getting the most bang for your buck with your plant-based protein? Share it in the comments!

Lead Image Source: Tempeh Picatta