Eggs, Tofu, And Beans! Oh My!


Have you ever noticed how the most expensive items in your grocery shopping cart tend to be meat and processed foods?  

Years ago I noticed this, and decided I wanted to make changes to my diet.  We started buying less of those high-priced items (for both financial and health reasons), and started cooking almost every meal at home.

Back in February of 2016 I wrote a blog post about not eating beef.  I think 4 people actually read the post…so you might call it an “incredibly popular, but not well trafficked post”.  

When I set out to create this blog, it wasn’t because I wanted to write stuff that would be popular.  On the contrary, this blog has always been about doing things different.  What kind of different?  Living different, investing different, saving different, and of course eating different.

The responsibility of having such a popular blog has always weighed heavily on my mind.  What if that post influenced my 4 readers to purchase less beef this year?  This could significantly damage the U.S. cattle industry, and it troubles me to no end…cowboys could lose their livelihoods!  

The horror!  I lay awake at night thinking about those poor cattle barons.

I imagine one of these wealthy cattle barons sitting in his saddle (with his cowboy hat and boots on) saying, “Just when I had all them folks fooled into eating lotsa of red meat…along comes this damn blogger trying to save people money!  Damn that Mr. Tako!  I might sell one less cow this year!”

So I think it’s high-time I balanced out the scales of life, and wrote a follow-up to my beef post … one that will continue to emphasize cheap and healthy protein alternatives.

That wealthy cattle baron hasn’t had enough yet!

So if your looking to trim some of the fat off your food budget, I might just have a few ideas…

 

Eggs

Last time I wrote about not eating beef, I mentioned chicken as a healthier alternative.  That’s still true, but chickens also produce another protein source that happens to be even MORE versatile than chicken meat — Eggs!  

We eat a lot of eggs at our house.  Eggs are a cheap source of protein, and Mrs. Tako really loves it when I make a delicious batch of Huevos Rancheros for dinner.  

Commonly, I find eggs at the grocery store for about $1.99 a dozen.  Each of these typical grocery store eggs contains 6.1 grams of protein per egg.    That works out to be 2.7 cents per gram of protein.  Deliciously cheap!

In contrast, a $7.99/lb rib-eye steak costs 7.4 cents per gram of protein.  That’s nearly 3 times as expensive as an egg!

Blue Egg
Interesting Fact:  Did you know that chicken eggs can also come in blue? It’s true! The color of the egg has nothing to do with what the chicken is fed.  Egg color is determined by the variety of chicken.

Not only are eggs cheap, but they’re a wonderfully versatile source of protein too!  You can fry ’em, you can bake ’em, you can scramble ’em, you can soft-boil, you can hard-boil, you can even eat ’em raw.  They’ll easily slip into any meal of the day too….breakfast, lunch, or dinner!  Even dessert!

Eggs are truly one of the most versatile proteins around!


Tofu

If there was an award winner for a versatile yet under-loved protein, it has to be tofu.  While critics of the white substance may deride it as “bland” or “flavorless”, it’s one of those foods that borrow most of its flavor from what it’s cooked with.

Maybe Tofu’s unpopularity stems from the fact that it’s absurdly healthy stuff — Low in calories and relatively high in protein, some research even indicates it can lower blood cholesterol levels.  

Tofu is cheap too!  The price for a 19 ounce block of tofu in my area is $1.50.  Doing our same price calculation, that works out to 3.9 cents per gram of protein.

Tofu is used far more frequently in Asian cuisine than it is in Western fare.  Western recipes generally use tofu as a ‘meat substitute’ rather than showcasing the ingredient in dishes designed for it.  

This results in odd recipe combinations not terribly suited to the ingredient.  I think this is the main problem with tofu’s lack of appeal.

Agedashi Tofu
A Japanese dish called Agedashi Tofu is probably my favorite tofu dish. It’s not hard to make either!

But tofu can taste fantastic!  You just have to make the right dish!

Many Asian dishes (frequently from Japan) feature tofu prominently and in my opinion do a far better job of accentuating Tofu’s positive attributes than Western “substitute” recipes.

Some of my personal favorite tofu recipes include:

Never heard of these dishes?  You’re missing out!  These are some of the best tasting tofu dishes from Japan, China, and Korea!  All of them are ridiculously easy to make and extremely easy on the pocketbook!  

We make these and other tofu dishes all the time at our house!  

 

Beans

Like Tofu, beans have to be one of the least loved vegetable proteins in western culture.  Despite the fact that they’ve been cultivated for thousands of years by humans, you might only see beans used in something like chili (or Mexican recipes).

In our ancient past, beans were an important source of protein for humans, and I believe they still should be today.  Depending upon the bean, they can be very good sources of protein.

Lentils
Lentils are the king of high-protein beans!  [Chart courtesy of Wikipedia]

Like eggs and tofu, beans don’t have a whole lot of flavor.  They pair very well with strongly flavored ingredients like garlic, onions, or chili’s.

At my favorite grocery store, I pay about $0.65 for a can of pinto beans, which works out to 3 cents per gram of protein.  That’s nearly as cheap as eggs!

Beans
Beans beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you … want to eat more!

There’s tons of well known bean recipes that use beans too — from hummus to chilli, and (of course) as toppings for Mexican favorites like nachos and slow-cooker tacos.

You want to know what the best thing about beans is?

My kids love ’em!  They are constantly requesting beans to eat.  Sometimes even for breakfast!  I’m not talking about fancy preparation either — I’m talking about cracking open a can of beans and pouring it right onto a plate.  I’m not joking!  

My kids really eat beans straight from the can!  Black beans, pinto beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, great northern beans….my kids love ALL things beans.  It’s good for them too!

 

Culture & Choices

It’s a well known fact that wealthier cultures tend to eat far more meat.  Our health and pocketbooks suffer for it.  

So are we locked into this meat heavy food culture?  No, of course not!  Culture is what we make it.

Food is all about making choices.  Choices about what to put in your mouth.  Some of those choices are going to make you fat, unhealthy and poor.  Other choices will make you thin, healthier and wealthier.

Now, I’m not telling anyone what to eat.  You can make your own choices.  But I’m perfectly open to sharing the food choices I’ve made, and its effect on my net worth.

We’re financially independent for a reason, it wasn’t luck or high salaries.  It was the choices we made.

So give some of these meat alternatives a try this week — You just might enjoy it!

 

[Image Credit: Flickr]


23 thoughts on “Eggs, Tofu, And Beans! Oh My!

  • October 26, 2016 at 6:02 AM
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    We buy a 25 pound bag of dry pinto beans and cook ’em in a crock pot a couple pounds at a time – much cheaper.

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  • October 26, 2016 at 6:22 AM
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    Over the past handful of years, my wife and I have been eating less and less red meat and gravitating more to chicken. Obviously it’s much cheaper, but it’s also healthier for you (at least in my opinion). I still love a good steak every now and again, but if that happens once a year, I’d be surprised.

    I’ve still never tried tofu. I’m not opposed to it, I just don’t think I’ve really ever had the opportunity. Seems like one of those foods that some people hate and some love.

    — Jim

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    • October 26, 2016 at 1:11 PM
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      Jim, you should try Agadashi tofu the next time you go to a Japanese restaurant. That’s one of my favorite dish too. Too bad it’s fried…
      We usually get a package of tofu every time we go shopping. It’s good in Thai noodles and I can also cook mapo tofu. Tofu is bland, but you just need to learn to cook with them. Works well with Asian recipes.

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  • October 26, 2016 at 6:43 AM
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    You know I am a huge egg fan! I trade my chickens corn meal and scraps for them 🙂 Eggs and beans are the main portion of my breakfast every morning.

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  • October 26, 2016 at 8:56 AM
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    PREACH! I always think we could personally do better about our meat intake (Mr. Picky Pincher is an unrelenting carnivore and requires meat at every meal. A frugal nightmare!).

    I wish I had the discipline to be vegetarian, but alas, I love burgers. I also love fuzzy little cows, so it’s always a struggle.

    We’ve tried protein replacements like legumes and eggs, but Mr. Picky Pincher isn’t having any of this vegetarian nonsense.

    So since we can’t really get rid of meat entirely, we’ve tried the “meat on the side” approach with good success. We’ll have a protein served with rice or beans and then a veggie on the side. It’s still cheap and is incredibly filling while checking off the “carnivore” requirement. And if I don’t want the meat that day, I can swap for a soft boiled egg instead.

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    • October 26, 2016 at 10:21 AM
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      The fact you referred to eggs as “vegetarian nonsense” made me chuckle a little. The world is filled with very different people!

      My suggestion for Mr. Pincher is to start small. Find a couple dishes that don’t have any meat, and he really enjoys. Then try a “meatless” day and see if he notices. I used to eat meat at every meal too…until I realized it didn’t really matter. There’s just so much good stuff to eat!

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  • October 26, 2016 at 10:08 AM
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    Another fantastic article and it reminded me of a vlogger on YouTube, I am constantly amazed at how many meals contained meat. And not just from a cost saving perspective but also weight maintenance and over-all health(I believe I remember you covering both this points in the meat blog post).

    We love beans! We eat them at least of 21 meals a week we probably eat them 10 meals. We make black bean burgers, chili, great northern beans and rosemary soup, lentil tacos, lentil sloppy joes, minestrone soup, lentil shepherd pie, hummus, lentil loaf. Crazy how many items are significantly cheaper with beans as the base.

    We also discovered Cash and Carry(A PNW thang…haaay). They are a restaurant supplier that you don’t have to buy a membership for(I am looking at you Costco), nor do you need to be a restaurant/business owner. We buy the 50 pound bag o’ beans for $21, this works out to the equivalent of 28 cents a can. Bonus…when I cook them in the Instant pot they are cooked in 30-40 minutes, without the soaking nonsense.

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  • October 27, 2016 at 1:04 AM
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    I think I can live without eating beef for almost up to half a year.

    We get all our nutrients from eggs, tofu and beans and it is almost what we need in our daily lives to not only survive but eat a healthy diet too. I’d also like to throw in fish too because fish provides a different level of nutrients that are healthy to the body.

    Reply
  • October 27, 2016 at 9:45 PM
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    I moved here from India and one of the things that I found especially funny when I first moved here is the not uncommonly held belief in this country that you can’t get enough protein in your diet if you don’t eat meat. Tell that to the millions of people back home! (Full disclosure: I am not vegetarian, and I do like me some beef). We do eat a lot of beans though. ‘Dal’ is a staple of most Indian cuisine, and it is so easy to make.

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  • November 1, 2016 at 4:06 AM
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    I like your blog. I woke up late but have made some major progress toward (not early) retirement.

    I have noticed that many people of your generation do not use adverbs; you use adjectives for everything.

    For example: Instead of saying, “… an incredibly popular, but not well-trafficked post,” you say, “an incredible popular …” The latter does not make sense to me, but I guess it must to some people, because y’all are talking that way. :))

    Best wishes for success!

    Reply
    • November 1, 2016 at 4:16 AM
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      Hehe, nope…that was just a typo I missed! Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve now corrected it.

      Adverbs are great, but I occasionally miss a few typos. My apologies.

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  • November 1, 2016 at 9:12 PM
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    I’m from the South and can’t imagine a life without beans. They are a staple in a truly Southern diet. My cousins who grew up in the North were always surprised that we ate”just beans”. My family was middle class, maybe even upper middle, but my parents both grew up in farm families and you ate what you grew. A very common meal for us for generations has been pintos, turnip greens, fried potatoes (not French fries) and cornbread. Cheap and delicious!

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    • November 2, 2016 at 6:10 AM
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      Alicia,
      That sounds delicious!

      Reply
  • November 4, 2016 at 7:17 AM
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    Awesome post! I usually use beans and tofu for my meals. So delicious and saves a lot of money!

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  • November 16, 2016 at 5:53 PM
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    I’m 100% with you! We eat a lot of beans every week. We go through avocados, tortillas and salsa too. My favorite tofu is broiler tofu slathered in bbq sauce. Makes great sandwich steaks! We also eat a ton of Indian food that we make. Lots of lentils.

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    • November 16, 2016 at 9:45 PM
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      Your tofu steaks sound yum!

      Reply
  • December 4, 2016 at 8:42 PM
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    Lentil stew is so good and can be made in so many ways! I also really enjoy a sweet potato & black bean enchilada. Lots of flavors and nutrition, and it is cheap.

    I like Indonesian versions of tofu. Very well done.

    Reply
  • December 4, 2016 at 9:55 PM
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    Not sure if you’ve heard of the instant pot, but we just got one on black Friday (which we never do!). Make beans from dried in about ten minutes! Artichokes in 3! I also made soy yogurt and it’s amazing. Just wanted to share since it’s helping our family cook these foods more regularly in smaller batches.

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    • December 6, 2016 at 3:35 PM
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      We keep talking about getting a pressure cooker some day, but haven’t as of yet! Maybe in 2017!

      Reply

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