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…
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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]