How much does it cost to get protein in your diet?

cooked chicken

I decided to try out a new recipe from Cheap Family Recipes today – the red pepper tart (with a couple of changes but not too many).  It was delicious but extremely low in protein and thus not overly filling – I suspect it’s low in protein as a way of cutting cost because, in general, the protein is going to be the most expensive bit of your meal.

It got me thinking about how best to fill your protein requirements on a low income.  I used Tesco online for prices and protein contents to keep everything standard (obviously the food could cost more or less depending where you shop).  For an average woman (i.e. me) the government recommendation is 45g of protein a day (men need more, people who work out a lot need more).  How much would this cost me and how much food would this be?


Eggs & dairy

  • 1 egg = 7g protein at 16p (Tesco free range medium eggs, £1.95 for 12)
  • 200ml whole milk = 6g protein at 9p (Tesco, £1/2.272 litres)
  • 50g feta-type cheese = 9g protein at 19p (Tesco Everyday Value, 75p / 200g)
  • 50g cheddar = 13g protein at 28p (Tesco Everyday Value, £5.60 / kg)


  • 50g porridge oats = 5g protein at 4p (Tesco Everyday Value, 75p/kg)
  • 2 slices wholemeal bread = 8g protein at 5p (Tesco Everyday Value, 45p – assumed 18 slices)
  • 75g basmati rice = 6g protein at 11p (Tesco Everyday Value, £1.40)

Beans & lentils

  • 1/2 can red kidney beans = 8g protein at 15p (Tesco Everyday Value, 30p per can)
  • 50g red lentils = 12g protein at 8p (Indus, £2.99 / 2kg)
  • 1/2 can baked beans = 7g protein at 12p (Tesco Everyday Value, 24p per can)
  • 100g tofu = 8g protein at 40p (Cauldron, £1.60 / 396g)


  • 40g almonds = 8g protein at 46p (Tesco, £1.15 / 100g)
  • 30g peanut butter = 7g protein at 5p (Tesco Everyday Value – 62p / 340g jar)
  • 25g pumpkin seeds = 7g protein at 22p (Tesco, 85p / 100g)

Meat & fish

  • 125g beef mince = 23g protein at 50p (Tesco, £4 / kg)
  • 125g chicken breast = 29g protein at 83p (Tesco, £6.67 / kg)
  • 125g free range chicken breast = 29g protein at £1.88 (Tesco Finest, £15/kg)
  • 125g salmon fillet = 24g protein at £1.37 (Tesco Everyday Value, £10.97/kg)
  • 1/2 can tinned tuna = 15g protein at 43p (Tesco Everyday Value, 86p/tin)
  • 2 rashers bacon = 13g protein at 50p (Tesco, £4 / 16 rashers)
  • 2 sausages = 14g protein at 50p (Tesco Butcher’s Choice, £1.99 / 8 sausages)


  • 80g frozen peas = 5g protein at 8p (Tesco Everyday Value at £1 / kg)

butternut squash and feta spaghetti 2

Sample Meal Plan Ideas

Here’s some reasonably-priced meal-plans using the info above to get you to your total protein limit (not a complete meal-plan – obviously you’d need to eat other things throughout the day, and this isn’t included in the costs.  Bear in mind that these other foods do contain some protein too.  Even veg contains small amounts):

  • 50g porridge oats made with 200ml whole milk (13p) – 11g protein
  • Salad with 50g feta cheese and 25g pumpkin seeds (41p) – 16g protein
  • Curry with 50g red lentils served with 75g basmati rice – 18g protein (19p)

TOTAL = 45g protein, 73p

  • 1/2 can baked beans with 2 slices wholemeal toast (17p) – 15g protein
  • Salad with 1/2 can tuna (43p) – 15g protein
  • 2 sausages with 80g peas (58p) – 19g protein

TOTAL = 49g protein, £1.21

  • Sandwich with 2 slices wholemeal bread and 50g cheese (33p) = 21g protein
  • 125g chicken breast (83p) – 29g protein

TOTAL = 50g protein, £1.16

chickpeas 2

So what does this tell us?  Unsurprisingly it’s easier for meat-eaters to get their protein requirements – 1 small chicken breast is over half of a woman’s protein requirements (and a large one could be almost all of it).  Non meat-eaters have to try a little harder, especially there are few sources of plant protein that are ‘complete proteins’, so they need to mix and match different sources of protein to get all of the amino acids required.  However, since meat and fish are the most expensive sources of protein, it is possible to get your requirements more cheaply on a vegetarian diet.

Either way, it doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to meet your protein needs.  I could have made that tart more filling by scattering some cheese on the top or serving a bean salad on the side, and neither would have cost too much (probably not even as much as the bag of crisps Dave had later to fill up).  Although it was pretty tasty as it was so it’d also make a nice meal on a day when you’re getting

So do you ever think about how much protein you’re eating, or do you not give it a second thought?  How do you make sure you get enough protein without breaking the bank?


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