Category Archives: Discussion

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?


Thoughts on banning packed lunches in England

I’ve just been having a chat with a work acquaintance at a training event and he told me something that made me angry and I wanted to share my views on.

Apparently, there’s a move in England to ban packed lunches/going home for lunch, and force every child to have a school lunch, in an effort to reduce childhood obesity and improve overall public health.

While I do think that these are worthy aims… I am completely appalled by this recommendation by a government-commissioned school food review.

I find it completely patronising to suggest that nobody out there is capable of feeding their own children. Apparently some ‘celebrity chef’ (not sure which one as it’s not in the article I read – so apologies if this isn’t accurate!) was quoted as saying even he couldn’t give his child a more nutritious lunch than a school meal – sorry, but what a load of bollocks (although given that most ‘celebrity chef’ recipes are way too high on salt, fat, butter etc… maybe they aren’t the best resource for people looking to eat healthily!).

Yes, there ARE children who aren’t getting the right diet, and we need to do lots more food education work to teach parents how to afford and make healthy food. I’d also support schools who ban crisps, fizzy drinks and other unhealthy foods at lunchtime. It does makes me so sad and angry that children are growing up fed on crisps and chocolate and chips and ready meals and that it’s setting them up for a lifetime of health problems.

But I don’t think the answer is to take away every parent’s right to feed their children. What’s next – all adults being force-fed in work canteens morning and night because we can’t be trusted to make the right choices and have never learned to do it ourselves anyway?

When I was in secondary school (and possibly younger) I made my own packed lunches, which were really my first solo forays into the kitchen. In fact it set me up for learning how to make packed lunches as an adult. To my mind, banning packed lunches at school sends the message that food prepared at home isn’t as good as that prepared commercially and that your own health is outside your control. People in general eat way too little home cooking as it is and I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to abdicate responsibility for their own families’ health and leave it to the schools to sort out.

In fact I’d argue that one of the roots of the obesity crisis (and other public health problems) is that society in general has lost the confidence, skills and knowledge to cook fresh, healthy food, so many people end up relying on processed alternatives, partly for convenience but often because they think they’re better than what they can make. In a world where too many people think making a lasagne from scratch is using a jar of red and a jar of white sauce, do we really want to encourage people to become even less responsible for their own nutrition?

In my mind, the key to improving public health is giving the tools and confidence to families so they can feed their children healthily, not actually banning them from even trying.

What do you think? Do you think banning packed lunches would help improve public health? Or do you agree that it’s a step too far?

I just wanted to say I’m certainly not having a go at anyone who makes use of school meals – but I think that it should be your choice, not dictated by the state. I also do agree with making sure that school meals are as healthy as possible for those who choose to use them.

BBC article about the recommendations here: