Put on muscle with these cheap and affordable foods
Sure, eating organic salmon and buying fancy supplements can quickly chip away at your savings, but many other low-cost protein-packed foods will fit into your training diet—and your training budget. According to prices below, which we’ve collected from grocery delivery service FreshDirect, some of the most nutritious, protein-rich, and low-calorie foods don’t cost that much at all.
Here are some of the best foods to help you get ripped on the cheap.
cglade / Getty
Coming in as the cheapest item on the list, beans have many health benefits, other than protein. One half-cup of black beans contains 7.5g of protein, but it also contains more iron than a 3-oz flank steak. Certain beans, like red kidney beans, have just as much antioxidants as dark berries and pomegranate juice.
Price: $0.89 for 15-oz can
DebbiSmirnoff / Getty
2. Canned Tuna
A 5-oz can of tuna contains about 26g of protein for just 120 calories. Canned tuna is definitely an acquired taste, but no one says you need to eat it straight from the can. Instead, drain the tuna from the liquid and mix with a dollop of Greek yogurt, chopped celery, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a dash of salt and pepper. Toss the mixture with some lettuce for a healthier, high-protein tuna salad.
Price: $1.29 for 5-oz can
vi3tangel / Getty
3. Frozen Edamame
Edamame isn’t just for sushi night. This shelled soybean actually packs quite the protein punch, with just 180 calories and 18g of protein in one cup. Plus, it’s an excellent source of iron and calcium, and contains a third of your daily value of fiber.
Price: $2.19 for 12-oz bag
Ben Monk / Getty
4. Greek Yogurt
Once you look at the nutrition information on a container of Greek yogurt, it’s very difficult to go back to eating regular yogurt. One 5.3-oz container of plain, low-fat Greek yogurt has just 150 calories and 20g of protein. It’s a much cheaper protein source for your smoothie than expensive protein powder, and the calories will keep you satiated for longer. If you can’t get past the sour taste, try adding it to savory dishes, like tacos or baked potatoes—it tastes just like sour cream.
Price: $1.29 for 5.3 oz
Spencer Jones / Getty
5. Chuck Roast
You may have thought that this list would be devoid of meat, but chuck roast is actually quite affordable. Because it comes from the shoulder of the cow, an area that is primarily muscle, chuck roast is a tougher cut of meat, but it’s perfectly tender and moist when braised in a stew or pot roast. It’s also a lean cut of beef, with just 182 calories, 6g of fat, and 29g of protein in a 3-oz serving.
Kate Brittle / Getty
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost for a serving of lentils is 10 cents. (Seriously, you can’t even buy a piece of gum for 10 cents anymore). In comparison, the average serving of chicken is $0.63. You may be thinking that chicken is a better source of protein, but a cup of cooked lentils has 18g of protein, 15g of fiber, and more than a third of your daily value of iron. And that’s all for about 230 calories.
Price: $1.89 for 16-oz bag (dried lentils)
LauriPatterson / Getty
7. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is one of those foods that you either love or hate, but no one can deny that it’s packed with protein. One half-cup of 1% fat cottage cheese has 14g of protein and just 80 calories, and it’s also rich in bone-building calcium. While men don’t need to worry about their aging bones quite as much as women, your bones still do deteriorate over time.
Price: $3.29 for 16-oz container
Once deemed a food to avoid because of its cholesterol content, science has started to finally redeem the egg’s reputation. The new USDA Dietary Guidelines threw away the old cholesterol recommendation, stating that eating dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise blood cholesterol levels. In other words, eggs are back on the menu for healthy people. One large egg has 13 essential vitamins and minerals, and 6g of protein for just 70 calories. They also contain the amino acid leucine, which helps stimulate muscle growth.
Price: $3.59 for a dozen large eggs
Return to Gallery
Connect with us
Subscribe to the FLEX newsletter
Need help achieving your bodybuilding goals? The FLEX newsletter will provide you with special offers and alert you to the latest issue hitting the newsstand!