Save on Proteins

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on September 11, 2008

Typically, the most expensive part of my $5 Dinners is the protein. As grocery prices in general continue to rise, the budget gets tighter and tighter. I have been looking at ways to cut grocery costs, but still provide healthy proteins for my family. I try to vary my proteins throughout each week. I normally serve a meal with chicken, then fish, another with pork, the next night with beef, a “breakfast for dinner” with eggs and finally, combination of incomplete proteins. This ensures variety and helps me keep costs in check!

Here are my suggestions for how to do that!

1. “Manager’s Special” - Look for those stickers with reduced prices…use right away or freeze!

2. Store Coupons – If your grocery store sends out mailers with coupons, SIGN UP! You can use these with sale and manager’s special items to get more bang for your buck!

3. Don’t just use “boneless, skinless“!!! I did for many years! I am finding that other cuts are both cheaper, but also tastier! Of course, “boneless, skinless” is easier to use for meal preparation, but it puts holes in your pockets!

4. Use alternative sources of protein! Animal proteins are considered “complete” proteins, i.e. chicken, beef, pork, eggs, and cheeses. “Incomplete” proteins are found in plants and grains. Milk is also considered an incomplete protein. When combined in certain ways, 2 incomplete proteins become “complete”.

Combinations: rice and beans, milk and wheat cereal, corn and beans, milk and peanuts, milk and beans, potatoes and cheese

For more on protein, here is an excellent explanation of complete and incomplete proteins.

Information about complete and incomplete proteins summarized from the book Super Baby Food, by Ruth Yaron.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

LB September 11, 2008 at 9:16 pm

hi! Thanks for the comment, and feel free to add the recipe to your list. I haven’t cooked it yet because our quesadillas lasted a few nights, so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I am eager to try it, though.


Micah and Katie September 12, 2008 at 6:52 am

The protein is always the most expensive part of the meal. I do like to have one meal a week that consist of beans or lentils. This is a cheap way to give the family the protein they need. Also Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is good to use in dishes. It absorbs the water and has the look and texture of beef and its cheap.


Sherry September 12, 2008 at 8:09 am

We enjoy doing meatless meals although kids and dh don’t like beans. It is usually something with eggs/cheese. Have a great Frugal Friday!


vonT September 12, 2008 at 8:45 am

If you’re looking for a frugal way to make seitan or “wheat meat”, you can buy a 6.5 oz box of vital wheat gluten at the grocery store. My local grocery carries it for $1.99. I can buy it online from Amazon for about $1.07 a box in bulk (16-6.5 oz boxes for $17 with a subscription, which can be canceled anytime). It’s enough to make a 1.5 lb “roast” that should feed your family for a few meals, and it’s really not that hard to make.


Martha A. September 12, 2008 at 11:44 am

Sometimes boneless skinnless is not the most expensive either. My sister did a weight for weight comparison, where if you get boneless skinless chicken for about $1.50 a pound it is the same as .69 cent whole chicken when you subtract the bones. Now a good price for whole chicken for me now is .79 a pound so when I got boneless skinless breast for $1.59, I figure that is pretty good!
Good post!
Also, if the meal is more expensive one like lasagna, I do not do meat in it, just the cheeses is plenty of protein.
I discovered this last week when I made it, that it does not cost much more to make a big pan than a small pan and it gave us two meals, instead of one.


$5 Dinner Mom September 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

Thanks for all your input! Martha..thanks for the cost breakdown on the chicken. I hadn’t thought to break it down by the pound. I know whole chickens are cheaper and usually use 1 for 2-3 meals depending on the menu! We do the same thing with the big pan…it may cost over $5, but it gives us 2 meals!
Thanks Micah and Katie for the TVP idea. I should have included it, but my boys aren’t allowed to have it due to their allergies, so I didn’t include it! Thanks for adding it in here!
And “breakfast for dinner” with eggs and cheese is def a favorite around here!
Cutting back little by little in all the different areas makes a difference!


Your Savings Assistant! October 2, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Hi. I love your blog. My dear sister-in-law suggested your site.

I also blogged about Manager’s Special Meat. Kroger discount meat is almost all I buy! I also have found some great deals.


Ronzoni Healthy Harvest October 15, 2009 at 9:54 am

Thanks for the tips! I just wanted to let you know that Ronzoni Healthy Harvest is having a contest for fans to win a Year of Free Groceries!! How great would that be? It’s super easy to apply to win! Check out the Sweepstake page on their webpage here:
There are also a bunch of coupons on the site.

Good luck!


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