Fuel your gains without breaking the bank. If you're looking to save some money without sacrificing your diet, check out these 17 cheap sources of high quality protein.

I think you'll agree with me when I say:

"I need protein for gains....but protein is expensive!"

But is it really?

Getting a good amount of lean protein in your daily diet doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need to know what to buy and how to buy it.

Today I’m going to show you 17 awesome whole food and supplemental protein sources that are high quality and cheap! I’ll list the average price of each protein source so you can see just how inexpensive it can be.

Cheap Protein Sources: Whole Foods

1. Whole Eggs

Do not fear the yolk! Whole eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fat. The average cost of a dozen eggs is $2.13 and each egg provides 6g protein, 5g quality fat, and no carbs.

$2.13 for 72g of protein

whole eggs - a good, cheap protein source

2. Pasteurized Egg Whites

If you are concerned about eating whole eggs for whatever reason or are looking for a way to reduce calories and keep you protein high, egg whites are an awesome source of protein. With close to the same amount of protein per serving as whole eggs with 5g protein, 0 fat, and 0 carbs, you don’t get a much cleaner source of protein than egg whites.

$4.98 for 100g of protein

3. Cod

Fish is an awesome source of clean, quality protein. Cod is one of the most affordable types of fish. With the national average being around $9 per pound for fillets (the price drops to around $3 per pound for the whole fish,) you get a pretty solid deal on good quality protein.  For a 3.5oz fillet of cod, you are getting 17g of protein, under 1g of fat, and 0 carbs.

Under $10 for 70g of protein

4. Ground Beef

Red meat is a great source of iron as well as protein. Plus, who doesn’t love a good burger? The average cost of ground beef is $5.35 per pound according to reports from the USDA. For a 3 oz serving of lean ground beef you get 22g of protein, 10g fat, and 0 carbs.

$5.35 for 120g of protein

5. Tuna

What list of quality, economical protein would be complete without canned tuna? For under $3, you get a 3oz can with 20g of protein, 1g of fat and 0 carbs.

$3 for 20g of protein

canned tuna - a good, cheap protein source

6. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

The default choice for anyone searching for a cheap, good quality source of protein. The national average cost of boneless, skinless chicken breast is $3.52 per pound. One 3oz serving of chicken breast contains 27g protein, 3g fat, and no carbs.

$3.52 for 108g of protein

7. Cottage Cheese

Dairy is an awesome place to get protein and there is no better source than cottage cheese. The national average cost of cottage cheese is $2.19 per pound. For a ½ cup serving of 4% cottage cheese, you get 13g protein, 4.5g fat, and 3g carbs.

$2.16 for 52g of protein

8. Greek Yogurt

A close second to cottage cheese is Greek yogurt. For a 32oz container of Greek yogurt the national average cost is $3.95. Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt has 23g of protein, 0 fat and 9g of carbs for an 8oz serving.

Under $4 for 94g of protein

9. Lean Pork Chop

Pork has been ignored as a source of quality protein, but no longer. Lean pork chops will cost around $3.87 per pound and boast 26g protein, no carbs, and only 6g fat for a 3oz serving.

$3.87 for 104g of protein

lean pork chops - a good, cheap protein source

10. Ground Turkey

Turkey is not just for Thanksgiving and is a great source of good quality protein. The average cost for ground turkey is $3.51 per pound and it provides 21g protein, 8g fat and no carbs per 3.5oz serving.

$3.51 for 84g of protein

11. Boneless, Skinless Turkey Breast

Chicken’s big brother, the turkey breast goes for $4.49 per pound and has 26g of protein and 1g of fat per 3oz serving.

Under $5 for 104g of protein

12. Sirloin Steak

There’s nothing better than a good piece of steak! You aren’t stuck with just ground beef if you're on a budget. The average market price of sirloin is $5.10 per pound which is only $1.50 per pound off of chicken breast. You get 23g of protein and 12g fat from a 3oz serving of sirloin.

Just over $5 for 92g of protein

13. Canned Pink Salmon

Another great, affordable fish protein, canned pink salmon can be purchased for around $4 a can and is a great source of omega-3s as well.  A 3oz serving of pink salmon contains 20g of protein and 4g of healthy fat.

$4 for 40g of protein

14. Soy Beans

soy beans - a good, cheap protein source

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, quality protein can be more difficult to come by. Soy qualifies as a complete protein which means that it provides the complete sequence of essential amino acids your body needs. A one pound bag of soybeans costs around $4 and a 3oz serving of soybeans provides 33g of protein, 18g fat, and 27g of carbs.

$4 for 132g of plant based protein

Cheap Protein Sources: Supplements

15. Whey Protein

What would a list of proteins be without whey protein? There really isn’t an average price for whey protein. However, you can get good quality whey protein for under a dollar per serving and you can choose to purchase it in bulk or smaller quantities. Most whey protein powders provide around 20-25g of protein per serving with fats and carbs varying from manufacturer to manufacturer. Find a brand that digests easily and tastes good that doesn’t break the bank!

Typically under $1 for 20-25g of protein

16. Soy Protein

If you are vegan or lactose intolerant and looking for a source of supplemental protein, soy may be the way to go. Once again, you get around 20g of protein with varying carbs and fats per serving depending on the brand you choose.

Typically under $1 for 20g of protein

protein powder - a good, cheap protein source

17. Casein Protein

A milk based protein like whey, casein protein is a great slower digesting protein that works well in-between meals and before bed to give you a steady supply of amino acids for hours after consumption. Most brands provide 20-25g of protein per serving and keep the cost per serving under a dollar. Remember, find a good brand that digests easily and tastes good to ensure that you don’t get stuck with a giant tub of powder that you will never finish.

Typically under $1 for 20-25g of protein

As you can see, there are a lot of cheap sources of protein that you can take advantage of without emptying your bank account. It’s easy to forget the variety that you can have in your protein sources when you get used to eating the same meals day in and day out, but there are alternatives out there if you are willing to look.

Remember that nuts, seeds, whole grain carb sources, and even some veggies have protein in them too! Often when people are planning their meals they forget that most whole foods have more than one macronutrient in them. This can make the prospect of reaching one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a little less of a chore.

This list is by no means all inclusive - what are some of your favorite budget sources of protein?

Linda A.
Posted on: Fri, 03/09/2018 - 07:36

You left out dried and canned beans, which are perhaps the cheapest sources of protein of all, although incomplete protein because they're plants. WHOLE eggs? YES! Fear the yolk! Too much fat AND cholesterol! Also, stay away from red meat in ALL forms! WAY too much saturated fat and cholesterol! My cholesterol levels are normal and I want to KEEP them that way. (And, yes, dietary cholesterol WILL raise blood cholesterol.) Fish is very good, but NOT CHEAP, not even canned tuna, unless it's on sale. Cottage cheese? Love it, but it has too much sodium. Not good for those of us with blood-pressure issues. If there's low-sodium cottage cheese, I haven't seen it, and it's probably more expensive. Unfortunately, a high-protein diet is NOT for the small of income.

Posted on: Mon, 08/15/2016 - 09:18

"I need protein for gains....but protein is expensive!"
But is it really?

Yes really. From your calculation let's say technically speaking you would get all your protein dailly just from eggs since they are the cheapest.
Let's say 4.20$ per day for protein multiply that by 31 days equals 130$.

The salary in my country is 250$ a month.
Substract from that 100$ for bills(apartment/electric bill,cable/internet, phone(minimal stuff)
You are left with 150$ for food and your protein is already 130$.

And that assuming you eat only eggs (probably you would get liver failure but still).
And yes the prices are also the same in my country.
Most people are in the same situation.

So : Is protein expensive?
Answer: Yes ! Very !

Posted on: Mon, 06/15/2015 - 06:47

You can get cooked turkey breast at Costco for $4.00 per lb. Considering that uncooked chicken breast is $3.00 a pound the cooked turkey breast is a deal.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/09/2015 - 15:26

That's a great time saver too! Got to love Costco.

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 21:07

Beware of soy beans and soy protein - soy is naturally high in the female hormone estrogen. I try to steer clear of soy when I can. Just my preference.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/09/2015 - 15:43

you are right there is some research that suggests that consuming excessive soy can impact your hormone system however, with in reasonable amounts ie the recommended daily allowance of 1-2 servings/day is okay every now and then especially when your soy containing food has been minimally processed. Most of the guys I know do tend to avoid Soy like its some kind of devil when in reality it's going to harm you if you consume it in moderation just like anything else. I personally limit my intake too more because Soy is once of the most genetically modified foods on the market not so much because of the hormone properties that become problems with excess consumption! Thanks for the input brother.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/09/2015 - 15:45

it will NOT harm you in moderation. Sorry for the typo.

Posted on: Thu, 06/11/2015 - 16:37

Chicken is incredibly inflammatory, would limit to organic once or twice a month only.

Posted on: Sat, 06/13/2015 - 10:52


Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 14:14

Reference your ignorant views, leans cuts are better for anti inflammatory, yet another idiot Internet diet guru.

Posted on: Wed, 06/10/2015 - 21:15

You are missing chicken. I pay $9 a kilo

Posted on: Sun, 06/14/2015 - 14:41

Number 6?