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Grocery budget and protein

March 3, 2008

I spent just $25 on groceries at Trader Joe’s yesterday, and it should feed me all week!  My budget is $30, so if I decide later this week I need something else (chocolate?), I can pick it up!  I turned down these incredibly tempting “Raspberry and Brie in Fillo” appetizer type things ($5), but I’m going to have to try them someday. Soon. They seem like a decadent treat for a nice evening in, perhaps to be enjoyed on the balcony on a warm March evening.

I also spent less than the allotted $25 on dinners out with the boy. I bought us some tasty Mexican from a dingy restaurant by my apartment for about $12, then I bought myself some deliciously unhealthy fast food on Sunday for another $5. Since there are 5 weekends this month instead of just 4, it is probably good to spend a little under budget in this category.  It helped that a friend bought us some (unimpressive) Thai on Thursday and that my dad came through town on Tuesday and introduced me to the aforementioned Mexican joint.

The bad news is that I didn’t buy much in the way of protein at the grocery store. I had some chicken left from a previous shopping trip, but I really can’t get excited about chicken. I’m not vegetarian, but I don’t eat much meat–I just don’t crave it. Beans and tuna aren’t that tasty (to me) either, and fish is pretty expensive comparatively. (Plus I don’t know any good ways to prepare it.)  Actually, I sort of enjoy tuna, but can’t find a good way to eat it, other than tuna sandwich. I’m just so over sandwiches for now. Maybe on a salad, but with what else? Just tuna and greens? Peanut butter sandwiches? I could add those into my diet as sort of a “side dish” to my lunches. Nuts themselves have protein, but they were surprisingly sort of expensive. Does milk have protein? I occasionally make smoothies and could add some sort of protein supplement to them, but that stuff is a little spendy.

Do any of you have any ideas for delicious and inexpensive ways to get more protein into my life?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2008 11:45 am

    I’m a big fan of eggs. I like them in morning or hard boiled as a snack.

  2. sjean permalink*
    March 3, 2008 11:53 am

    Eggs! How obvious. I even like eggs! Not so much hard boiled, but still.

  3. Anne permalink
    March 3, 2008 12:57 pm

    Why do you feel you need more protein? Most people get more than enough protein without even trying… you’d be surprised how low the daily requirements are and how many foods contain protein (it’s in everything, actually, even vegetables).

  4. March 3, 2008 1:00 pm

    A favorite work lunch: i buy greens, tuna in 3 oz pop-top cans and laughing cow cheese (you know those circles that have individually wrapped wedges). If i have grape tomatoes or something I throw that in. One wedge, tuna, greens and we have trail mix at work (nuts and raisins) plus a splash of your favorite dressing= yumminess on a plate, not to mention a nutritional powerhouse. Calcium, protein in tuna and nuts plus veggies.

  5. sjean permalink*
    March 3, 2008 1:01 pm

    I guess I don’t think the things I eat contain much protein. But I can’t be sure without actually tracking, and tracking my money is a big enough pain so I’m not quite ready to write down everything i eat too!

    I think meat=protein, or nuts=protein, or eggs or fish. Other things I don’t think contain much, but perhaps I’m wrong.

  6. Lorri permalink
    March 3, 2008 1:10 pm

    I eat alot of pimento and cheese sandwiches for lunch, eggs, peanut butter, cheese etc. Favorite evening meal for me is sliced cheddar cheese with crackers, fresh sliced pear and a small glass of wine. Of course beans tuna, fish, chicken are great sources and you do not have to eat alot of it to obtain needed protien amounts. I ususally eat half a chicken breast on top of some salad greens,vegetables and lite dressing. Eat some peanut butter for a quick snack on graham crackers.

  7. March 3, 2008 2:03 pm

    There is certainly a lot of protein in everything. A plain white bagel has almost as much protein as a chicken breast! Breads and veggies have protein, but certainly dairy foods do too (milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs). You mentioned nuts and peanut butter which are other good, healthy sources. Of course the obvious meat, fish, bean sources too.

    Of course there are always soy and tofu products. I’m not vegetarian either, but I LOVE veggie burgers, tofu dogs (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), tofu chick’n strips, and and even plain jane tofu in stirfry and paninis.

    Really though even vegetarians in the US exceed the recommended amount of protein set by government dietary guidelines (not that those are worth the paper they’re written on). I wouldn’t worry about it.

  8. March 3, 2008 2:39 pm

    Yes, milk has protein, and actually, protein powder is pretty cost-effective: it’s a big outlay at the start, but a big jar lasts for a couple of months if you make a smoothie every day (smoothies are great, by the way: throw in a frozen banana, some frozen berries, and some milk with a scoop of protein powder and you’re good to go).

    I disagree with many commenters that you don’t have to worry about your protein intake. Take Meg’s example: a plain white bagel has less than a quarter of the protein of a chicken breast, and has more calories, and provides less long-lasting energy because of the spike-and-crash effect it has on your blood sugar.

    Eggs are a great protein option–I make batches of egg salad with Greek yogurt (instead of mayonnaise), diced apples, walnuts, scallions, and cayenne pepper–yum. Similar add-ins work great to jazz up tuna salad. I find that the key to enjoying chicken, though, is twofold: 1) thighs, not breasts. They’re yummier and cheaper, and have only marginally more fat. 2) Good marinade. I use nonfat Greek yogurt, mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and oregano–some chicken thighs sitting around in that mixture for a couple of hours and then grilled are definitely something to look forward to.

    You can also add chicken and tuna to pasta salads, which has a nice “one-dish-meal” effect. I also snack on 2% string cheeses and carrots & hummus (chickpeas, like all legumes, are a good protein source).

  9. sjean permalink*
    March 3, 2008 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the tips everyone! I’ll definitely incorporate some of this into next week’s grocery trip.

    Also, English Major, you are my food hero.

  10. March 3, 2008 3:37 pm

    Eggs are the most complete source of protein there is, and milk is the second most complete. With non-animal protein sources like beans or vegetables, you can’t get all of the amino acids you need from just one source so you need to be sure to eat a variety of foods that contain complementary amino acids, like, say beans and brown rice rice or peanut butter and whole wheat bread, but you don’t have to eat those foods at the same meal.

    You see if your library has a copy of Diet for a Small Planet for good information on getting adequate nutrition without eating meat. (I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat much meat.)

  11. March 3, 2008 5:36 pm

    I fourth the recommendation of eggs!

    For me, nuts can be a good value. I buy unsalted almonds and keep them in my purse as an emergency snack or to supplement my lunches. I only eat a handful at a time, and they’re very satisfying. A $7.00 container of bulk almonds lasts me a few months.

    Another tuna idea: I make a “tuna melt” by mixing together tuna, mayo, spices or pickle, and cheese and then microwaving. No bread involved. I have that for lunch at work a lot. I like curry powder in mine.

  12. March 3, 2008 8:12 pm

    Lentils can make a nice change … great protein source, and filling.

  13. March 4, 2008 9:15 am

    Mmm.. eggs. I’m craving one now.

  14. March 4, 2008 9:57 am

    You need protein to stay awake and function properly. You cannot function at work properly without enough protein. Turkey or chicken sausages and their turkey bacon is good from Trader Joe’s are great.

    Why not use spices such as paprika and curry in the tuna salad? I get tired of mayo and tuna so I use curry powder or chili powder for an extra kick with parsley. One of my favorite tuna salad recipes comes from Elise at Simply Recipes – http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/000224tuna_salad_sandwich.php

    It incorporates cottage cheese for extra protein or you could add beans.

    Eating a lot of vegetables with large fiber content also helps keep you full like brocolli and sunflower seeds or brocolli with pumpkin seeds and a mustard vinegar dressing.

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