Friday, May 1, 2009

The True Cost of Protein

I usually compare the cost of a meal based on a 3 or 4 ounce serving of meat. I have a personal rule of thumb that I should keep the average cost below 45¢ per serving. See this post for how to calculate the cost per serving.

The cost of protein is a different calculation, since a serving of meat or meat equivalent can vary widely in how much protein it provides. The chart below will give you a glimpse into the true cost of protein.

Price is price per pound except for eggs (dozen), tuna (5 oz can), and milk (gallon). All prices are the lowest price I've paid since January 1, 2009.
Protein cost is for 20 grams of protein, about 1/2 to 1/3 of your daily requirement.

ItemPriceProtein cost
Peanut butter1.21.22
Navy beans.99.22
Turkey, whole.77.25
Chicken leg quarters.59.26
Boneless chicken breast1.69.33
Ground beef (26%)1.60.38
Whole chicken.89.44
Pork loin, boneless1.79.45
Turkey, ground1.99.46
Round steak (bottom round)2.49.46
Hot dog (beef & pork)1.39.53
Cheddar cheese3.33.59
Pork steaks1.99.66

Hot dogs, sausage, and catfish are surprisingly expensive sources of protein. Tuna, chicken, and pork loin are good buys if you want meat as the focal point of the meal. As you might guess, lentils, peanut butter and navy beans can bring your costs way down. But notice that turkey, eggs and chicken, when on sale, are really very cheap sources of protein.

One creative way to provide protein is to use a small amount of meat along with the beans or eggs or peanut butter. The meat helps create some variety in the lentils and bean dishes that I serve several times a week. For example, baked beans at lunch can provide nearly 1/3 of the day's protein, and you'll then find a lot more room in your budget for the chicken or pork main dish at night.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Doris Jantzen did a similar chart in "More with Less Cookbook" that came out in the mid-70s. She also showed hot dogs were not as cheap a source of protein as you might think. It's interesting to compare your chart to hers.