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10 Cheap and Easy High-Protein Meals, According to Reddit

Eating healthy is fine and all, but a lot of so-called “healthy” eating is either too labor-intensive, too low-calorie, or otherwise not a great value for your money or time. Fortunately, the redditors at r/EatCheapandHealthy have solutions. Today, let’s look at their suggestions for high-protein meals that are easy and cheap to prepare.

(For more cheap and healthy food, check out our previous roundups of meal ideas that are lazy, good in cold lunches, or that can be prepared without access to a full kitchen.)

Cheap and healthy meals you can make at home

chicken sandwiches

Screenshot: Reddit

You probably already know the wonders of the loss-leader rotisserie chicken. Many stores offer them at an artificially low price, so you might as well take advantage. And they’re already cooked to juicy perfection (or at least juicy ok-ness), further saving time.

Pull the meat off the bones, and stuff it into the cheapest bread you enjoy. A baguette is good for several sandwiches, and often costs around a dollar, or use the bread of your choice. Toppings are up to you.

Ground turkey and veggies

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Ground turkey is a great lean protein source, but you can do more with it than just recreate meatballs or burgers. Several redditors note that their homemade dog food recipes would be great for humans, with a few tweaks to the seasoning. One person uses ground turkey, veggies, and sweet potatoes (plus curry powder and onion for the human version). Another uses brown rice instead of the sweet potato, and suggested seasoning it with soy sauce.

beans and rice

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It’s a classic for a reason. The cheapest way is to buy dried beans and rice, and cook each component yourself. The lazier but slightly more expensive way is to use canned beans and minute rice (or even frozen or shelf-stable precooked rice.) Add hot sauce for seasoning, and use it as a base for other ingredients if you like. This is one of my go-to meals personally; I like it with shrimp and peppers and onions.

Air fryer “hard-boiled” eggs

Photo: RedditPhoto: Reddit

If you like eggs, have I got the snack for you! Hard boiled eggs are another high-protein classic, since you can boil a bunch of them and snack on them all week long. These redditors are correct that you can hard-cook eggs in an air fryer instead of boiling water, which is a bit more foolproof.

cottage cheese creations

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If you don’t think of cottage cheese as meal material, it’s probably because you’ve only encountered it as diet food. Yeah, when you have the fat-free stuff by itself or just with sad pale fruit, it’s not great. But it can be great if you get the richer, full-fat stuff, and don’t limit yourself to sweet or low-cal toppings. Try it with savory seasonings, serve it on toast or as a dip, or try any of these cottage-cheese-based breakfast bowls.

bean salads

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There are many variations on this theme. One redditor suggests a corn and black bean salad, which comes together quickly and cheaply, and can be kept in the fridge and doled out as needed. Our own food and beverage editor Claire Lower suggests marinating a can of beans for a no-cook meal with plenty of flavour. Another redditor gives more options: “There’s a ton you can try for variety but they usually have a vinegar/sugar/oil dressing plus onions, beans, and some veggies. There’s a NYT one with broccoli and pepperocini, there’s 3 bean salad, etc. There’s also tuna salad, chicken salad, etc. They can sit for like 5 days in the fridge and still taste good. Open fridge, shove food in mouth, done.”

trail mix

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Fruits and nuts may not make the highest protein meal, but they are a high energy option (thanks to the good fats in the nuts and the sugar in the fruit) that is a lot higher in protein than most other sweet/savory snacks. You can get fancy with apricots and cherries, or keep it basic with peanuts and raisins.

“Monster Mash”

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Rice and ground beef go well together, especially when you throw in a vegetable or two and a season with something interesting. There’s a recipe for the original “monster mash” here, but feel free to riff on it. Throw beef into your rice and beans, or — my favorite — serve a beef chilli over rice.

Shakes with protein powder

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Protein shakes can get complicated, but it’s possible to keep them cheap and healthy by sticking with a simple recipe. Whey powder is one of the cheapest protein sources out there. I like to fill out a shake with fresh bananas and whatever frozen fruit was on sale. Milk or yogurt will add protein and creaminess, or you can go for plant-based alternatives of all the above.

It makes for a decent breakfast if you’re on the go.

sushi bowls

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Continuing on the theme of rice-based dishes (always a winner when you want something cheap and healthy), try a sushi bowl. You don’t have to cook your rice to the perfect stickiness or expertly form it into rolls; just add your favorite sushi ingredients and seasonings to a bowl of rice.

This article on cheap and easy meals has been updated since its original publish date.

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