5 Cheaper Proteins for a Summer BBQ

By Lauren Wicks, EatingWell.com | May 17th, 2024

Fire up the grill and let your budget chill


One of the 5 Cheap Proteins for Your Summer BBQ

If you’re trying to cut corners, it may feel stressful to think about summer gatherings and family traditions that put a squeeze on the budget. We’ve rounded up five delicious, nutritious, and satisfying cheaper proteins that will be excellent barbecue stand-ins for the typical steak, chicken breast, and pork tenderloin.

Try these 5 cheaper proteins

1. Chicken thighs

Chicken breast has reigned supreme as the cut of choice, and we love that more and more folks are choosing delicious, nutritious chicken thighs as a cost-effective protein of choice. Similar to chicken breast, thighs are full of protein (each thigh boasts around 18 grams!), and if you leave the skin on, you’ll also get a collagen boost. Plus, chicken thighs are great sources of zinc and selenium, which can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape, and you’ll save a few bucks along the way. Chicken thighs typically cost less than chicken breasts per pound.

2. Tofu

Tofu is cost-effective and a great source of inexpensive plant-based protein, iron, and calcium and definitely has a place in a healthy diet.

When it comes to grilling, we like to start with extra-firm tofu. Expel as much water as possible with a tofu press (or a makeshift press with cloth towels and a few heavy-duty cookbooks). You can let it press for 30 minutes or up to several hours. Afterward, you can boost the flavor by letting the tofu marinate in your sauce of choice. Let the tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes to properly absorb all the flavors, but you’re better off with a few hours if you have the time.


Five Elemental Grilled Vegetable Recipes


3. Pork

Pork has fallen out of fashion in recent decades, but it’s delicious and versatile – and it can still be a budget-friendly choice among the cheaper proteins, depending on the cuts you purchase. One of our favorite summer barbecue dishes is a pulled pork sandwich, and pork butts and shoulders are typically even lower in price than chops. However, they do require a bit more time to achieve that perfect juicy texture, so keep that in mind as you plan for your gathering.


Firecracker Hot Dogs on the Grill


4. Ground beef

While beef has been heavily impacted by inflation as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ground beef can still be found at a budget-friendly price point in many places for whipping up burgers, kebabs, and more. According to North Dakota State University, you’ll get the most nutrients by opting for leaner ground beef options, but the cheaper cuts with 70% to 80% fat will still offer plenty of protein, iron, and zinc per serving.

5. Beans

While we’re not exactly going to throw a can of beans on the grill, stocking up on a variety of legumes, from chickpeas to black beans, will help stretch your dollar and nourish all kinds of eaters at your next barbecue. These cheaper proteins are one of the cheapest protein sources out there, as you can find cans for less than 75 cents. Beyond offering an impressive 14 grams of protein per cup, you’ll also get more than half of your daily fiber needs, plus a host of vitamins and minerals. When it comes to grilling, you substitute nourishing, cost-effective bean burgers instead of expensive, artificial, faux-meat burgers.


And for dessert: Grilled Banana Sundaes


EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.

©2024 Dotdash Meredith. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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