Plant Based Protein On A Budget

 Victoria Hornagold

There is no denying that veganism has been one of, if not the biggest, food ‘trend’ of the last decade. With red meat consumption in the UK dropping nearly 30%, and 14% of Brits identifying as flexitarian or consciously reducing their meat intake. Despite this, ‘where do you get your protein from?’ remains a question nearly every meat-free eater will come across at some point.

I’ve put together this list of plant based protein sources, as well as some recipe ideas, that are affordable as well as nutritious. I have also included a list of prices and how many grams of protein per 100g of that product for an easy, quick to read guide.

Tinned Chickpeas, £0.23/6.7g protein

These should be a staple in every kitchen cupboard. The tinned ones are great as they are already cooked so can just be drained, tossed with some olive oil, basil, lemon juice and fresh tomatoes for a simple salad. For another quick lunch, you can lightly crush them with lemon juice, mustard, diced red onion or sweetcorn, a spoonful of vegan yogurt (another good plant based protein source) or mayonnaise, and use like tuna in a sandwich. For a warming meal they are perfect in a curry as they hold their shape and add great substance to a dish.

Red Split Lentils, £0.18/7.3g protein

Lentils are one of the most common ingredients in Indian cooking and definitely deserve more attention by students. My favourite way to use them is in a daal, cooked with onion, garlic, tomatoes, lots of spices and cooked until thick and flavoursome. There are also tinned green lentils (at £0.235/6.2g protein), which are already cooked so can be eaten immediately once rinsed, similar to tinned chickpeas.

Bread, £0.12/9.4g

This may come as a shock, but gluten/wheat is actually a type of protein, so bread is full of the stuff! It is one of the cheapest sources of protein you’ll find, super quick and easy to prepare. Two slices of Kingsmill 50/50 with a tin of baked beans and you’ve got yourself nearly 30g of protein in one meal!

Tofu, £0.506/12.6g protein

Tofu is a love it or hate it kind of thing. Once you get used to and embrace the kind of rubbery texture, it really is one of the highest protein sources you can find. It works best in Asian style cooking; try searching for sweet and sour tofu, or noodle tofu stir fry with sesame oil, soy sauce and lots of veggies.

Fake Meat

‘Fake meats’ are expectedly more expensive than legumes and beans as they have to go through a process, rather than being a whole food. Despite this, supermarket own brands are coming out with more and more of their own versions which are cheaper than the bigger microprotein brands.

Tesco plant chef sausages (£0.58/16.9g) are the best bang for your buck in terms of protein, just grill for 15 minutes and serve with some mash potato and gravy. To make it more budget friendly, use half meat alternative, like a meat free mince (£0.386/15.1g), and half a legume like lentils in a Bolognese or chilli. On another side note, the frozen versions are generally cheaper than the fresh, i.e. Vivera Veggie Mince, £1.137/20g, and the Tesco meat free mince is still cheaper than the beef mince at £0.518/100g.


Now obviously greens are a vegetable and shouldn’t be your main source of protein, but its worth mentioning many of these do have more than just vitamins. Add a portion of frozen Spinach (£0.167/3.1g protein) into your curry, some broccoli (£0.143/4.3g) on the side of lunch, or a portion of peas (£0.25/4.9g) with your dinner, and you’ve snuck in over 12g of extra protein.

 Victoria Hornagold

All prices and nutritional information are based off of the Tesco website, 28/09/2020.

All Images courtesy of Victoria Hornagold

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