Archives for March 2013

The frugal shopper’s guide to protein

Protein is one of the most important nutrients in our diet.  It is the one responsible for growth and bodily repair.  It is also one of the most expensive nutrients, which is why the protein part of your meal (the meat) costs the most.

But wait!  Not all protein is as expensive as your filet mignon.

So I set out to put together a short study of the various sources of protein readily available and their cost, as much for my own use as for blogging here.  The goal is to find out how I can get a complete serving of protein for under a dollar.

I used the assumption that a complete serving is 20 grams, although you might want more right after a workout…and also you should have some between meals, because 60 grams of protein per day is pretty low.

Before reporting the results of my study, I must offer two big caveats:

  • First, I am strictly reporting on the cost of various sources of protein.  I am not judging the value of the sources, some of which might have a lot more fat or sodium than others, or a lot more other important nutrients than others.
  • Second, prices vary.  They vary from store to store.  They vary over time.  They vary from brand to brand or even from package size to package size.  I attempted to report pricing based on the most common package size available at regular grocery stores.  Specialty stores might sell for more, discount stores for less – and, of course, you can always get your protein for less by watching for sales, couponing and all the other sorts of things that a frugal-minded shopper will do.

One last thing before reporting the results, because I really need to get this off my chest…

funny gifs
Yes, trying to convert back and forth between grams and kilograms and ounces and pounds and cups and… Aaauurgghhh!

Well, now that that’s over with, here are the results:

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So you can see that there are several fairly frugal alternatives to steak. For instance, making a milk shake or a smoothie with protein powder allows you to control both the taste and the levels of other nutrients. I often add some protein powder to “milk shakes” (mostly fruit, some milk and just a little ice cream) as a snack for my kids.

Peanut butter is also quite inexpensive, although pretty high in fat. Peanut butter on a whole grain bread gives a nice between-meals level of protein.

Do you enjoy mixed nuts? Very healthy, great for protein, but not great for fat if you eat too much of them. Make sure you have plenty of peanuts and dry soy beams in the mix – a great frugal way to add protein, and the soy beans will dilute the overall fat content.

READ ALSO: Get a $1000 Raise With Your Personal Fast Food Outlet

Turkey and canned tuna are still the cheapest meat sources of protein. Both make great sandwiches or great salad toppings.

Chick peas and lentils are both also quite cheap and very healthy. Both go well in pretty much any salad or soup, and most meat dishes. The only problem with them is that to get enough protein form them alone, you would have to eat an awful lot. However, they are not complete sources of protein, so they would need rice or bread or some other grain with them, anyway.

Rounding out the under-a-dollar sources of protein are eggs, milk and chicken. Most people drink milk anyway for the vitamin D and the calcium, but it can also be a great source of between-meals protein. Chicken is very similar to turkey, but usually pricier (although often on sale – hint, hint). And eggs are packed with other nutrients, too, and if you don’t mind it turning out more like scrambled eggs, you can usually squeeze more veggies into an omelet than eggs.

As for the rest of the protein sources, some of them are also very healthy in many ways, but they will cost more. So if you are committed to frugal, there is only one thing you can do about these – watch for coupons and specials.

 

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Quirky ways to save money on your car

I am sure you have heard all the “usual” ways to save money on your car.  Lets’ breeze through them quickly to refresh your memory…

  • Shop around before buying.
  • Buy a smaller car.
  • Check insurance costs before deciding what to buy.
  • Shop around for insurance.
  • Pay cash rather than a car loan.
  • Drive slowly to conserve gas.
  • Keep your car well-maintained.
  • Keep the trunk empty to save gas.
  • Keep tires inflated.
  • Don’t idle.
  • Car pool.
  • Combine errands.

Did I miss any?  Probably a few.  All great advice, of course.  But these “usual” ways to save money on your vehicle are fairly > yawn < boring.  How about some fresh, quirky, exciting ways to save big bucks on your vehicle or with your vehicle?

Let’s start with something tame.  Turn the air conditioning on at high speeds.  Why?  Because the wind drag gets more as your speed gets higher.  And wind drag can really eat up fuel.  So on the highway, keep the windows closed and the air conditioning on.

But in the city, roll down the windows and turn off the air conditioning.  Why?  Air conditioning does use up energy, and lowered windows do not use up energy at low speeds.

So you can save money at high speeds one way, and save money at low speeds another way.

OK, ready for something just a little more quirky?

Don’t buy a red car.  Yes, police officers are racist when it comes to cars – even if they don’t think they are.  Research has shown that police are more likely to give a speeding ticket to the driver of a red car than to drivers of other cars going the same speed.  No – wait!  It turns out police like red cars; they hate grey cars.  It’s all psychological of course – all except the ticket you have to pay.

Walk.  Or bike.  Or skateboard.  OK, that’s not too quirky, but keep in mind that if you walk most places or take the bus and you own a car, you should drive it at least once a week.  That keeps all the moving parts under the hood well-lubricated.  Sometimes when you don’t drive a car for a few weeks, things stick.  Sometimes very badly.  Sometimes costing a lot.

But wait!   A car is a costly beast to maintain.  If you typically don’t drive it more than once every two weeks, maybe you could save money by joining a car-sharing program or even just renting a vehicle when you want to travel outside of your usual haunts.

Here is one that is a little off the wall and surely not one that we can recommend.  Call in sick more often.  Every time you stay home instead of driving to work, you save on gas, wear-and-tear and mileage on your vehicle.  If you call in sick an extra five times a year, you could save a few hundred dollars. A job is supposed to earn you money, but in fact you lose money by going in to work when you could stay home with the Activated Recessive Influenza (or whatever disease you invent).

OK, last one.  Live in your car.  This is, of course, pretty extreme.  But what about just temporarily, using your car as a hotel?  Friends of mine actually did this.  They travelled to Costa Rica and instead of having to search for a place to stay each night, they rented an SUV that could accommodate them at night.  They paid less for the car rental than they would have paid for a combined smaller car rental and accommodations, plus they spent more time enjoying the countryside and less time arranging accommodations.

All it takes to save money on your car is some discipline and the willpower to be quirky.  Do you have what it takes?

 

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