America is a meat-and-potatoes nation. However, with the continuously rising costs of our dinner staples, including chicken, pork, and beef, many are going flexitarian (part-time vegetarian) or completely vegetarian. Vegetarian protein options not only save you money, but they offer a variety of health benefits and recipe possibilities. Here are five must-try vegetarian proteins:

  1. Beans: Beans cost anywhere from fifty cents to $3 a can and contain 3.5 servings. There are many choices from dark red kidney beans to chickpeas (most famous for their contribution to hummus). Beans are high in protein and fiber, and compliment a Mexican meal (black bean tacos, for example), soups and chilies, and cold salads. Generic brands tend to contain high fructose corn syrup, so carefully read the can's label. Rinsing beans before use reduces sodium and the gassiness factor.
  2. Edamame: Edamame (soybeans) can be purchased un-shelled and frozen at many grocery stores for approximately $3 for a 14 ounce package. With five servings per package, each serving costs only sixty cents.  It is low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and contains a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Iron.  Edamame is a fabulous addition to salad, soup, and stir fry. Much like its sister-food tofu, edamame has a mild flavor, making it easily adaptable to your favorite recipes.
  3. Tofu: Tofu is generally sold in 12 ounce packages costing approximately $2 a container. Each 12 ounce container equals four servings, making tofu just fifty cents a serving. Tofu is low in fat, high in protein, and contains about 10% of your daily calcium. It takes on the flavor of the dish you are making, and can be used in everything from entrees (such as pasta), breads, smoothies, and desserts. Because this food is virtually tasteless on its own, it can be added to almost any food without complaints from picky eaters.
  4. Eggs: Though the price of eggs, much like meat, continues to climb, eggs are still an excellent budget-friendly, vegetarian protein option. Sold for $3-$4 (on average) per dozen, they generally cost under thirty-three cents a serving (one egg=one serving). Eggs are high in protein and can be used to make omelets and quiches. They make an excellent meat substitute in dishes like stir fry. Breakfast-for-dinner is a favorite in my home.
  5. Nuts: Nuts are a source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. A 3-pound bag of walnuts cost me $15 at Costco. The bag contains 48 servings, making each serving just thirty-one cents! Other nuts, such as almonds and pecans, cost approximately the same amount. Nuts make a fabulous snack (homemade trail mix), can be used in desserts and breads, thrown into salads, or used to top pasta salads.

Though many hesitate to go flexitarian or vegetarian, once you see the reduction in your grocery bill, you will no doubt be singing its praises very soon!

This has been a guest post by Rachel from St. Louis, MO
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Go Meatless and Save: Top 5 Must-Try Vegetarian Proteins