Generally speaking, two tablespoons of hummus has 40 calories and 28 grams of protein, with a negligible amount of saturated fat.

The idea that foods that are considered healthy for us (i.e., foods that are fresh) are generally more expensive than foods considered unhealthy (i.e., foods that are processed and preserved) is not uncommon.

Consider the case of fish. Locally, residents can buy a pound of frozen fish sticks for about $2.40. By comparison, a pound of fresh fish starts at around $8.00. That’s a significant difference that justifies a concern that eating fresh will cost a family thousands of dollars more per year than turning to packaged, frozen, and preserved foods.

However, if we look at foods without catastrophizing, and think about menus without bias toward popular notions of “healthy” or “unhealthy,” there’s a path to affordable food that works for your personal dietary needs and budget.

When you are menu planning and budgeting, you can use the online shopping portals for the large grocery chains located in St. Albans to compare prices (and ingredients/nutrition). It’s not always easy to find the time to go to different grocery stores every week to pick and choose the items we want to buy based on prices. We can, however, strategically shop over time for items that we’ll use more than once, so we’re paying overall lower prices for staples.

Beyond considerations for price, it’s also important to look at the nutritional benefits we’re getting from foods, and what extras are in some prepackaged foods that we don’t need. In order to bring all the factors together that go into budgeting and personalized meal planning, it’s possible to make comparisons that span cost, food weights, daily recommended allowances and portions. That process can be a little mind-boggling, but when the process is approached slowly, and worked on regularly, it becomes easier over time.

The best approach for making it work for you is to keep a notebook, write out your personal goals and family’s needs, and go from there.

Putting it all into practice comes with time, and here’s an example to start thinking about.

The case for hummus

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies in the U.S. established the dietary reference intake (DRI) system in the late 1990s as a modern update to the recommended dietary allowances established during WWII. Their current DRI guidelines for protein suggest men get 56 grams per day and women get 46 grams per day (think 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, with 1 pound equalling 0.45 kilograms).

There are many ways to take in the recommended amount of protein in a day, but every source of protein has a wide range of considerations in terms of how healthy it may be for you. Two of those factors might be how many calories and how much fat (and type of fat) are in a recommended serving.

In menu planning, we can look for food sources that are high in protein and low in calories and unhealthy fats (i.e., saturated or trans fats). One source that meets those two factors has become popular in the U.S. — the chickpea (a.k.a, garbanzo bean). The chickpea is the base of the very popular spread, hummus, that you can find prepared and packaged in a wide range of flavors at local grocery chains.

Generally speaking, two tablespoons of hummus has 40 calories and 28 grams of protein, with a negligible amount of saturated fat. Those stats mean you’ll get about 1/3 of your daily recommendation of protein, without a lot of calories and unwanted fat with it. On the “healthy” scale, those are pretty good terms.

But is hummus an affordable way to get healthy protein into your diet?

Grocery chains in St. Albans offer prepackaged hummus in sizes ranging from 8 ounces to 16 ounces and with a cost range of $3.29 to $5.69, which equates to between $0.35 and $0.41 per serving. Many of the prepackaged hummus varieties include a thickener known as guar gum. There is no evidence that guar gum is necessarily a bad additive, but some people have been known to be sensitive to it.

The process for making hummus at home is very easy, and a breakdown of the basic ingredients shows that you’ll spend much less than $0.35 per serving by making it at home. And, you can avoid the guar gum, whether or not you’re sensitive.

The ingredients of basic hummus are chickpeas, tahini (a.k.a., sesame seed butter), no-salt vegetable stock, lime or lemon, garlic, and salt.

Based on the prices made available in the online shopping portals of the two grocery store chains in St. Albans, the total cost for all of the ingredients of hummus is about $9.30, if you use canned chickpeas. That cost also assumes the vegetable stock is homemade from vegetable scraps. Of those ingredients, only the can of chickpeas cannot be used more than once. For example, one 16-ounce tub ($4.99) of tahini can be used for about 10 batches of hummus, and one head of garlic ($0.79) can be used for about seven batches of hummus.

Based on the total cost of $9.30 for the ingredients, one 16-ounce batch of homemade hummus costs about $1.45, which brings down the per serving cost to just $0.09.

Consider, too, that you can reduce that per-serving cost by another 3 cents by skipping the canned garbanzo beans and starting with dried garbanzos. That step will take more time, and that’s a factor individuals must weigh against personal needs. In addition, it’s possible to avoid additives, depending on the brand, that are in canned garbanzo beans. Some brands include calcium chloride as a firming agent and disodium EDTA to promote color retention.

Here’s the recipe for making hummus, with estimated costs per ingredient based on currently available products in St. Albans grocery stores.

  • 1, 16 oz can low- or no-sodium garbanzo beans (chickpeas) {$0.88 per can} or 1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans from dried (1 cup of dried beans makes about 3 cups of cooked beans) {$1.25 per bag}
  • Juice of half a lime {$0.33 per lime}
  • 2 tbsp tahini {$4.99 per 16 oz tub}
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock {made from vegetable scraps}
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt {$2.29 per 16 oz box}
  • 1 clove of garlic {$0.79 per head}

Place all ingredients in food processor/bullet blender/upright blender.

Blend until smooth.

Suggested ways to eat hummus:

  • spread it on a wrap or sandwich
  • dip vegetables/chips/crackers in it
  • blend it into mashed sweet potatoes
  • replace mayonnaise with hummus in deviled eggs
  • mix it with cottage cheese to top a salad

More recipes for chickpeas

Crispy Chickpeas


15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

3 bay leaves

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons scant olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss all ingredients on a cookie sheet, making sure chickpeas are evenly coated with olive oil.

Roast for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Remove bay leaves.

Kimberly Dahlka CC BY 3.0

Grilled Chickpeas With Bacon and Rice


1/2 pound of fresh bacon

1 can large of chickpeas – drained

1 long hot pepper – diced with seeds

5 cloves of garlic – crushed& chopped

1/2 cup of fresh parsley – chopped

Dashes of curry

1 Juice of lemon

Olive oil

1 cup of uncooked rice


Drain the chickpeas and place on a hot griddle and drizzle with olive oil. Add a few dashes of curry to the chickpeas. Add the chopped garlic and the hot pepper to the griddle and let the chickpeas grill until they become slightly golden and healthy looking. Take off the griddle and set aside.

Prepare the rice as directed and set aside.

Slice the bacon strips into three’s and cook in a large frying pan. Place the bacon on paper towels to drain the fat and set aside. Reserve two tablespoons of bacon fat to add to the dressing.


Combine the juice of 1 lemon with ¼ cup of olive oil and the bacon fat.

Plate the rice and top with the grilled chickpeas. Top the chickpeas with the fresh parsley add the bacon and drizzle with the lemon and olive oil and toss. Catherine Gourmet CC BY 3.0

Black Rice with Coconut Milk and Spicy Chickpeas


For the Vegetables

1⁄2 lb carrot (chopped)

3 cups chickpeas

2 tbsps coconut oil

2 tsps dried smoked paprika

2 tsps garlic powder

2 inches ginger (minced)

2 tsps ground corriander

2 tsps ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1⁄4 cup tahini

2 tsps turmeric powder

2 medium zucchini (chopped)

For the Rice

1 1⁄2 cups black rice

3 cups coconut milk

1 cup water


Cook the rice with the coconut milk and water until soft for about 30 — 40 minutes

Preheat the oven to 420 F (220 degrees) and cover a backing tray with baking paper.

Use a big bowl and mix the herbs with the tahini and coconut oil.

Add the chickpeas and the vegetables and mix everything well before you spread it on the baking tray.

Roast the vegetables and chickpeas for about 30 minutes in the oven.

Add salt and adjust taste before you serve the vegetables with rice.

Matt CC BY 3.0

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