You've probably noticed that I cook a lot with dried beans. In addition to them being very healthy for you, there's an economical reason.
Meat is expensive. Mammals have always cost a lot per pound, but poultry has crept up lately. Good-for-you fish can cost even more. Per pound, cheese can be even more expensive than beef.
Plant-based proteins aren't entirely off the hook. Pine nuts are $18 a pound out of the bins at Sprouts. You'll pay over $25 if you get them in packages. Walnuts and almonds run about $8, rivaling most meats and fish.
Two sources of protein cost pennies a serving, and they are some of the most complete proteins you can get: legumes and eggs. And isn't "protein" what we mean when we say "meat"?
Legumes (beans) are high in protein. They also provide a chewiness like pasta or bread, while being loaded with fiber. The only food group you wouldn't consider them is dairy. Well, unless you're having soy as tofu, which is very cheese-like. And I also prefer that everyone soak their own beans instead of buying canned. It's cheaper, stores easily, and there are no chemicals or salt added if you soak your own. All it means is you have to plan ahead a day. This is how the colonists of New England and pioneers of the American West ate, making it the first American cuisine. I'm going to skip the salt pork and salted-down fish in barrels, though.
Don't be mistaken, I am not advocating everyone go vegan. It is VERY hard to be a healthy vegan. But subbing in beans or eggs a couple of times a week is a good way to make your protein dollar go the distance, while getting a healthier meal in the bargain.