Monday, January 9, 2012

Going Easy on the Meat (and the Wallet)

Chop it up.  It'll last longer.
Photo by Worakit Sirijinda

Something I took into consideration this week when I was setting up my menu and grocery list was reducing how much meat we use.  We are a family of carnivores, and unfortunately our budget (and our tummies) show it. 

Meat is expensive.  It’s hard to find quality, lean meat for less than 1.99 per pound.  Frozen chicken breasts are usually as good as you’re going to get, but who wants to eat nothing but chicken day in and day out?  If you want to eat some steak, you’re going to be paying at least 3.99 per pound (the cheapest I can usually find for petite sirloin).

So we have a few options here.  We can either drop the meat entirely and go vegetarian (yeah, right), we can continue shelling out for menu plans that feature meat as the main part of the meal, or we can make meat an “accent” and have occasional meals that don’t feature it at all.

We have opted for option number three.  Take a look at our meal plan for the week.  Notice anything?  Most of those meals are just using a little bit of meat.  The Golden Chicken and Caesar salad only used two breasts to feed the whole family.  The split pea soup is using a cup of leftover ham that was in the freezer.  I bet we'll have enough of that soup to eat for the next few days, too.  The steak salad is using a leftover hunk of London broil, maybe about a pound total.  Even that chicken and rice dish only uses two breasts because we chop it up and toss it in the rice.  The pasta salad had just a smidge of turkey pepperoni in it, for a little burst of the flavor every now and then.  Tonight’s spaghetti pomodoro recipe doesn’t use any meat at all.  Score!

Because we buy our meat when it’s on sale, we want to make it last as long as we can.  Doing this, we can make a bag of frozen chicken or a nice hunk of steak last two to three weeks.   There’s a ton of different meals you can make that stretch meats out like this:
  • Chili
  • Spaghetti
  • Stir-fry
  • Salads
  • Soups

One of the big benefits of doing this is that you will need to find another type of food to round out your meal.  May I suggest going heavy on the veggies?

Set up your menus for the week and give this a try.  Go through your freezer and see what’s hanging out there.  Can you get through a shopping trip without purchasing any meat?

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