And I’m not talking just beef…I’m including chicken, seafood, ham, bacon, and sausage. Rarely do we eat the type of meal that consists of a piece of meat and a couple of sides. And rarely do we go vegetarian. Instead, I use recipes that use a smallish amount of meat combined with other ingredients.
Some mainstays are our house are
–salads(for example, a Chicken Tortellini green salad, or a Shrimp Taco salad)
–pizza and its relatives(stromboli, calzones)
-pasta(hot dishes, and also pasta salads)
-sandwiches(panini, quesadillas, fajitas, wraps)
-soups, although not so much at this time of year!
-stirfry type meals(such as Hibachi Chicken and Shrimp)
To round these meals out, I usually include either a fruit salad or a green salad(except for when the main dish is a salad), and some kind of bread(again, except for when the main dish is basically a bread, i.e. sandwiches or pizza).
This obviously reduces my meat costs because I don’t have to buy as much, but there’s another benefit too. Because I don’t need to buy two pounds of meat to make dinner, I can buy some meats that would be too expensive to eat on their own. For example, shrimp is often on my menu, and bacon is in a lot of the things I make as well.
To get the meats that I use cheaply, I shop the sales at my grocery stores and buy extra when something I want is on sale for a good price. Usually meat at deep discounts comes packaged in very large containers, so I bring it home, repackage it, and freeze it.
Occasionally I will run out before I find another good sale, but that doesn’t happen often. Here are the kinds of meats we buy, and my target prices. None of these are organic, as my budget doesn’t allow for that.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts-$1.99 pound or less(this price can often be found on the front page of sale ads, at least in this area)
Ground Chuck-$1.50/pound or less(this is harder to find than $1.99 chicken breasts, so we don’t eat nearly as much hamburger as we do chicken).
Frozen, raw, shell-on shrimp-$3.99/pound(the 51-60 count or the 31-40 count go on sale for this price pretty regularly)
Bacon-this varies greatly! I usually look for a buy one, get one free kind of sale, or a 50% off sale, though.
London Broil-$1.99/pound. This is happening less and less frequently, so we’re eating it less and less.
Sausage-I buy the Shady Brook Farms Turkey Sausage, which is usually $2 a pound. It rarely goes on sale for less than that.
Fish-Sometimes frozen wild salmon is $3.99/pound, and frozen Tilapia can be had at Trader Joe’s for about the same price. This is a little expensive in my book, and I don’t have a lot of fish recipes where fish is not the starring ingredient(if you know of a good one, let me know!), so we don’t eat fish that often.
I rarely buy any beef aside from London Broil and hamburger because it is hard to obtain cheaply(and besides, we don’t like beef that terribly much). I do occasionally buy a beef roast in the winter to make Beef Au Jus sandwiches. We don’t generally eat pork, although I will sometimes buy a ham when they get really cheap post-Christmas.
And I buy almost no deli meat. Lunch meat is insanely expensive, in my opinion…it’s easy to pay $5-$7 a pound for turkey breast at my main grocery store, which is not an expensive, snobby type of store. I occasionally buy some turkey ham, which goes on sale for $3 a pound. We have ham sandwiches for dinner every now and then, and I also use the ham to make stromboli.
In case you’re wondering why I buy boneless skinless chicken breasts instead of the bone in kind(which can be had for $.99 sometimes)…I used to buy the bone in kind, and skin and debone them and freeze them at home, but one day I weighed the meat I ended up with, and it was half the weight I started out with. $.99/pound bone-in breasts are really about $1.99 per pound of meat.
So, now I save myself the labor and headache and buy the boneless skinless kind. I sometimes buy whole chickens as well, but there again, you do end up paying for a lot of fat and bones.
Since I often can find chicken breasts for $1.50/pound or less, I figure that it’s not really worth my time to cut up a chicken.