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.
Monday 21st of September 2009
I switched our family over to local grass-fed beef and "authentically-fed" (meaning they scratch for bugs and forage on the grass) chickens a few months ago. I wanted to do this without killing our budget, and this is exactly how I did it - serve meals that include meat, but aren't focused on it. I don't mind going the vegetarian route for several meals, but the hubby objects. Stir-fry, pasta, pizza, soups and chilis, quesadillas and other grilled sandwiches are a great compromise between meat-focused and vegetarian meals!
On a side note, we pay about $5/lb for all of our meat now, mostly ground beef, stew meat, and chicken thighs. When I feel more motivated, I buy a whole cut-up chicken (usually 8 pieces) and roast the pieces - get great flavor for stock from the bones, and shred the meat to use in other ways. My hope is to get a chest freezer in the future and just buy directly from the farms. That should bring the price per pound down a lot.
Saturday 12th of September 2009
One nice thing about buying bone in chicken is that you can use the bones to make stock if you're so inclined. I buy whole chickens for $.99/lb and disassemble them myself, then make a nice big pot of stock with all the bones and an onion, carrot, and bay leaf. I also add a tablespoon of vinegar, which helps to pull calcium out of the bones. Frequently I'll boil the whole chicken (or two at a time), pull off all the meat and store it in meal sized portions (usually about 1 1/2 c. per meal for 4 - often making 3-4 meals out of one chicken, plus the soup) and then boil the bones again in the same water, making for a really nice, rich stock.
I've never seen boneless chicken breasts for less than $2/lb, and even that is really uncommon, so this method works well for me.
Thursday 15th of March 2012
I like to make chicken broth with bone-in chicken, also - especially since I can't have soup that has MSG and hidden bad stuff. The vinegar trick sounds interesting - years ago I learned from a Greek chef to use lemon slices or juice when simmering chicken and/or bones. It also tenderizes the chicken. Thighs (bone-in, skin on from Sam's Club) work so well and are cheap. The lemon works like vinegar but adds its own nice flavor.
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