With the cost of meat rising, you might find it harder and harder to not only add it to your dinner menu each night, but to even keep it as part of your grocery budget! You can stretch out your meat supply and thereby stretch out your grocery budget by getting a little creative, and still enjoy some of the meat dishes your family enjoys. Here are 8 easy ways to stretch meat and make your supply go further.
8 Ways to Stretch Meat
1. Don’t Have Meat Everyday
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This is the tip that I use all the time, especially since we only eat grass fed/organic meat (which is a budget buster for sure). We have meals that include meat only a few times a week. Other than that, we do vegetarian or fish. It took a while to get to this point so I would suggest easing into meatless meals if your family is used to having meat every night. One tip I’d like to pass along is that we’ve found that we really like vegetarian dishes with eggplant since the texture of cooked eggplant seems “meaty” to us. We just tried a Shepherd’s Pie recipe that substituted eggplant chunks for the meat and it was delicious! We also love eggplant lasagna.
2. Don’t Make Meat The Star of Meal
What this means is make a variety of dishes that include meat, but meat accompanies the other ingredients as opposed to being the star ingredient. Some options could be chicken and noodles, chicken and veggie casseroles, or chicken/steak stir fry.
3. Opt For Bone In Meat Cuts
Bone in meat will always cost less than meat that is boneless and skinless. Opt for bone in steaks, pork chops, and chicken, as it will not only cost less per pound but is actually more flavorful. When you have removed the meat from your cooked bone in pieces, you can always save the bones and make bone broth/stock with them. We save ours in freezer bags until we have enough bones to make bone broth.
4. Learn How to Freeze Meat
When you find a great deal on meat, freezing what you can’t use right away is an excellent option. My plan is to always buy at the lowest price and to have a well stocked pantry. The trick is freezing it the right way so it stores well. A good idea is to wrap the meat in several layers to protect it from freezer burn. You could use wax paper and then a layer or two of plastic wrap. Or you can wrap it tightly with butcher paper and then foil. I usually wrap meat tightly in heavy duty foil and then put it in a good quality freezer bag (be sure to squeeze all the air of the bag). Whatever method you decide on, using several layers helps protect the meat longer and more efficiently.
5. Find Creative Uses For Leftover Meat
Do you have leftover chicken from dinner? Add some mayo and chopped celery or onions and make a batch of chicken salad, add it to pizza, or make chicken soup (here’s my yummy Chicken Potato Soup Recipe), or add it to chicken pot pie or a casserole. Leftover steak? Chop it into strips and top your cold salad with it or make burritos. Even if you just have scraps left, save them, as leftover meat can always find its way into new dishes. If you don’t think you can use your leftover meat right away then just wrap it up and put it in the freezer. Be sure to label it (so you know what it is).
6. Use Fillers
Try creating recipes such as meatloaf where breadcrumbs or oats, vegetables, and eggs can be used as filler to the meat. When making ground beef (ground turkey) for tacos, I always add a couple of cans of beans or lentils (no one even cares) or add chopped peppers, carrots or rice. All of those are good healthy fillers. Both tips are a great way to bulk up the meat.
7. Practice Portion Control
The average size portion of meat/protein suggested is about the size of your palm. When cooking for your family, try to keep meat portions to this size. You can then bulk up the meal with plenty of vegetable side dishes, grains, beans, and other nutrient rich yet inexpensive options. This may take a while to get used to. We are all used to big portions. In my family we’ve gone from a chicken breast for each person to having a 1/2 a chicken breast per person. So ease your family into portion control, the savings will come!
8. Try the Frozen Food Section
You can often find pre-made hamburger patties, turkey hot dogs, frozen chicken breasts and other frozen meat products for less in your grocer’s freezer. It is always worth a browse as the frozen varieties often cost less than fresh.
The next time your budget is crunched and you need meat, give these tips for stretching meat a try!
What do you do to stretch meat in your home?
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