The grocery budget is one place many people look to trim a household budget. These days, however, that chore becomes more and more difficult. One of the most expensive areas of the grocery store is the meat section, but cheap beef often taste tough and flavorless. There are some ways to make those cuts taste good, though, ways that are remarkably easy and inexpensive.
Avoid tough meat
Meat can be tough because of the cut or because of how it is prepared. The first step to good tasting meat is using a tenderizer. Pound the meat on both sides until it is well aerated. Tenderizing breaks up the sinews in the meat, making it easier to chew.
The next step you might take is to marinate the meat for at least four hours. Although lots of marinades are available for purchase from a grocery store, any number of products can be used to make a good marinade, likely cheaper.
A barbecue sauce can be used, stretched through a bit of water or fruit juice, especially pineapple juice. It gives a taste reminiscent of Hawaiian cooking.
Lemon juice and water with a small amount of salt and a more significant amount of pepper creates a nice taste for the beef.
Even thinned-down soups can make great marinades, like cream of mushroom or cream of chicken, or even tomato. Any other cream soups (celery, broccoli) work for cheap meat, as well.
Worcestershire sauce has its own nice flavoring, as do soy sauce or teriyaki flavoring.
Salad dressings add good flavor, especially spicier flavors like Italian or balsamic vinaigrette.
Just pour the mixture over the beef and let it sit in the refrigerator, turning it occasionally. Marinating overnight is the best option for tender meat.
Although marinade certainly adds flavor, you can use just the spices to give cheap beef enough flavor to taste good. Lemon pepper without the marinade is a popular choice.
Allspice tastes somewhat like gingerbread (it is typically one of the ingredients).
Basil is often used in Italian cooking. If you don’t like mixed Italian seasoning, this is one ingredient you can use alone or with a mix of other Italian tastes. A dry Italian salad dressing mix is a good blend of these flavors along with some other strong flavors.
Celery seed is a good one for beef. It has a bitter taste.
Cumin and curry are both hotter spices, often found in Indian and Mexican foods.
Marjoram and oregano are similar flavors that are again often used in Italian seasoning. Marjoram is the milder flavor of the two. Adding basil to one or both is a good way to boost the taste of the spice.
Keep in mind that fresh herbs typically have more flavor than dried ones. Some lose part of their flavor when cooked, so it may be best to add them partway through cooking.
Search for ideas
The internet is full of specific recipes you can use to make cheap beef taste good. Free sites such as allrecipes have recipes that are rated by users, often with further suggestions for possible changes. You can search until you find a cheap one that fits your budget.
The whole plate
The side dishes you choose can also make a big difference in the flavor of cheap meat. A cheesy side like mac and cheese, cheese-covered broccoli or cheesy potatoes are nice, even masking some of the beef taste if you are looking more for the protein rather than the flavor. Rosemary noodles or potatoes, or tossed salad with Italian dressing are great along beef with an Italian spice, as, of course, would be a spaghetti-like side.
Cheap beef can taste good. Maybe not like filet mignon, but it can be pretty tender and flavorful. Your grocery budget doesn’t have to be strained by high beef prices. Choose the cheaper cuts and use some originality, instead.