Most places that tell you how to cut your food budget tell you to use beans and have at least one meatless meal a week. This is not something that works for me. I know my husband would pitch a fit worse than a 3 year old in the store if I tried to cut meat out of a meal. On top of that, he hates beans. So trying to find economical recipes that use meat have been challenging. So if you are in the same boat that I am here, here are some tips and meal ideas that I use.
Ground beef– Ground beef can be one of the best ways to include meat in meals while stretching the budget. Ground beef freezes well so be sure to stock up when it is on sale. I pack mine in one pound bags. One of the best decisions we made was buying a half of a cow. It was a dairy cow so it only made ground meat but we only paid $192 for our half. It has lasted us just over a year.
Some of the best recipes to stretch ground beef include pasta dishes and rice dishes. My husband’s favorite is something he calls Dis-assembled Shepherd’s Pie. To make it, ground a pound of ground beef, seasoned how you like it. Boil about a pound of macaroni. To the boiling macaroni, add as much frozen corn as you feel is a good mix. Drain the macaroni and corn and mix into the ground beef. We serve it with shredded cheddar cheese on top (wait until it is plated for this) but to keep costs down, you don’t need to. This recipe makes quite a bit.
Chicken– Chicken is another one of the cheapest meats you can get. What I like to do is wait until boneless, skinless chicken breast is at least $1.99/lb before I buy it. When it gets to this price, I buy a few packs and package it into smaller bags and freeze. I really prefer to wait until it is closer to $1.69/lb but that doesn’t happen often. I also almost never buy split chicken breast. Even though it is often cheaper, I feel like most of what I’m paying for is skin and bone which gets thrown away.
Just like ground beef, the cheapest meals with chicken involve pasta or rice. But to mix it up I do a dish with potatoes and carrots. What I do is cut up an onion, a few potatoes, and a couple carrots. I start this in a large pan until they start to soften. Then I add cut up chicken. I season this and cook until everything is cooked through. You can vary the amounts to what you need.
While I do most my meals with these meats, I fill in with cuts I find on sale. One of the best things you can do is check for marked down meat. You can often find nicer cuts marked down or with coupons attached. This summer, I found a lot of stew beef marked down. I bought most of what they had and then froze it right away. As long as you use marked down meat right away or freeze it immediately, it is a good fill in. It is also a good way to have a nicer meal once in awhile without spending a lot more money.
As far as sides go, rice or pasta are your cheapest options. I will often make casseroles or stove-top one-pan dishes. This will stretch all of the food in the meal even farther. I almost always use frozen vegetables unless I am able to find fresh on sale. I only used canned vegetables as emergency food or for certain recipes. Frozen have more nutrients than canned vegetables and I feel they taste better. Frozen also are cheaper in the long run as they contain more servings.
These are my basic tips for serving frugal meals without going meatless or using beans. If you have more ideas on this, I would love to hear from you. Go ahead and leave a comment or send me a message.