New Series- Cutting Costs in the kitchen
Part 1 – Meats
I’m starting a new series on cutting costs in the kitchen. Since food is a large part of most budgets and the easiest place to cut each week I’ll be showing you the way I save money in each area. This week- meats. Meats can easily be a huge
One of the biggest costs in your budget that you can do something about is food. Groceries, eating out, convenience foods, health food, allergies the list goes on and on. I know they are can be different categories of your budget, or they can be. But it’s all just food. Let’s look at them a little more closely.
This is where the biggest part of your food budget goes. I budget $100 per person per month. Which is less than even the thrifty plan from the USDA. How do I keep my food costs so low? I don’t meal plan in the conventional sense where you plan out your meals and then go shopping. I shop the sales first and then meal plan. Then, I stockpile according to the sales so I always have plenty of choices I’m starting a new series on Cutting Costs in the Kitchen. Since meats are normally the biggest cost, we’re starting here.
Price book and stockpiling meats
I make a price book of rock-bottom prices and when it hits that price than I buy enough to last until the next sales cycle. Most sales cycles run about every 4-6 weeks so I know I need to stockpile enough to last until the next one. For instance, there is a butcher shop that has great meat prices. But it’s a little far away, about 40 minutes. So I don’t go there for my weekly shopping. But when they have a sale on chicken breasts it’s worth the trip since that is one of the main meats we use. My price point for boneless, skinless chicken breasts is under $1.30. This week if you buy a case it’s only $1.28, so I buy a case. Since meat is normally the largest part of your food budget I spend the most time on it figuring out how to save money while still eating healthy and with a variety. Then, the most important part, write it down. Yes, in your stockpile book or list or even bullet journal. Write it down. I make my lists with a small box on the same line. Put a line through it when I use it I make another line which makes an x. All gone. That way I have a running list of what’s in the freezer. So when the next sale comes around I know what to make.
I’ll come home, repackage it. I’ll put them in meal size bags. Some I’ll keep plain, and then mix up 4-6 different marinades to make several meals of each kind. I cut the meat according to how I’m going to use it. Some I’ll cube, some cut into strips and some leave whole. Then into the bags they go with the marinades poured on top. I have a huge head start on dinner. For instance, last month when I bought a case of chicken I had found a good sale on Italian dressing also. Some of the chicken went into the bag with a bottle of that. 3 meals done. I made some Teriyaki sauce and there went 3 more meals. Next was chicken strips and into the bag, they went with Ranch dressing sauce that would marinate them. When I pulled them out the freezer and thawed, they were dipped in season bread crumbs for tasty chicken strips. I had some of the chicken cubed and put plain into bags that I knew would either go into chicken alfredo or chicken pot pie. I also made a marinade of lemon garlic sauce, one of white wine and herbs and a dry rub of paprika garlic chicken. Now I have 3 meals each of 6 different flavors plus plain chicken in cubes for other variations. And it took less than 2 hours. Sometimes I add veggies to the meat and marinades depending on time, energy and what’s on sale. These will last until the next sales cycle and we’re not tired of them by the same thing all the time and a lot of the work is done for me. The next time I’ll try some different “recipes.”
I’ll do the same thing with beef. When ground beef goes on sale. I’ll brown a lot of it with onions and garlic and put in quart bags. Then it’s ready for soups, spaghetti sauce, hamburger stroganoff, etc. I brown some with taco seasoning for tacos, burritos, or enchiladas. Part of the ground beef is pressed into patties for hamburgers or Salisbury steak. And the last part I season and mix with the ingredients for meatballs and meatloaf. Roasts are much simpler, I dry rub them and have them ready for the crockpot without too many variations since my family likes them that way and we don’t have it as often since it is costlier. Also, cubed meat for stews and stroganoffs are put in ziplock bags for those meals.
Follow the same pattern as above with the chicken. Different marinades, or rubs. Cuts can be different; roasts, strips, or chops. The marinades enhance the flavor and tenderize the meat. For pork that could include teriyaki, sweet and sour, honey mustard, bbq, the sky’s the limit. Beer, wine, and vinegar are all great tenderizers and make tougher cuts of meat taste like more tender, more expensive kinds.
Most of my family isn’t fond of fish (unless it is freshly caught.) Plus with prices so much higher than many sources of meats it doesn’t fit in my budget as well so it’s not nearly as frequent. Our main sources are canned tuna and salmon. Salads, patties, and casseroles are served with either of these. But you can find both tilapia and Pollack reasonably priced, also. Unfortunately, my family thinks the best ways to serve fish is fried. Which is good but I don’t want to serve it that way very often. Bake with a little lemon and butter is both simple and good. Or make fish packets by wrapping in parchment paper with ribbon slices of veggies and lemon, capers and dill. Then bake.
So that’s my take on cutting costs in the kitchen for meats. What’s your best tip for meats in the kitchen?.