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How to keep meat from breaking your budget

can be a budget-breaker, can’t it? Because we’ve only budgeted $40/week
for groceries, I’ve learned to get really creative when it comes to
meat. There are many things we do to help stretch this, here are a few of my favorites:

1) Don’t serve meat as the main thing at a meal.
When we serve meat for dinner, unless I got some incredible sale on it,
it is not a stand-alone thing. I have come up with lots of recipes
which are hearty and delicious, but that don’t require using $8-$15
worth of meat to pull off for our little family. We do eat soup and we
do eat casserole, but I try to be creative and use lots of variety.

also try to make sure that dinners are a hearty affair around here. My
husband might be thin, but he can eat like you wouldn’t believe (As an
aside, how come guys can eat so much and never gain a pound?!)! If we
have chili or a similar bean type of soup, we’ll serve it over steamed
brown rice and sprinkle cheese on top. If we have chicken noodle soup,
we often serve it over mashed potatoes (I know, talk about a carb-rich
meal! But it’s delicious!).

Start thinking outside the box when it comes to the dinners you serve and have fun being creative. If it flops and doesn’t go over well, you don’t have to make it again.

2) Have at least 1-2 meatless meals per week.
Yes, I know, a lot of people turn up their noses at the thought of
going vegetarian a few times a week but if you get creative, you can
come up with quite a few hearty meatless meals. Try making spaghetti
casserole or lasagna without meat in it (I put extra chunky sauce with
lots of onions and diced tomatoes in it and double the cheese and we never
even miss the meat). Or try serving breakfast for dinner sometime.

3) Never buy meat unless it is marked-down or on sale.
I usually always get meat on sale or marked down and will not pay
anymore than $2/meal for meat. Watch for the sales and mark downs and
stock up! Ask your grocery stores when they mark meat down and make
sure you shop at those times.

4) Make the main dish go further by starting out dinner with soup and bread or salad and bread.
If you’re already somewhat filled up before the main course hits, you
are bound to eat less! Plus, starting out with a nice big salad and
fresh bread will add so much to the meal!

5) When you buy meat, cook it up ahead of time and freeze it in meal-size portions.
I’ve found when I divvy the meat up ahead of time, it somehow stretches a lot father. If the thought of going meatless is too much for you
right now, consider cutting back on some of the meat in some
of your meals. You might be surprised at how little you miss it.

6) Get creative with leftovers.
My goal is to never throw food out. Every once in a while it
does happen, but it is a rare occurrence. Constantly be looking for
ways to remake meals to stretch them farther and eliminate waste.

How do you keep meat from breaking your budget? What are some of your favorite meatless meals?

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  • Hannelore says:

    We like to add corn, sauteed celery, onion and peppers to our chili in place of some of the meat. And we’ve just been using less meat in our recipes across the board. I agree with breakfast for dinner,anything Mexican, and a big pot of pinto beans with cornbread. One of our favorite meals is black beans and yellow rice. Use the mahatma saffron rice (its in a yellow foil pouch). Cook according to pkg instructions. Top with drained,heated black beans, fresh diced tomato and sour cream if you like. This is a cheap, delicious, colorful meal!

  • Hannelore says:

    I just thought of one other thing. If my husband is ever out of town, we will have baked potato bar. (And I figured out that I can cook them in the crockpot). Once last year we did this and my now-7-year-old son said to my husband (as soon as he walked in the door), “Last night we had potatoes for dinner and nothing else!!!!”

  • Tupperware Lady says:

    We love rice pancakes for dinner some nights. It is a great way to use up leftover rice. Just add a few eggs to the rice. Stir it all together. Scoop it onto a hot griddle and smoosh it down like a pancake. Cook through, flip, and cook. Then we put butter, cinnamon and sugar, and use milk as if it were the syrup. They are yummo!

  • Noah says:

    We bought half a cow as well. Since we only eat hormone free/naturally raised meat, this really saved us a ton and we get nicer cuts of meat than I would normally buy.

    I also buy fish, like Salmon, when it’s on sale in the Summer and freeze it in marinade. Then all I do is pull it out of the freezer and stick it in the fridge in th morning and I have it ready to pop in the oven by dinner time.

  • niki says:

    We like to substitute ground turkey for ground chuck in most recipes. It is only 79-99 cents for a pound at most stores around here!

    We also do breakfast for dinner at least once a week (which is enjoyed since we never eat such involved meals for breakfast around here…its usually cheerios or oatmeal in the am). Pancakes, waffles, or eggs with bacon, sausage, or pork roll make for a filling dinnertime treat.


  • Melissa says:

    One of our favorite meatless meals is potato soup. If you have meat leftovers (especially ham), you can also mix them in.

  • Cathe says:

    As others have mentioned, cheese is a bigger problem than meat right now! We just love cheese, but it’s becoming too expensive. That puts a damper on our meal planning – so many of our favorite dishes have cheese.

  • Tara says:

    We go in with a neighbor and buy 1/2 a cow, so I guess we actually buy 1/4 a cow. This should last our family of four about a year assuming we eat beef twice a week. This worked out to about $6 a week for beef. The cow cost us $2 per pound no matter the cut so we got T-bones, rib-eyes, roasts and ground beef for $2 per pound. And the best thing is that is is hormone free beef and better tasting than store bought beef (in my opinion). I would recommend putting money aside for this each year.

    The rest of the week we fill in with chicken, fish or meatless soup and sandwiches.

  • Clean Simple says:

    I buy all our meat at Costco, where I can get high quality steak/ground beef/pork for super prices. Today, I picked up packs of steak for $2.99/lb and mild Italian sausage for $1.99/lb. Enough meat for

    Since we’re a small family, I immediately re-pack it into meal-size portions in Ziploc freezer bags. Easy peasy. I have enough for 14 meals for only $42.50.

  • Cole & Lia's mom says:

    One of my favorite meatless meals is a crustless vegetable quiche. Cube zucchini, summer squash, eggplant. Cut up tomatoes and onions. Saute until tender. Cool, and toss with 6 – 8 oz. shredded cheese, add 1 Tbsp flour. Beat 4 eggs and 1 c. milk with spices of your choice — parsley, thyme, garlic salt, onion powder. Spray pie plate with non-stick spray, pour in vegetable/cheese mix, and pour milk/egg mix over. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes then 350 for another 30 or until done. Serve with fresh fruit salad for a filling, nutritious meal!

    Another favorite is pasta with vegetables. Saute veggies — broccoli, asparagus, olives/fresh tomatoes*/mushrooms* (* saute these for less time than the others) with garlic (be sure not to overcook the garlic) and add a little salt. Toss with fresh linguini and top with grated cheese. Serve with fresh salad.

    Ah — I’m hungry!

  • Miriam says:

    Just last week I made a list of dishes to make on Meatless Monday. Beans are at the top. I am after all Cuban and we do love our white rice and beans. BTW I always make 2 lb and serve the leftovers for lunch or save them for Sunday lunch.

    Pasta with a homemade sauce is always welcomed by my five boys(husband included). In the sauce, I use what I have at the moment including garlic, onions, bell peppers, olives, and mushrooms and make it chunky.

    Another idea is tortillas filled with leftovers of any kind. For example, leftover rice and beans lettuce, tomatoes ,and cheese.

    The possibilities are endless 🙂

  • Joan J says:

    Large cuts of meats – whole chicken, boneless pork loin, beef roasts – are often on sale more often and far less expensive than smaller cuts of meat (chicken breasts, pork chops, stew beef). I buy the larger cut, bring it home and cut it myself, and package it for the freezer. I wrote on my blog about my recent pork loin purchase which will give me 15+ meals for under $1 each:

  • Melynda says:

    I am really surprised that more large families aren’t looking into Angel Food Network for their meat. It is a network of churches throughout the US who come together and buy in bulk to get deep discounts on groceries. They then pass those discounts to the community and we get our meat for less than 1/2 the retail price along with other good foods. Our family of 8 has gone from a $600 a month grocery budget to under $300.
    We also try to plan our meals out ahead – cooking or preparing everything in one day after a grocery trip and putting each meal in a ziploc bag to be ready for meal day. This really helps stretch our meat.
    I also like fillers such as pasta, rice or beans. This allows me to always use meat but not so much that it breaks our budget.

  • Shannon says:

    We use ground turkey for everything! It is healthier and cheaper. I was buying the frozen tubes for about $1.10 per roll, from Aldi and Walmart, but started getting lots of little bones. So i started buying fresh Honey Sickle White ground turkey rolls at Walmart. $1.97 per roll of 93/7 lean. No bones and I buy 5 rolls a week. Anything that calls for ground beef gets ground turkey, and no one ever knows the difference!
    I spend $9.85 a week on meat. I also buy frozen boneless skinless chix breasts at Sam’s Club. The Members Mark brand is $12.99 for a 20 lb. bag of 6-7 oz. breasts. That lasts me a month or more, I make lots of casseroles with chicken.

  • Shannon says:

    We also just started using Angel Food Ministries, August will be our 2nd. month!

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