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4 Ways to Stretch Your Meat Dollar

December 2, 2017

In order to eat better meat, many of us have to eat less meat. That is actually a good choice all around! 

#1 Reevaluate serving sizes

How many servings do you generally get out of a pound of meat? Two? Three? Six? This is a good area to evaluate if you want to save money. The FDA considers a serving of meat to be 3 ounces, or about 1/5 of a pound, but in restaurants we often get servings of 4 to 6 ounces or even up to 8 ounces! If you're currently getting 3 or 4 servings out of a pound of meat, stretching that to 5 to 8 servings is a great ballpark to be in.

But how do you get from 3 servings to 6? Like this:

#2 Add a filler

"Filler" is just a plain term for an affordable ingredient that can be mixed with or served alongside your meat dish to help you stretch your dollars. Beans, whole grains, nuts, and diced or grated vegetables are classic fillers that add flavor, texture, fiber and nutrients to your meat dish.

When mixing cooked filler directly with the raw meat, you can mix in about 1-3 cups of filler per pound of meat. One cup is generally for dishes that need to hold their shape, such as meatloaf, meatballs or hamburger. You can use a lot more filler for most other recipes.

Here are some classic fillers:

  • diced or grated vegetables (zucchini hides in just about everything!)
  • chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
  • beans (black beans, lentils and many more)
  • potatoes
  • grains (barley, oats, quinoa, polenta, breadcrumbs)

#3 Choose the right recipe

Make sure you choose recipes that go well with fillers. Serving chicken thighs, roasts or steaks for dinner will be challenging. You can still serve them, but you'll need to slice them thinly (sharp knife is a must) and have plenty of side dishes to stretch them. Make sure to use plenty of fillers in your side dishes to help everyone fill up while eating less meat. Also maybe don't let kids or guests slice the meat without proper training if you want to save any money!

Here are some great meals that go well with fillers:

  • Chili, Soups and Stews
  • Casseroles and Meat Pies
  • Enchiladas, Tacos, Fajitas, Quesadillas
  • Stir-Fry's and Pilafs
  • Salads
  • Meatloaf, hamburgers and meatballs. It's best to add breadcrumbs and/or an egg to these to help them hold their shape
  • Pizza, Pasta and Lasagna
  • Stuffed veggies (bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and more!)

#4 Eat the Whole Animal: bone broths and organ meats

Only 70% to 80% of an edible pork carcass is meat. The rest is bones, organs and fat; all of which are important parts of our traditional diet. 

I know bone broths and organ meats can be scary and intimidating. That's totally normal! Most of us didn't grow up eating them so of course we're going to be wary of such strong flavors, But bone broths and organ meats are the place where you get absolutely unbeatable nutrition for a great price. They also have some important amino acids that help balance out the muscle meats. Bone broths and organ meats were overwhelming for me, too, but I promise once you learn how to cook them, your pocketbook and your health will thank you.

Bones should be roasted and simmered to make stock, which, when made properly, repairs the lining of our stomach and intestines. Many people are suffering from allergies that may be caused by a leaky gut. Bone Broth (or Stock) has an unbeatable flavor as a base for soups and gravies. I'll post soon on how to make broth.

Organ meats are an incredible source of vitamin A, which is probably why they have such a strong flavor that Americans aren't used to. You can whip up a delicious meal with organ meats in under 30 minutes. First caramelize an onion in butter, slice the organs to about 1/3" thick, brown each side on low for a minute or so, then add the onion, a generous pinch of salt, brandy or other alcohol, and cream or milk. Use just enough liquid to cover the solids. Simmer on a very low heat for 5-10 minutes. Serve over a slice of garlic bread or a grain. Revel in your cultured ways and enjoy!

Pork fat from pigs raised in the sun is a significant source of vitamin D! Exposure to sunlight increased the Vitamin D content of their fat by 60 percent. Vitamin D deficiency is a public health crisis right now and pasture raised pork and eggs are great sources that can help you get more in your diet. Pork fat is great to cook with and rendering lard is quite easy! Stay tuned for a how to post.

Rebecca Wellman