5 Ways to Stretch Your Meat Dollar
#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 or 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 a tasty and 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 cup of filler per pound of meat. This 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)
- 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, though these are the only recipes I can think of that don't easily go with fillers. You can still serve roasts and steaks, but you'll need to slice them thinly before serving. Make sure to use plenty of fillers in your side dishes to help your kids and guests fill up while eating less of that priceless 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
- 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 Embrace the unknown: bone broths and organ meats
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 eating 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.
Bone broth is a powerhouse of highly digestible proteins, minerals (though not as many minerals as many have claimed) and something else that must be magic! If nothing else, this elixir will add a 4th dimension of flavor to your cooking and it's super easy to make. You can leave the bones simmering in your slow cooker for days, using the broth as needed in your cooking and adding more water as necessary.
Organ meats are an incredible source of vitamins, which is probably why they have such a strong flavor that Americans aren't used to. You can whip up a delicious meal in under 30 minutes. You 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, generous salt, some kind of 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 another grain. Revel in your cultured ways and enjoy!
#5 Become a Farm Club Member
If you live in the PNW and you're committed to buying good quality protein, then joining our Farm Club is an easy way to save an additional 10% to 15%, while still being able to use our coupon codes and gift certificates on top of that! There is a membership level for just about every budget. Learn more about our memberships here!