- Consider purchasing a half or quarter of beef or pork if you have the space to freeze it.
- Whole boneless pork loin. These are occasionally on sale at the local grocery stores for $1.77-1.98 per lb. It seems like a lot of $ when you buy 7-9 lbs at once but you can get a lot of meals out of one pork loin. Cut it up yourself or ask the meat department to cut it up for you at no extra cost then stock up your freezer.
- Flat iron steak. This is my latest discovery. I had never heard of flat iron steak until just a few months ago. Buehler's (local grocer) seems to have these on sale occasionally for $3.49 per lb. You can marinate a pound of this and stretch it into 4 servings or more by making stir fry (my favorite is Beef and Broccoli) or grill it (steak kabobs). Not a bad price when you are in the mood for steak.
- Ground turkey. Aldi has 1 lb frozen "tubes" of ground turkey for $.99. Even if you are not a fan of ground turkey, I have found that when you blend it in with ground beef in a meatloaf or other dish, such as the stuffed peppers, you don't even notice. I often take 1 lb of the ground turkey (85% lean) and mix it with 1 lb of ground beef (96% lean). It ends up 90% lean and less expensive than buying 90% lean ground beef at regular price. (figuring the 96% lean ground beef at Walmart is regular priced at $4.28 that makes your 90% lean meat mix $2.64 per lb. - even less if you can get it on sale) You can play around with these numbers until you get the balance of lean-ness and cost to your liking. I tried the 99% lean ground turkey at Walmart once and noticed that it does not blend in as well.
- Whole chicken or turkey. Watch for the turkeys to go on sale around the holidays and freeze them for later. Cook the carcass for broth.
- Boneless chicken thighs. I like to use these in homemade chicken noodle soup. They are conveniently boneless yet you still end up with an inexpensive meal.
- Make soup or stew. This is another way to stretch the amount of meat needed for a meal.
- Go vegetarian at least once a week. There are lots of recipes for very delicious gourmet type (or plain) meatless meals on the internet using beans and other less expensive forms of protein. And, this is healthier also.
- Use canned fish, like tuna (in water not oil) or salmon, occasionally.
- Watch the weights on the package of meat when you are picking it out of the meat case. Actively look for the right size package that fits your needs. If you plan to make a meal using 1 lb. of meat, go with the one marked 1.01 or even 0.97 lbs. not the one that is marked 1.26 lbs. unless you plan to make use of the extra.
- Serve breakfast at dinner time once in awhile. Try something like...
- Scrambled Eggs, Toast or Bran muffins, Fruit, Yogurt,
- Oatmeal or whole-wheat pancakes (Did you ever try sweet potato pancakes?), Applesauce, Lean Ham
- Omelet loaded with veggies/cheese, Fruit or Juice, Lean bacon
- Whole-grain waffles with Fruit Topping (more like a "dessert" if you are not looking for a big dinner)
These are all pretty easy and inexpensive to make for dinner (even when you are making them from scratch) and can be quite healthy when you are creative and can provide a balanced meal with protein, fruit and vegetable.
Finally, remember that 1 serving of meat is 4 ounces (1/4 lb)...approximately the size of a deck of cards. Try to prepare dinners with this in mind. For example, cut chicken breasts in 1/2 when they are bigger than 1 serving. If you are cooking for big eaters, keep the meat in single size portions but add another side dish, such as a fruit or vegetable (this helps "balance" the meal as well, adding more nutrients and less fat).
Do you have other "tricks" to stretching and saving on meat?