Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Meat Takes Money

There's a lot of talk these days about Food Stamps and childhood obesity. There are those dead set against the concept of Food Stamps or any kind of assistance that helps people put a balanced meal on the table. There is also concern about the increase in childhood obesity; and heads are butting over who should do what about it.

It's easy enough to point fingers, lay blame and make assumptions about the reasons behind poverty and/or obesity, but, as with anything else in life, it's simply not a black or white situation. There is no either/or. And, as odd as it may seem, poverty and obesity often go hand in hand. Here's why.

Meat takes money. Poor people don't have it. What they do have is pasta, potatoes and beans - the most affordable and filling items in the store. You could add flour since breads, cakes, cookies and other flour based homemade items are relatively inexpensive, especially if you have chickens around to provide the eggs. The best things in a balanced diet are the items that cost the most. If you're a poor mom, you're going to want your kids to be full. What fills them and keeps them from wanting more food right away are often the very things they should have in moderation, the heaviest in carbs and calories. Whether you're on Food Stamps or paying out of pocket, you're going to try to make that money go as far as you can make it go so it will last until the next month.

People who are not abusing the assistance they receive (and, honestly, that's most of them) are not stockpiling steaks or roasts or ribs for that backyard barbecue. They're not buying beer with Food Stamps. They're buying the most for the least that will last. Until ground beef jumped in price, that was a poverty standby; the affordable meat.

But, with the recent economic crisis, some people who never thought they'd have to stretch a dollar until it screamed are doing just that. They're finding out that the "make do" of our parents and grandparents really had purpose and validity. Sure - there are some who still scoff, but they're only a paycheck away from learning it first hand. They just don't realize it.

So, how do you make your money work for you? How do you buy that meat you long for when you can no longer afford it? Creativity.

If I buy ground beef in bulk, I repackage it when I get home. I'll take three pounds of hamburger and get four packs for the freezer. Since we usually use them in meat sauce or chili or other mixed ingredient meals, we don't miss that fraction of a pound of meat in the recipe. 

If you want to make a pot of chili go farther, then serve it with rice or pasta. I prefer rice.

Talk to your meat department manager. Ask him if they mark down meats near their sell-by dates. Find out when that is and be there to buy the mark-downs. Freeze the meat as soon as you get home. 

We have several farmers' markets in our area that have meat departments. I know that the one marks their meats down near the end of their last day to get rid of as much as they can before closing shop for the week. 

Watch your store flyers carefully for outstanding sales on roasts, steaks and chops. I use bottom round roast for making pot roast. I'll buy a couple, if I have the money, when they're on sale for under $2.00/lb. 

Make more stir-fries or fajitas. That one steak can feed four people if cut into strips and added to lots of vegetables seasoned to mouth-watering precision.

Cut your own beef cubes from one of the discounted meats you bought, then make stew. Eat half of it at one meal with crusty  bread, biscuits or drop dumplings and then make a meat pie with the rest. It's better in the pie!! (Or, make two pies, bake one now and freeze the other to bake another day.)

Instead of feeding everyone a chicken breast each, cut the breasts in half horizontally and flatten them to make cutlets or roll them around stuffing and top with a savory sauce such as onion soup mix combined with some orange juice and cranberry sauce. You'll feed four people with two breasts. 

Katsu, looks similar to medallions
Take a chicken breast and slice it into medallions (slice it like it was a loaf of bread). Take each of those medallions and dip them in your favorite dressing or marinade and then dip them into plain bread crumbs. Fry them in a shallow pan with light olive oil (or an olive oil blend). I fed three of us with one breast (of course, there were no male appetites present) because of the sides I also had on the table.

Guatemalan meal
Try to incorporate beans into your meals more often. They are one of the proteins that are the most affordable. When combined with rice, they become a complete protein, so try to enjoy more red beans and rice or black beans and rice or pinto beans and rice. You can add leftover chicken or throw in that ham bone from Easter or Christmas for added flavor (and ham bits). 

Eat more eggs. Yes, they're full of cholesterol, but they're not as high risk as they were once considered. Try some fritattas or quiches for dinner (another great way to use leftovers). Have breakfast for dinner. Have leftovers for breakfast (assuming you enjoyed the dinner they were from). If you can get two meals out of one, you've kept yourself from having to buy food for that second meal.

So, those are a few ideas on how to stretch the meat you bought with the money you don't have as much of anymore. If you have any ideas that I haven't mentioned, please share them in the comments area.

NOTE: I'm a day off. I owe "N", but at least "M" is on time.


  1. I love eggs and we eat them on a regular basis. 'Breakfast for dinner' is pretty common at my house. We also tend to eat lots of fruits and veggies, with starches and meats taking up less space on our plates. They are not only super-healthy, but really filling, too.

    I’m more than half way done blogging my way back from Z to A. :O) Middle of Everything

  2. Thanks for the tips on making food stretch further. I'm sure feeling the pinch these days when I buy groceries. I'm trying to cut back on red meat and eat more beans and chicken. Fresh produce is pricey but it's so healthy that it's worth it when a person can afford it. Buying locally is good for that, too. Just love Farmer's Markets in the summer time.

  3. Well, I'm vegan, so I'm all for incorporating more beans into your diet! Anyone can be a savvy shopper, as long as they do their research and look for the deals. Using your food economically, whether it be meat or veggies, is just smart for everyone.

  4. Having a garden helps as well. I live in the country and have plenty of space, but even when I lived in town, I grew tomatoes and peppers in five gallon buckets on my deck and squash will grow just about anywhere. I currently grow herbs in baskets hanging off my deck rail. When I am cooking, I can just walk out my back door and find rosemary, basil, cilantro, parsley, oregano and dill. It's economical, fun and there's nothing that tastes better than a home grown tomato!

  5. Great post today! All very good money saving advice. And for those that have the extra money I think they should leave something in that food barrel at the stores door and help others more!!!

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  7. My mother is disabled and the area we lived in refused to give her a job, no matter how many places she applied. Needless to say, we lived on food stamps. I remember eating a lot of chicken growing up until all at once it spiked it price. My mother used her money wisely and purchased meat that was close to the date and would through in the freezer or purchase as much as the budget allow when there was a good sale. We tried to eat as healthy as we could.

  8. Great tips,I didnt know some of them, like buying meat close to its date.