Food & Finance – Protein

by in View All Posts, March 13th, 2009

Hi there readers!  I’ve completely recovered from my hunger-induced mania at the warehouse club.  I still don’t know whether I’ll ever get through all of the crackers that I bought; so I keep a big stack on the counter to remind myself of the consequences of “shopping while starving.” ☺

Today I’m addressing protein –  beef, pork, chicken, fish – because protein is often the most expensive component of a meal. In these challenging economic times, you may think that you have to eliminate, or severely restrict your purchase of protein sources in order to stretch your food dollars.  Here are some tips to help you avoid having to make a choice between delicious meals(and good nutrition) and fiscal responsibility!

1.    Tougher Cuts + Gentle Treatment = Yummy to the Tummy and Easy on the Money

Don’t be put off by more challenging (i.e., tough) cuts of meat like pork shoulder, beef chuck roast and beef short ribs.  They are much less expensive than tender cuts like pork loin and filet mignon. Slow cooking – braising, stewing, roasting – is an excellent way to turn these tougher cuts into moist, succulent meat that literally melts in your mouth.  Supplement by adding some root vegetables. Serve over or with pasta, rice or polenta for a delicious, nutritious, fiscally-savvy meal.  Need ideas? Try Paula Deen’s Short Ribs or Tyler Florence’s Pot Roast.

2.    Taking Things Into Your Own Hands

You may not have noticed during more flush economic times, but in this country we pay a lot of money for convenience.   Want to save some money?  Become your own butcher.  With a little effort (e.g. a primer on knife skills and a grinder attachment) you should easily be able to accomplish the following:

– Buy whole chickens and butcher them yourself – cut into parts, remove skin, debone for cutlets. Learn from Danny Boome how to deconstruct your chicken.

– Buy a piece of beef chuck and grind your own hamburger, same principle for turkey or pork

– Buy whole fish and cut into steaks (e.g. salmon or tuna)  or debone and/or de-skin to create filets. Check out how to fillet your salmon here.

3.    Consider protein alternatives

Beans and eggs are both low-cost protein alternatives that taste great and present unlimited preparation opportunities. Beans are the headliners in chili and many soups; adding vegetables or cheese to eggs creates the base for a great omelet, frittata or quiche. Check out Rachael Ray’s Three-Bean Chili or Giada’s Spicy Bean Soup for some inspiration.

Got any tips of your own? Write in and let me know what you’ve done to stretch your food dollars! Have you been tracking your savings?  Write in and let me know about your success!  More than ever readers, we are all in this together. More tips in two weeks!

Yours in food frugality,


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Comments (12)

  1. Denise says:

    You covered most of it, Roni. I’ll add another legume to your list of alternatives. Lentils are wonderful as a meat substitute in chili, and they make excellent soups, salads, etc. I just watched the rerun of Alton Brown’s lentil episode on “Good Eats” and got a couple of really good ideas. Lentil cookies? Why not! :)

  2. Lana says:

    Hi Roni, and thank you for your posts. They’re incredibly informative, well written and well researched. :)

    My mother has teased me in the past for *refusing* to pay more than $2.49 per pound for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If that chicken isn’t on sale, I’ll just adjust my menu plans for the week! lol

    I also work frequently with those tougher cuts of beef and pork: smoked beef brisket and braised pork shoulders are a family favorites.

    Denise, speaking of A.B., he has a terrific corned beef brisket that recently aired. It’s on the to-do list for St. Patrick’s day this year.

    Roni, thanks again!

  3. Denise says:

    I saw that episode just the other day, Lana. You're right, it looked very good. I tried my hand at corning a pork loin once–it was really good. Didn't last long around our house.

  4. Lenore says:

    Great stuff, and I’m already doing a lot of this. Hadn’t considered grinding my own meat though. Thanks!

  5. Robin Koury says:

    In order to maximize my grocery dollars I always wait to make my weekly menu until my trusty grocery store circular arrives in my Sunday newspaper. I find that the circular often offers both the convenience that I have grown accustomed to and offers a substantial savings on protein and additional staples.

  6. Maria says:

    I meant save 50% on your groceries…sorry really tired.

  7. Maria says:

    I save money on groceries by ordering from a groupd called angel food ministries. Type in and you can buy a week’s worth of groceries for $30.00 The products are not named brand but they are good and the deals on the meat boxes can’t be beat. I’ve been telling everyone about them. See if your city or town has a host site. You will approximately 50% on your groceries.

  8. Terri Smith says:

    Hello, I just tapped into yourwebsite, thanks to my “food”homepage. First time for me. I often feel overwhelmed because of needing to watch $’s often not making it to next payday. These are good tips.
    Thank you

  9. Lila Selter says:

    It is funny because when I was first married we were a miltary family and I had to find ways to make fantastic meals on a budget. The most important tool I had was collecting all the sale filers from all the grocery stores in our area. I would then plan my menu for the next two weeks. Shopping every week or every day is also a waste of time and gas. When we eventually had children right before pay day my children were eating steak or chicken cutlets while other navy wives were forced to feed their kids tuna fish sandwiches or boxed macroni and cheese. My children are in college and they remembered this and they do the same thing today.

  10. Jenna Harrison says:

    I wanted to thank Maria for the info on I just ordered my first box of food and this will really help to save money for the month. I am a college student and pay all of my expenses myself, so this will help alot.

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