Frugal Friday: Meat in Budget Meals (Recipe: Peanut Butter Chicken)

chicken on the grill

My boys love the different names for eaters: carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, dessertivore, etc. Most of them would choose to be carnivores, if they could. (OK, dessertivore is in close competition.) When we have grilled meat such as tri-tip, those nearby need to stand back. The FishBoys go after it like a pack of hungry wolves.

Unfortunately, in this endeavor to dig out of debt, meat is not a big menu item. This prompts more than a few whines, “But is there any meat in it?” I’ve discovered that the children will hush up and eat if there’s some meat in a dish. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different recipes that include meat, though it plays only a supporting role. I stock up when it’s on sale, and then ration it — bigtime. They’re like little pirates, searching for buried treasure. We also have a lot less waste.

Here are some ideas for you to try as well as a few fantastic recipes:
  • Chili with just a small amount of browned, ground meat.
  • Tomato-based pasta sauce with just a small, bit of ground or shredded meat.
  • Rachel Ray’s Perfect Paella – I do not use the saffron this calls for, but have substituted it with the less expensive turmeric. I also have reduced and varied the meats and seafoods, eliminating the mussles entirely and using Italian or bulk sausage and just a few shrimp as well as some chicken. This is very yummy and there’s very little leftover.
  • Emeril’s Cajun Jambalaya – I used bulk sausage and reduced all the amounts of meat.
  • Pioneer Woman’s Most Favorite Salad Ever – I add a little grilled chicken and vary the other ingredients depending on cost and availability.

and finally,

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  1. Becky @ Boys Rule My Life says:

    Hey, the PB Chicken sounds like it might be a winner! I’m going to have to try that!

  2. Briana Almengor says:

    Your PB Chicken is in our regular rotation.

  3. Oh yum PB chicken.. wish I could make that.. butttttttttttt my son is allergic to Peanuts!!!!!!!!!!! It is amazing though, how you can create a wonderful meal without tons of meat.. and still get the same flavor without the cost. Thanks for the tips.

  4. FishMama says:


    You could eliminate the PB. It would still be good, just a different flavor slightly.

  5. BarbaraLee says:

    Can cilantro be replace for parsley? I don’t use much of it and can’t remeber what the sub is. So yummy.

  6. FishMama says:

    Barbara Lee, I don’t think that parsley would really add anything. The cilantro really makes it. You can keep cilantro fresh for longer by storing it like flowers in a glass of water, with a plastic bag over the top. Place the entire thing in the frig. It is a great addition to any salad as well as salsa and other Mexican dishes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I made the peanut butter chicken this week and YUM!!! My children even devoured it including the chicken. so yummy, can’t wait to make it again, thanks!–Amy

  8. I just stumbled across your blog (I don't remember how…) and am LOVING it!! I'm pregnant with our first child, so I'm soaking up all the "mom stuff" that you write about, and your cooking/finance/organizing, etc. stuff keeps me drooling for more :) Chicken is a cheap meat for our budget and we both love chinese, so I think this recipe for Peanut Butter Chicken will quickly find it's way onto the menu!

  9. Fantastic with pork, too! (that’s all i had in-house, so I gave it a whirl) Delicious! Thanks, Jessica!

  10. I really loved this recipe & am planning to make it again this week & next! I am wondering if you ever make this as a freezer meal? Any tips?

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      @Fleur, yes, you can. Just prepare the sauce, label and freeze. And prepare the carrot/onion/chicken mixture. Cool, label, and freeze. Then assemble the two packets with the cooked noodles and cilantro on the day of serving.

  11. Becky in KY says:

    This recipe sounds great! I never seem to use an entire bunch of cilantro before it goes bad, but I have begun freezing chopped cilantro in ice cube trays w/ just enough water to hold it together. It doesn’t thaw well as far as using the leaves/stems by themselves as called for in this recipe, but I can puree the thawed cubes and then stir the puree into whatever sauce I’m making. I’ve done the same with basil from my basil plant.

  12. I think this is going into my meal plan for the week. It sounds amazing.

  13. Holy Cow, that sounds amazing! Will have to put in our meal plan rotation. Thanks a lot!!

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