Using Meat in Budget-Friendly Meals

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This is a FLASHBACK Friday. Can you hear Duran Duran playing in the background? This post was originally posted on May 16, 2008, back when we were deep in debt. The lessons still hold true.

The FishBoys love the different names for how we eat 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?”

Use Meat Sparingly

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 use 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.
  • our very own Peanut Butter Chicken – so good!

Using meat sparingly is one way that we can cut food costs.

What do YOU do to save money?

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  1. Sharing a recent recipe using Grass Fed Beef, the flavor is soo much richer than regular beef that you can use so much less to give the good flavor to any meal.

  2. Thanks to your Duran Duran and the wolf references I now have Hungry Like the Wolf stuck in my head.

    I ration meat as well even with three of us it can get expensive. I add beans or rice to Mexican dishes, chicken breasts are made into fillets. We still get enough protein from cheese, nuts, eggs, and beans.

  3. Thank you for hosting. I’m a follower, and this hop is found on a page on my site that lists more than 250 hops, memes, and photo challenges… some for each day of the week. Check under the header for the link to that page. I’ve also just started a BlogFrog community that focuses on hops, carnivals, memes, and photo challenges. Go to to visit & participate.
    I hope you’ll visit me soon. I follow back!

  4. We made & installed rain barrels last weekend as a money saver. I estimate the cost of the rain barrels will be covered within 1 month of use. After that, the rain water we collect & use on the garden is FREE. =)

  5. I used to make more meatless dishes but now I feel that a low carb diet is better so I’ve been buying more meat again. I try to find lots of ways to season chicken and fish and save the more expensive cuts of red meat for just once in a while.

  6. Those recipes look wonderful! I love paella — but haven’t had it since I lived in Spain for half a year (15 yrs ago!). Stir fries are a great way to use little meat — many Asian cultures are really masters of sparingly using meat mostly for flavor.

  7. I just made a link to how I save money on meat by buying in bulk at a meat supply outlet. We happen to have a very nice, retail-friendly one in my area that I go to every few months or so.

  8. Yes! That is one of the first lessons we learned when money got tight! There are lots of ways to use meat sparingly as well as lots of yummy meals that you don’t have to use meat with at all. Now that we are on unemployment, I’m becoming a pro at using meat sparingly. 🙂 Great post, thanks!

  9. I’ve found it very helpful to make meals with meat as a “side” or an “add-in.” My husband is happy because he’s getting his meat, and I’m happy because we’re saving!

  10. Smell like I sound….lost in a crowd….and I’m hungry like the wolf…..

    Ah yes. Duran Duran.

    Great tips! 🙂

  11. Thanks so much for hosting! I recently moved to Israel and find that meat is often more expensive here, so use it less and less. Turkey is the cheapest and so I use it often. I also save money with recipes like the homemade pickles I submitted.

  12. We’ve been trying to use more grassfed beef and pastured chicken which is so much more expensive than conventional even with buying it from a meat buying club. I have to work on ways to stretch the meat this summer as I work on my meal planning. I have taken to including 2 meatless meals in my weekly meal plan. I also limit the number of packages of meat I get out like sausage, and then my dh slices the sausage to stretch it.

  13. To save money? We have 6 in our family. Hubs and I and 4 young ladies ages 17 to 28. I use a pound of turkey meat and make pasta gravy with it. I many times will use 3 chicken breasts and it does well in a gravy or sauce with some black olives thrown in. We are big eaters here, and I like to have plenty of food to eat and this serves us well. No chinching out here! ; ) Also it’s nice to throw in a can of beans or so, to add some bulk and nutrition. I have a chili I make that has the one pound of turkey meat, tomatoes, frozen bell peppers, onions and lot’s of beans and serve it with corn chips. It’s good! We try to always have cans of various beans and corn on hand to add bulk and usually serve greens on the side. Most gravies and sauces are served with brown rice or pasta. In the winter, soups are wonderful. And I have that pasta or rice to serve with the soup.

    Another way I save money is an investment of cloth for personal needs.

    Great posts here, very helpful community and a gracious hostess to boot.


  14. I find that in lots of dishes, I can cut the meat back by about half just by adding in other “fillers” – rice, beans, veggies, etc. In spaghetti sauce for example, you can use mushrooms, squash and peppers to fill in for some of the meat. Not only does it cut back on the meat costs, but it’s also more healthy and flavorful!

  15. Your pepper steak picture looks very yummy. Is there a recipe posted somewhere before? I dont eat beef, but I can easily imagine this looks good with chicken or seafood.

    1. @mamaJ, it is yummy — and I have made it with chicken. But, the recipe is in The Cookbook. 😉