We have all noticed rising meat prices. In Australia there is a major and long lasting drought and this is one of the reasons for it here. But still very often I am shocked at the price of meat. And the things that were once cheap are no longer. It is nothing for even ground meat (mince) to be $15 a kilo.
So that will be my first tip... just because something used to be the cheaper option it may no longer be! Don't assume your old favourite is still better value. Look elsewhere!
My Nan used to cook a Sunday roast lunch for the whole family. We would go to church them meet at Nan and Pa's for a beautiful roast meal. From memory there were usually ten or so of us. As a kid it never once occurred to me how much this would have cost my Grandparents. I do know they used to study the catalogues and specials and store hop to get them. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realised some of the yummy things I loved were in fact clever ways Nan made the meat go much further. She had many tricks and no one noticed! And this is the thing... no one does notice. When the food is delicious and stomaches are full everyone is just happy!
We always had a lot of different vegetables and side dishes. One I have mentioned before is a really simple one Nan made to go with roast meat. It was a cooked up mix of onion, tomato, zucchini and whatever else was on hand and baked with bread crumbs and cheese over the top. I loved this. I make it every Christmas day in memory of Nan. You can find this recipe here. And it there are left overs of this I make little spaces in the pie plate and crack eggs into them. Then I bake it as a breakfast or brunch. It is delicious!
Nan very often served soup and/or desert. These in themselves fill you up or in the case of hungry teenagers and hard working people they slow them down!
After we all went home I know Nan used every bit of meat and any left overs! The bone from the roast then became the base of a soup. One of her soups I have never been quite able to replicate but it was the bone from the roast lamb, soup bean mix, loads of veggies and pepper. This was all cooked down and blended. I grew up on my bowls of this delicious soup. After a roast the bone still has just a ton of goodness and a surprising amount of meat left on it.
Roast chickens or turkeys were made into stock. A stock has so much goodness and then is a nutritious base for further soups. You can also cook your rice or pasta in stock rather than water to add extra goodness. If you freeze some stock (or can it) whenever there is sickness in the house you can make chicken soup very quickly. Both itself is so full of nutrients. I am noticing bone broth now is the in thing and sold in supermarkets. I use the tip to add a seals of vinegar to the bones you are cooking up to draw out the goodness.
This is how Mum and Nan talked. Cooking for your family was about giving them nourishment and as much "goodness" as possible. It wasn't meant to be fancy, it was meant to be nutritious. The water from cooking veggies and the juices in the pan from roasting all were used as they all had nutrients. Pan juices and vegetable water made the gravy. Full of goodness! It would have been a crime to pour something with nutrients in it down the drain. It went into something. Think about this. What goodness do you waste?
One of the most expensive types of meats are deli meats. All the sliced up and packaged hams are incredibly expensive. If you work out the price per kilo it is shocking. Also generally they have preservatives and things added. Going to the deli and buying it there rather than the pre packaged ones is cheaper but still expensive. Neither Mum nor Nan ever bought this. And neither do I.
Instead left over roast meat or extra meat was roasted, usually on a Sunday. When it was cold it was sliced up thinly to make up sandwiches and rolls for the working week (or school week). I still do this. I always watch out for meat on special that can be roasted. If I find a ham I will still roast that as it improves it so much. Most often we will have some dinners from it and many things make from the cold roast meat. It is not a small saving. Packaged deli meats mostly work out from $30 to $40 a kilo. You have a whole chicken for $10. There is no comparison. Lately the cheapest roast meat has been chicken but I see specials and markdowns and swoop! After Christmas and New Year I found hams marked down and this was a great way to build up lunch meats supplies. A piece of corned beef cooking in the slow cooker will make lots of lunches. If you roll your cooked corned beef in cracked pepper and a little oil and roast this, then you have Pastrami!! Once cold slice that thinly. It will give you just a ton of "deli meat." Because this has a strong flavour it will go further too!
That gets me to my next point. If you have family members who are big meat eaters and object to meatless meals then choosing meats with a big flavour impact gives the impression of more. Bacon, chorizo, salami etc. all have a big burst of flavour and you don't need much. So you can make pizza, fried rice, frittatas, salads, cheese boards etc all seem to be meaty but for very little. Some things are perception, it is not really a meat meal it more has meat as a garnish.
Of course then you have meatless meals too. I always serve protein so if we have a meatless meal it will be based around eggs or cheese mostly.
Different countries have their own special "stretch the meat" tricks. The English have Yorkshire Puddings and I notice these are becoming popular here. Indian cuisine has so many beautiful sauces and spices and Naan Bread so that with all of these little bowls of sides you have a surprisingly small meat dish that just goes miles.
We are so lucky now that any skill we want to learn is as simple as a quick search on You Tube or a bit of a Google to find instructions. I like that you can Google "How to...." basically anything! And there are really simple instructions and pictures for a free lesson. If you don't already know how to make stock or bone broth then next time you have bones from a roast learn these skills. Then learn how to add this goodness to another meal. Try some recipes and make a tray of Yorkshire Puddings! Or my Nans Tomato pie. Use what you have too as your number one meal stretcher!
Very often my meaty meals are a slow cooker casserole. I put in a lot of vegetables. They are usually served then with more vegetables, rice or mashed potato. So my cook up makes a lot of meals.
The soft cooked down meat from the slow cooker is just ideal to make up meat pies. And they freeze well. Your pies are a very good all in one meal. The type of thing to pull out of the freezer when life has meant you are too busy or unwell to bake.
You can find some good combinations for the slow cooker and pie making here. (And some of my saving calculations I did at the time.) I just keep ready pastry on hand in the freezer as so often a bit of meat and a few veggies get me an extra dinner... or several. Even if not enough for a meal I might have enough for a couple of individual little pies to use for a lunch. Very handy!
Sometimes I will not have much meat left but still get out the pie maker and make some pies for dinner or to put away for later. A big stretcher of left overs!
A lady I spoke to in the supermarket last week told me how she is a basic cook and her daughter and son in law are foodies and they came to dinner. She was a bit nervous as the SIL is new to the family. And at home they have pretty fancy meals. But she thought she would go with what she knows and she did roast beef with lots of roast veggies and gravy. Well, the son in law could not stop talking about how beautiful it was! It was if an old fashioned roast dinner was a new invention! And really who can beat this? Some things are classics for a reason!
When I do a roast now it is just the two of us I cook extra veggies. When I plate up I serve dinner and then another dinner goes into a casserole dish. Then I skip a night and we have a roast meal again. This gives me a night off! Left over meat becomes lunches. Last week I still had meat so I made up a heap of rolls and froze them. I stick to roast meat, butter, pepper and maybe mustard or cheese. Andy loves them and these freeze perfectly. Even if he is driving into town he will grab a roll to take with him. These save us a lot.
I loved a tip from Jamie Oliver which was to make a whole heap of extra stuffing and cook it in a loaf pan. This way each person doesn't just get stuffing from inside a chicken or turkey but there is a ton extra. Genius! I always liked the stuffing best when I was a kid. Imagine how much further a roast would go with slices of stuffing added to the plate!
Mum used to make left over roast meat fritters. Usually they had roast meat, corn, egg, flour and milk to make a fritter and fry it. As kids we loved these. Of course there are Shepherds Pies also.
I hear lots of ladies say that if they make planned left overs they are just eaten. Well, I have been through this. You have to be tricky. You can ask "would anyone like anymore?" and have extra rice, veggies or other bits and pieces. Or dessert. But you need to have dealt with and hidden the meat! I usually serve up what I want for the next meal and set it well aside. I also write on things i.e. "Friday nights dinner" so there are no illusions it is free to eat! You have to do what works for you here but there is nothing wrong with teaching kids about the budget, planing etc. We were never free to just raid the fridge. We always asked if there was anything to eat. My daughters were not free to help themselves either. I always had afternoon tea ready after school and THIS was afternoon tea. They didn't go grab what was set aside to be lunches, dinners etc. So if you have good plans messed up by others then change what you do. Keeping in the budget is important!
The area of menu planning is another big thing here. Plan around what you already have and what you find on great deals or markdowns. I have stalked the mark down person many times for some great deals! I get asked how am I so lucky on finding mark downs? How do I know when is the best time to find them? There is no science to it, I just ask the staff. I have never had anyone refuse to tell me. Most of the staff also are on budgets and find meat expensive! So I just ask and try to shop at the good times. Also if possible I shop late when I know that store will be closed tomorrow. I follow the catalogues and Facebook pages of butchers and meat wholesalers. One wholesaler we found has a weekly email. Some of their best specials have been just incredible! I have also phone butchers and asked questions like "what would be your best price on 50 kilos of ground beef?" as often buying a big lot of something and dividing it up yourself saves a lot of money. And asking can't hurt, right?
Packaging is another... buying a whole side of lamb or some kind of bulk pack can save you a lot but, yes, then you need to package it up into nice meal sized portions for your family. But this is a huge saver. I also do mixed grill packs where there is a smaller serving of steak or lamb but also a sausage per person. When you need to serve up a BBQ and feel you need a lot of meat mix it up... a little bit of streak and a lot of sausages, burgers, onion rings, potato bake, salads, breads... it can be all smoke and mirrors that you spent a lot on meat.
Now there are lots of other ways to stretch a meal i.e. beans, textured vegetable protein... I will leave some of these to you as these are two I don't do. However I do add granted carrot to sausage roll meat and I put lots of grated or chopped veggies into my spaghetti bolognese sauce mix. And a lot of onion. I would say I double my volume of meat easily with zucchini, capsicum, spinach, mushrooms, parsley... depending on what I have. No one even knows it is there. In fact if you are a Mum wishing to get more veggies into the kids look up Jamie Oliver's seen veg sauce. Once you have this you can make pasta, pizza etc all so full of veggies!
To make meat sauce go further with pasta you can make a lasagne with some layers of vegetables instead of the meat sauce and your cheese sauce or béchamel sauce really fills up the dish and is delicious. So if I am making a spaghetti dish I will often do a cheese sauce also .... this will usually mean I end up with heaps of meat sauce left for other meals.
You can sneak a lot of extras into curries, meatloaf, casseroles. The sky is the limit really. To each you can add so many side dishes. It is time to get creative!
When shopping look in the places you usually skip. The price of chicken will vary widely depending on the cut. It is often cheaper to get a whole chicken than two chicken breasts! Then the prices will vary from what is in the fresh meat section to what is over in the deli section. Then explore the freezer section. For some recipes you could also consider canned. Don't assume which will be the best deal. The deli section of the supermarket often has amazing end of the day specials too. A few years ago I stocked up big time on turkeys from the freezer section after New Years Day. Suddenly they just decided enough with turkeys and cleared them all out! My only restraint was freezer space.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Break out of your usual shops and routines. Try markets, supermarkets that are further away, wholesalers... if you know someone who has a business maybe they will let you shop at their wholesaler? Try new recipes. Learn learn learn!
Attend to re packaging and freeze your meat. Letting things sit in the fridge until you figure out what to do with it can lead to wasted product. Add a side dish so maybe your dinners worth of protein will in fact be enough for two nights. Use things up as they need using rather than cooking "what you feel like" and menu plan this way!
Really old style cook books tend to be wonderful for basic ingredients and using up the cheaper cuts of meat. I use my slow cooker a lot. Meats that are tougher or harder to deal with turn out melt in your mouth tender. Some thing that has turned out tough can be re cooked and made into pies. I have had a few things that were less than spectacular that I have added a sauce to, cooked for the whole day in the slow cooker, and turned into tender and good pie filing!
If you have tips on how you save in this area, things your Nanna used to make or other tips please do share. Between us and the different countries we come from we can probably come up with so many more savings.
Have a good new week! It is a public holiday here for us tomorrow. It has been drizzling... I hope it keeps going! xxx
The little birds...
If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.
Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.