Do you enjoy savory meat dishes but don’t want to spend the extra money on expensive cuts?
Want more plant-based meals, but still like the full flavor of meat?
Do you want meals that can be made ahead and served for multiple dinners?
Here’s our take on having it all and still working within a tight budget. We’ve also included a new Slow Cooked Herb Roast recipe and meal plan below. Let us know how you work meat or plant-based proteins into your family meals!
Pick Your Protein
On the nights you plan to serve meat with dinner, the best way to reduce your food cost is to choose less expensive cuts of meat. While ground meats are inexpensive, they can get boring if overused.
Regardless of which type of meat you choose, there is always a less expensive cut. These less expensive options are often the fattier cuts, which we love, or the tougher cuts. We’ll show you how to maximize the benefits of the fat and cook them to tender perfection!
Chicken on a Budget
An inexpensive rotisserie chicken is an easy way to have an already-made protein while saving time in the kitchen. Beware though. Stores tend to use smaller birds for rotisseries, making them more pricey per pound than you think. Roasting your own chicken once a week is a nice option though. It saves time and money throughout the week.
As for cheaper cuts of chicken, the drumstick is king. Use them on their own or as leg quarters with the thighs. These fattier cuts are more satisfying, less expensive, and more flavorful. Avoid getting bored with them by varying the sauces and spice mixtures you use to cook them.
In Always Delicious, we did an On-a-Budget Chicken Leg recipe (p. 116). Just add sauce and bake.
There are a variety of 5-minute sauces in both books to choose from. Just pour on sauce and bake any meat.
Try Ranchero Baked Chicken (AH p. 257).
Make a big batch of All-Purpose Seasoned Salt spice mix (AD p. 283). You can use it for everything from meatballs to chicken. Just mix in or sprinkle on top before baking.
Herb-Roasted Chicken Thighs recipe in Always Hungry? (p. 241) is a quick, easy and delicious alternative to cooking a whole chicken. Make a big batch and use leftovers in salads, wraps (see keto-friendly tortilla), stir-frys, or casseroles.
While ground meat is inexpensive, it can get boring. How about inexpensive roasts? They feed a large number of people with little effort and cost. Our recipe below makes use of either beef chuck roast, pork shoulder roast, or lamb shoulder roast. All are fattier, lower-cost cuts.
Slow-cooking or pressure cooking with rich flavors makes fattier, tougher cuts into tasty, tender, and juicy meals. These are not just your run of the mill pot roast. We’ll even show you a less expensive way to extend the flavor, increase the protein, and support your health as you do it.
Reduce Meat Costs by Mixing in Plant-Based Proteins
For most people, the easiest way to decrease their food budget is by going vegetarian a few nights per week. This is a great solution for many families and also a good way to add variety to your diet. Have you tried all of our vegetarian options yet?
Before you dismiss it, consider that tofu is one of the most versatile proteins available. It is inexpensive and easy to use. The best and worst part of tofu is that it is bland. However, it takes on the flavors of anything you put with it. Therefore, the key to tofu is seasoning it thoroughly with flavors you love. Use it to extend everything from your ground meats to your roasts and shredded meats or even eggs.
Both Always Hungry? and Always Delicious offer Vegetarian Variations at the end of most meat recipes. Take a look at a few of them like the Tempeh Shepherd’s Pie (AH p.238), Thai Peanut Tempeh or Tofu (AH p. 258), Marinara Primavera (AH p. 234), Smoke-Dried Tomato Seitan (AD p. 73), Salmon Salad (AH p. 254), or the all time favorite, Black Bean Tofu Hash (AH p.222)
Stretch Your Selection with Creative Leftovers
Once you’ve chosen a cut of meat and prepared it in your slow cooker, you might find that you have quite a bit of fat left over at the bottom. Toss in a pound or two of tofu cubes with some extra herbs and salt, add a bit of water or wine as needed, and simmer for 15 minutes or more. You’ll be amazed how much flavor the tofu soaks up! It’s an absolutely delicious and fully satisfying way to double the value of your meat. Get two meals for the price of one! That’s a smart way to budget.
If you cook bacon, use the leftover fat as a base for a tofu dish. The smoky flavor of bacon with permeate the tofu and enhance whatever herbs and spices you add.
This also works by starting out with using less meat in a recipe and adding tofu. That way you can buy smaller cuts of meat and still have enough to feed the whole family. Remember that tofu soaks up more flavor, so increase your herbs, spices, and salt to accommodate the tofu in your recipes. For the recipe below, see the Variation for directions to accomplish this.
Herb Roast Recipe
Ready to try for yourself? This recipe is a flavorful, savory dish that the whole family will love. It’ll definitely feel like a special treat without the extra expense. Slow-cooking or pressure-cooking means you can make these ahead of time and have them ready when you get home for dinner.
2.5 pounds boneless shoulder roast (lamb shoulder or beef chuck; if using beef chuck, increase to 2.75 pounds to account for lower fat content)
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
1 cup red or white wine (we used white, but red would work)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Heat the olive oil in a pressure cooker on the sauté setting or in a stovetop-safe slow cooker insert, Dutch oven, or slow cooker over medium heat.
Add the herbs and stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
Place the roast in the oil and cook, turning regularly, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 to 10 minutes total.
Add the wine and water. Pressure cook for 70 minutes. (If using a slow cooker on low, cook on low for 8 hours or medium for 4 to 5. If using a Dutch oven, cover and simmer over low heat for about 2 hours).
The roast will become juicy and tender, resembling an almost stew-like consistency. The meat will be tender enough to easily shred as you stir it. This allows the juices to be distributed back into the meat. Truly delicious!
Variation: Extend the dish with Plant-based Protein
Swap 1.5 pounds of the meat for 1.5 pounds of tofu. Increase the oil to 3 Tablespoons and increase the spices by about half to account for tofu’s ability to absorb more flavor (Rosemary, thyme, and salt would increase to 1 teaspoon, while sage and ground pepper increase to 3/4 teaspoon). Stir in the tofu after the meat is browned, then cook as directed.
As a Phase 1 meal, serve with a slow carb like a bowl of Split Pea Soup (Always Delicious Page 161) and 1/4 cup berries for dessert.