Food & Finance - Protein

By: Roni

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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