Economical Menu Planning

To save money on food, try thinking about your menu differently.  With skyrocketing beef prices, it may be time to take a harder look at what you're buying.  Instead of choosing dishes and then adding the ingredients to your shopping list, list the protein items you use most frequently. Buy them only on sale, and store them in meal size portions. Then you can select your menu from your food storage. These are ideas for those who don’t home can. If you do, you have even more options.
Obviously, these all don’t go on sale at the same time, so I may purchase and package something only every few weeks or so – this makes it not as much work as it sounds.  I store each type of meat in a separate Dollar Store plastic basket in the freezer.
See if your meal planning isn’t simpler and your grocery bills lower, and your freezer and refrigerator easier to organize.
Remember that protein servings are generally 3-4 ounces - about the size of a deck of cards.  Portion out your meat, put away "planned overs" before you serve your meal and let hungry eaters fill up on bread and butter, not your meat for another meal, like Mom and Grandma did.  
If you make a casserole, however, that starts with an expensive can of soup, sour cream, cheese and then meat too, it might be cheaper to have a small portion of plain meatloaf and some vegetables.  

Some Lower Cost Protein Choices
Ham
• Chefs salads, pasta or rice salads, casseroles, added to soups and beans, “breakfast for supper”, scalloped potatoes or cabbage, etc.,  ham salad,creamed on cornbread,or sliced ham sandwiches.
Pork Loin or Shouder
• Roasts -  barbeque sandwiches, “Cuban” sandwiches, casseroles, “hot pork” sandwiches with gravy and mashed potatoes, soups and stews
• Chops -  can be grilled, baked, fried with cream gravy, baked with sauerkraut, browned and cut up for soups and stews, stir-fries or casseroles, etc.
Chicken
Breasts or thighs or whole chickens, whichever is often on sale and your family likes.
• Portioned for grilling, sautéing, baking
• Poached with seasoned broth and used cooked for salads, sandwiches, pot pies, casseroles, creamed on biscuits, noodles or mashed potatoes, etc., etc.
Eggs and cheeses
• Hard cooked eggs for creamed eggs or eggs a la king on toast or cornbread, as the protein in casseroles or salads. Also use eggs in quiche, custard-based rice or noodle casseroles, or as “breakfast for supper” type meals.
• Cheese can be used in vegetable chowders, casseroles like Mac and cheese, Mexican and Italian dishes, grilled or not for sandwiches, au gratin vegetable dishes used as main dishes, salads, etc.  
I shred, cube or cut cheese into smaller blocks and freeze cheese in smaller freezer bags.  It keeps perfectly well for cooking, sandwiches and salads, and I never have dried-out or moldy cheese any more.  I can buy larger amounts of cheese on sale this way.
Beans
• Soups, which freeze well, salads of many kinds, Mexican dishes, chilies, many other ethnic dishes.  Try canning or freezing your cooked beans to make using them easier and faster.
Ground Beef
Perhaps grinding a cheaper roast in your food processor or meat grinder will be less expensive, and you know what is in it.  Directions Here.
• Grilled patties, Salisbury steaks, meatloaf, soups, casseroles, Mexican and Italian dishes, sloppy Joe’s, etc.
• Meatballs for soups and stews, added to gravy or Spaghetti sauce over pasta or noodles, in barbecue-type sauces, etc.  Meatballs freeze well, make them in quantity for fast meals.  Directions here.
Try adding a few beans to stretch some of your beef recipes.  I stretch leftover chili and beans with pasta or rice, for example, 2 servings can make 4 that way.
Pot Roast
• Roasted with vegetables, planned-overs used as hot beef sandwiches, barbeque, in gravy or cream sauce over noodles or rice, in soups and stews, cold sandwiches, ground into sandwich fillings with mayo and pickles, etc.
Seafood
Seafood and fish, with the exception of tuna and tilapia, are not inexpensive for us here in the Midwest.  You may have to look at what is least expensive that your family likes where you live.  Of course, I can remember when tuna came in 7 ounce cans, not the 5 ounce ones today.   
Protein isn't just found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products.  Beans, breads, cereals contain protein too...and many traditional dishes like beans and rice, beansoup and cornbread, cereal and milk, macaroni and cheese, eggs and toast, take advantage of the idea of "complimentary proteins" to give you healthful meals.

1 comment:

  1. Great tips and information on keeping your protein costs down. Please feel free to share any of your real food and homesteading posts on Tuesday Greens over on www.craftygardenmama.com. Have a great week!

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