If you are a meat eater you can’t have helped but notice increasing prices recently, in fact all food has shot up in price. There is a combination of reasons. A poor wheat crop last year (which has a knock on effect on animal feed costs), fluctuating currency values, and if you believe the larger corporations Brexit has had a big impact (although in many of these larger corporations’ cases I think they are using it as a good excuse for a price hike).
The most important thing to keep you food bills down is to avoid waste. For this we make use of a chest freezer, but even without a large freezer you can cut down on wastage. Meal plan, only buy what you need, don’t shop whilst hungry, and checking out offers online before you head out shopping are all good ways to start cutting back on the food bill. To reduce waste keep an eye on best before and use by dates, if you have a meal plan rotate the meals around so that you use up anything looking a little limp and lifeless before it turns. If you have a freezer double up recipes and freeze up extras.
Making Meat Stretch
Vegetarian meals on the whole tend to be cheaper. Pulses and lentils are so cheap in comparison, and are the perfect way to bulk out a meal and stretch a small amount of meat.
For chilli con carne, spag bol, shepherds pie, and other mince based dishes try a mix with red lentils. 50/50 mince and red lentils and you will still have a meaty meal, but a lot cheaper and some would argue healthier too. Just increase the fluids in the recipe as the lentils will absorb this. For stews add in more vegetables, the same with a roast – try doing 4 veg and a few extra spuds. All cheaper on the budget, but still a meaty meal.
Cheap Cuts of Meat
If you don’t fancy making meat stretch, another way to cut costs is to buy cheaper cuts of meat. If long and slow cooking any meat can be made tender and delicious. Adding a little wine also helps loosen the tougher joints. I’d suggest buying a slow cooker to make the most of cheap cuts. The long slow cooking is perfect for them, and the slow cooker uses very little electricity so helps to keep fuel bills down too.
Beef shin, skirt, and brisket are all budget friendly. For chicken buy a whole chicken and either joint it yourself or roast and make tumble down meals and stock (roast – chicken pie – risotto). Pork joints can often be picked up cheap, and ham hocks are great for a slow cooked cheap eat.
Another thing to consider is organ meats. I think it is such a shame (and environmental disaster) that we have moved away from eating the whole animal over the past 50 years, whilst also increasing our meat consumption by 300%! Heart, liver, and kidney are the most easily purchased. Ox heart is amazingly “meaty” and has, in my opinion, the least “offally” taste of organ meats. I find it stews up wonderfully in stock and tomatoes. Make sure to cook low and slow or it can become very rough.
This week I used a combination of beef stewing steak, ox heart, and ox liver to make a mince. We were lucky enough to be gifted an old kenwood processor with all the attachments. I was rather excited about this, especially the mincer as I’d been tempted to buy one on a few occasions in the past. I coarse minced 400g stewing steak, 500g ox heart, and 100g ox liver then mixed it up. Remember that liver is very liquidy once mixed so you don’t want more than 1/5 of the mix liver or it becomes too sloppy. Once minced I portioned into 2 x 500g and froze half.
The 500g muscle and organ meat mince I then used to batch cook some chilli con carne. I soaked (for 12hours over night) and then cooked 200g red kidney beans. This also helped bulk out the mince further. This made enough for 2 adults and a three year old for 3 (maybe 4) meals once served with rice and/or tortillas. I’ve also recently been gifted a tortilla press so am having a lot of fun making my own corn tortillas with masa harina.
Now, neither Gary nor Gabe will touch ox liver normally. They loved the chilli. The mixing with other cuts helped, and then the spices too. I’d suggest if new to organ meats that spices are your friend, then once your are used to the slightly different taste and mouth feel to more on to more adventurous recipes.