Friday, November 4, 2011

Cooking for Carnivores (on a budget) - Buy It Cheap

This might seem a bit too obvious, but it's worth mentioning.  If you are cooking for carnivores you need to learn to find cheap meat!  There are some cuts of meat that are nearly always cheap:

  • Chicken drums, thighs, and leg quarters 
  • Whole chickens
  • Pork picnic roasts
  • Ribs
  • Canned tuna (I'm not sure that counts...)
And then there are the meats that you can snag a good deal on, if you look for it in your weekly ads or on a resource like Grocery Smarts:
  • Ground beef
  • Ground turkey
  • Pot roasts
  • Petite sirloin steaks
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • Sausages and bacon
  • Ham - around the holidays
  • Turkeys - again around the holidays
  • Corned beef in March
  • Lamb - around Passover if you are really lucky!
  • Fresh or frozen fish
  • Hot dogs...but I really don't count those. ;-)
Don't forget to look for a "reduced" section in your meat department - there are often killer deals to be had there, sometimes on cuts that are typically more expensive.  I once hit on a whole pile of T-bones...I bought all of them and stuck them in the freezer.  I've never had any problems with buying meat this way, following a few rules: I don't buy it if it is at or past its date, I don't buy it if it looks funny or is leaking excessively, and if I do buy it, I use it the same day, or I put it straight in the freezer when I get home.

The key to preparing cheaper cuts of meat is usually to cook it long and slow.  Four-hour pot roasts, stews that simmer on the stove or in the oven for hours, ribs that hang out in the crock pot all day with some BBQ sauce, pulled pork sandwiches - do NOT taste cheap!

We eat a lot of chicken drums and thighs.  They are very versatile.  Here is a favorite:

I rub the skins with butter (you could skip that if the idea of eating chicken skin + butter bothers you...we like it), then generously season.  Usually it's lots of garlic salt and rosemary; the one in the picture was made with Lawry's seasoned salt.  Bake it for an hour or so, and you're good.  If you tossed some potatoes in the oven at the same time, so much the better.  I make this a lot, because it is so cheap and extremely quick to get in the oven.  

What are your favorite cheaper cuts?  How do you prepare them?  I am always looking for new ideas!

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