One of the hardest things to accomplish on a tight grocery budget is providing adequate, quality protein.
Lets face it, meat is expensive. The higher the quality, the higher the price. It’s an unfortunate dilemma.
Though Gabriel and I raise grass-fed beef, and therefore don’t have much of a problem filling our freezer with quality meat, still, we try not to be excessive.
Here’s a few tricks we’ve gleaned and put into practice to help keep our budget in check without overloading on the carbs.
- Use meat as a seasoning, instead of the main ingredient. For instance, we’re having baked beans tonight, with a bit of meat added to them, instead of say, steak.
- Eat beans! Most of us have probably had that one drilled into us. Beans are a great source of vegetarian protein, blah, blah, blah. But it’s true! And they can be prepared in so many tasty ways. if you’re worried about the undesirable side effects (flattulence. Ew.), this is probably the quick fix answer you want, but your body will adapt and the, er, side effects will subside.
- Eat more eggs! Eggs are so good for you! and they’re usually a pretty inexpensive source of protein. If, like me, you want nothing to do with supermarket eggs, and find that big city farmer’s markets are too pricey for you, never fear! There is someone, usually more than one someone, with a prolific flock of chickens in every area who are drowning in eggs. Sometimes they put “farm fresh egg” signs near the highway, but you can’t really depend on that. Try feed store bulletin boards, small town newspaper classifieds, and even craigslist.
- Use chickpeas and lentils as meat stretchers. For instance, lentils can be added to taco meat, and your family may not even know the difference. Start out with a small amount and work your way up. Chickpeas are also a great addition to tuna or chicken salad.
- Find other areas in your budget to tighten up, leaving more room for meat. For instance, buying dry beans and making our own refried beans is significantly cheaper than buying canned refried beans, which leaves more cash in that grocery envelope for beef! As a side benefit, there aren’t any preservatives in homemade refried beans.
You can also do lots of sneaky little things like putting an egg and some oatmeal in hamburgers – or even chopped veggies or mashed beans. Go heavy on the beans, and try adding rice to burrito filling – I do this when I’m feeding a lot of people – no one notices. I keep mentioning burritos because they’re so great at stretching meat. By the time you get beans and veggies on your tortilla, there’s just not a lot of room for too much meat.
Feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments. We’re always looking for more!