Thursday, March 17, 2011

Life On Weight Watchers . . . On Plan, On a Budget - Protein, Protein, Protein!

I am a meat eater.
I love red meat, white meat, dark meat, light meat.
If it once walked upon the ground, clucked, swam, mooed, baa'd, gobbled or oinked, chances are I will LOVE it.
But it's not easy to be carnivorous in this day and age.
Have you SEEN the price of chicken?
And let's not discuss the cost of lean beef or lamb.
So, how do we get our protein in without hurting our budget?

First -

Buy chicken breast in bulk, on sale, and only buy it once a month. A bulk package of chicken comes with 10-12 breasts and usually runs about $10-12. This is a MEGA bargain and one that you should NOT pass up. Buy one or two packages, separate the breasts out into 1 and 2 breast portions.

Now, here's the fun part about chicken breasts - if you have a food scale weigh one - just one. It will probably weigh about 6-8 oz. This is TWICE the serving size of 3-4 oz. So, nights that you want just some grilled chicken, take one and cut it in half horizontally. This will give you a correct portion size, while stretching your meat budget.

Another option is to create a casserole, soup, stew, or chili using 1 or 2 chicken breasts - for the entire recipe. If you need to, you can bulk with extra veggies or beans. This is a trick I've been doing for YEARS. Two chicken breasts in a casserole is MORE than enough to feed a family of 6.

Chicken Legs
Drumsticks are one of the best bargains out there. Very VERY low in points and cheap. You can buy a bulk package of drumsticks for about half the cost of a bulk package of breasts. And you can do anything with them. Roast them with the skin on or pull off the skin and cook them in some barbecue sauce (who likes rubbery barbecue chicken skin anyway?).

Chicken Thighs
These are way cheaper than breasts as well - buy them boneless and skinless and treat them like you would a breast. Plan on one - and ONLY one - per person.

Okay, lets face it, red meat is WAY to expensive to serve on a daily basis, as much as I hate to admit it. Come to think of it, even ground beef has gotten up there in price. So here are a few tricks -

Ground Beef:
Well, simplest here - don't buy it. You can get ground dark meat turkey AND ground turkey breast for less than ground beef if you buy it in the packaged rolls (you pay way more for Styrofoam packaging). If you HAVE to have beef every once in a while, buy in the packaged rolls. If you can find lean or extra lean ground beef in bulk and on sale, though, snatch it up because that price will be comparable to the ground turkey.

Oh, I am a girl that loves her some steak. Give me a rib eye as big as my head and I am a happy girl, let me tell ya'. But steak is just not a practical purchase for a mommy on a budget. Unless you learn some sneaky tricks (like me) - You can buy pre-packaged frozen steaks in most supermarkets. These will be smaller in size (ideal for WW's) but will also cost less than buying them from the fresh meat counter. There are also some wonderful bacon wrapped chopped steaks that are to DIE for when they're grilled up. And yes, even with the bacon, they're WW friendly!

Other cuts
Flank steak, rump roast, and briskets still top the charts for the least expensive cuts on the market. Trim them well (especially the brisket!) and marinade or brine them for up to 24 hours to tenderize them, then cook them low and slow - think crock pot, smoker, or oven for 3-4 hours.

Pork is fairly inexpensive when compared with chicken or beef, and is very versitile. You can buy "mixed pork chops" which will have some bone in and some bone out chops. Trim them up, take the bone in ones off the bone, cut the meat into strips and you have meat ready to go for stir fries or fajitas!

Even boneless pork chops can be budget friendly - I buy a bulk package, pull some out to grill that night and freeze the rest for later in 1 and 2 chop packages.

Pork tenderloins can be a bit pricey, so buy a 2 pack once a month (on sale), split it in 1/2 and freeze both loins separately.

Turkey is one of the most versatile meats available out there. Loins, breasts, drumsticks, ground . . . You can do anything with this meat.

Ground turkey is a wonderful substitute for ground beef in just about everything. Meatloaves, meatballs, sauces, soups, skillets, even burgers - and it's about 1/2 the price of lean ground beef. Look for ground turkey in packaged rolls rather than Styrofoam packages - you'll save a TON.

Turkey loins can run about the same price as a pork loin, but they're usually a bit larger. Like their pork counterparts, buy them on sale!

Turkey breasts are a great alternative to a whole roasted turkey, especially in families where everyone fights over the breast meat. You can also slow cook them in a crock pot with some barbecue sauce and make a wonderful pulled turkey sandwich.

Turkey legs are a bargain and you can buy them raw or smoked. If you buy them smoked, they're a great alternative to a ham hock or bacon in a pot of beans. Raw can be roasted, boiled, broiled, grilled, smoked . . . Very versatile, VERY delicious and VERY VERY inexpensive!

Oh, how I love a good lamb chop.
Sadly, even on sale lamb is still way to expensive for this mommy's pocketbook.
So we save Mary's cute little friends for special occasions.

Salmon is SUPER expensive unless you can get it frozen and on sale. I stick to tilapia or cod,  which are relatively cheaper. You can dredge them in bread crumbs and bake them and your kids will think they're eating fish sticks!

When it comes to shellfish, shrimp is going to be the best bargain. Stick to buying it frozen with the shell and tail on - it will be much better quality that way. And unless you live directly on the coast, chances are that "fresh" shrimp your buying has been frozen and re-thawed. This actually goes for ALL shellfish and most fish.

You DO know that you can get protein from other sources, right?
Of course you did!
Tofu, beans, peanut butter, nuts, lentils . . . these are all wonderful meatless alternatives that will give you your protein allowance for the day. And each of them are a LOT less expensive than meat. Although . . . Not quite as fun to eat!

There you have it - Meat on a budget.
Some further tips -
Once a week, go meatless! Serve beans, spaghetti with no meat, stuffed mushrooms, veggie stir fries.
ALWAYS buy in bulk and buy ON SALE when it comes to the terrestrial meats.
Don't make meat the star of the meal - use it in casseroles, soups, stews and bulk with lots of veggies and a few whole grains!

Here's to Being Losers in 2011!


Michelle Saunderson said...

Great post. One thing that I am starting to do is to replace ground beef in recipes with ground pork. It is so much cheaper and it gets you away from poultry all the time. Also, my favorite on the grill are pork steaks. These are cheaper than pork chops, but have a little more fat. That means they cook up without being dry....mmmmm. By the way, you can cut off the fat too.

135by2012 said...

Great post!! IT's funny how prices are different throughout. For me, in CA - turkey is super expensive. I find the ground beef much cheaper. I always stock up when there is a sale.

We have a grocery store out here called Sprouts Farmers Market. They have excellent meat choices at decent prices. I can find boneless, skinless chicken breasts for 1.99 a pound.

We also just roasted our first chicken at 99 cents a pound. It was a great bargin and went a long way all week,