In this last post in the series on cooking with frugal ingredients, we come to the most expensive part of the grocery budget (unless you’re vegan): meat.
I’ve written previously on how to save money on meat. To make the biggest savings, combine the tips from that article with the tips below.
This article focuses on what the cheap meat cuts are and the best ways to cook them.
Cheap Meat Cuts and How to Cook Them
While expensive cuts are more tender than cheaper cuts, cheaper meat cuts have more flavour. So cheaper cuts of meat are a win on two counts: cost and taste.
Because they are less tender, you need to cook the cheaper cuts differently. But that makes them perfect for your slow cooker, saving you time as well!
A grocery savings trifecta.
The different cuts of beef can be a bit confusing because there are so many names for the same cut of meat!
However, as a rule of thumb, the cheaper cuts are usually from the tougher muscles (like the shoulder or shin) and are best cooked long and slow.
Chuck / Blade / Shoulder – Best slow-cooked (think beef pie or casserole) or braised. The steaks can also be barbequed and pan fried but don’t overcook them otherwise they will dry out.
Brisket – Best slow-cooked, braised or smoked on the barbeque.
Silverside – Corned silverside is best poached. You can also get silverside roasts (not corned) that are cheaper than other roasts, which can be roasted or braised.
Shin (Gravy Beef) – Best slow-cooked or braised so a great cut for casseroles.
Skirt or Flank steak – Best cooked quickly on high heat in the pan, under the grill. This makes a great steak sandwich or you can marinate the steak for fajitas or stir fry. Minute steak is often the same as flank steak. Cook on a really hot grill or pan for just a minute for tender steak!
Neck or Scrag – Best slow-cooked or braised. One of my all time favourite stews is this slow cooked lamb neck stew. Make sure you buy lamb neck chops.
Shoulder or Forequarter – Lamb shoulder is best slow-cooked, braised or slow roasted. Forequarter chops can be pan fried, barbequed, grilled (broiled), braised (as in Irish stew) and slow-cooked.
Shank – Not as cheap as it used to be (thanks, Master Chef!), but still a cheaper option. Best slow-cooked or braised.
Shoulder – best slow roasted, slow-cooked or braised. Makes excellent pulled pork.
All cuts of chicken are cheap compared to beef, lamb and pork, but the cheapest of the chicken cuts are as follows.
Whole Chicken – Great for roasting and then using the bones to make your own stock. You can also cook your chook in the slow cooker or portion it yourself into smaller cuts.
Drumsticks – Roast, slow cook, braise or fry. Great for marinating.
Wings – Roast or fry. Another cut perfect for marinating. Honey-soy marinated wings are my go-to plate to bring to a BBQ.
Thighs – Roast, slow cook or pan fry or barbeque.
Tip: Check out turkey instead of chicken for cheap bird meat.
Mince – Mince (beef, lamb, pork, chicken or wild meat like kangaroo) is both cheap and versatile. It can be pan fried as is or formed into patties and fried, grilled (broiled), braised (think meatballs in tomato sauce), slow-cooked, barbecued or roasted.
Sausages – Cheap man’s meat, sausages can be pan fried, barbequed, grilled (broiled), roasted or braised or slow-cooked in a casserole.
Bacon – While you can definitely eat bacon as it is pan fried, grilled or roasted, because of its full flavour, it’s great as a flavour enhancer where a little goes a long way. Add a little to a vegetable pie, for instance, for a meaty flavour without a lot of meat.
Offal – Of all the meat products, offal is the cheapest as well as the most nutritious, albeit an acquired taste. Check out this post on ways to eat offal.
Tinned fish – Tinned tuna and salmon are inexpensive pantry staples that can be added to pasta, made into casseroles or patties. Small fish like herring, sardines and kippers are high in Omega-3 and because they replenish quicker, are more sustainable to eat. Kippers on toast for breakfast is a great way to start the day.
Dairy – Dairy foods, especially hard cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yoghurt, are also a cheaper way to get protein, B12, zinc and a whole host of other nutrients.
You don’t need to stop eating meat entirely if you want to save money on the groceries, but it pays to get to know your cheap meat cuts and how to best cook them, so you can save while still eating meat. Cooking with cheaper cuts, combined with the tips in this article on saving money on meat, will help you to reduce your grocery budget.