As a dietitian, people often assume I’m a vegetarian. Nope. I will never be a vegetarian. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult for me to give meat up but I don’t want to and frankly, I don’t need to. Assuming you purchase lean cuts, meat serves as a great source of quality protein, iron, zinc, and especially Vitamin B12. If you want to lose weight and your past attempts at dieting have failed, you may want to look into a high protein diet. In this case, meat offers a great source since 3 ounces (the size of a deck of cards) has 21 grams or protein. However, in case you haven’t noticed, the price of meat has been climbing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), ground beef has risen 8% and chicken has gone up 6% between June 2011 and 2012. So what’s the trick to consuming meat but not going over budget?
The Flexitarian approach
I didn’t make the word up. It’s simply a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” It means that you eat more of a plant based diet and use meat to flavor your dish. It’s both economically and environmentally smart. Since meat and poultry make up the biggest chunk of the grocery bill, it makes sense to cut down on your purchase of these items while reducing greenhouse gases. This approach has saved my husband and I a lot of money and has encouraged us to consume more produce. You may argue that buying more produce will only make up for reducing the amount of meat purchased, but I’d counter your argument with the fact that you just need to do some price checking and switch up from canned, frozen, and fresh. Canned and frozen produce are often just as healthy if not better than fresh if you know what to look for.
This week I made a stir fry. I bought a pound of flank steak for $5.37 with a coupon and stretched it into a full dinner for the bottomless pit I call my husband and a full portion for me. I also got to pack a second meal for us to take for lunch the next day. I thinly sliced the steak and added veggies like broccoli, portabella mushrooms, and snap peas. Fresh snap peas were over $1 for a pound, so I went with the frozen pound on sale for less than $1. I usually buy dried brown rice in bulk, cook a big batch, and freeze it. This made my life easy when I prepared dinner this week because all I had to do was pull out my “minute rice” and warm it back up.
Breakfast of Champions
Eggs make a weekly appearance on our menu. They are a cheap and versatile source of protein. Don’t be afraid to use the yolk— that’s where most of the vitamins and minerals are anyway! Instead of using the turkey to make the same ol’ sandwich for lunch, we chop up a few slices and add it to our scrambled eggs for a protein-packed breakfast.
Salmon every week?
My husband’s favorite meal is salmon broiled with a delicious & simple topping- apricot preserves mixed with a black bean garlic sauce you’d find in the international aisle of the store. We usually catch a deal on salmon and then stretch 1.5 pounds into multiple meals by serving it with plenty of vegetables like half of a baked sweet potato and roasted Brussels sprouts or asparagus.
The options are endless!
Grill up a few chicken breasts and shred it to use in quesadillas, BBQ sandwiches, soup, or a casserole. Half the amount of ground meat you usually use in lasagna or chili and add some beans to boost the fiber & protein content while cutting down on fat. Slice up a couple links of chicken sausage and add to a casserole dish with some edamame. You can even have bacon! Toss quinoa with roasted parsnips and butternut squash and top it with your flavorful crumbled bacon. The flexitarian approach shies away from the tradition of featuring meat as the centerpiece for the sake of your health and budget.
What dishes do you make that allow you to stretch your grocery budget?
This has been a guest post from Jessica. She is a Registered Dietitian and shares practical, useful tips on food, fitness, and finance. Be sure to subscribe to her blog, Budget For Health.