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Cutting Meat Costs

Frugal Parenting (featured column)
by Rachel Keller

Other than housing, groceries can eat a huge portion of your budget. Food costs, especially meat, can be quite high. While you can save money by reducing your meat consumption, you can also stretch your food dollars by including other ingredients when preparing meals.

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Besides the usual peppers and onions, try adding some oatmeal and/or shredded carrots. Instant oatmeal mixes in better than rolled oats, but if all you have is rolled oats, try grinding them smaller in a blender.

Sloppy Joes

While frying the meat, add some cooked rice, dry oatmeal, shredded carrots, and/or cabbage. When we lived in the Philippines, rice was so plentiful and affordable. I would stretch our grocery dollars by adding rice and shredded carrots on the occasions when we wanted to eat an American meal instead of the traditional Filipino diet of rice and vegetables.


As with sloppy joes, you can simmer shredded carrots, cabbage, or rice with the meat. You really won't notice the difference.

Spaghetti Sauce

You don't need meat to make a delicious spaghetti sauce, especially if you add fresh herbs and vegetables and simmer it for several hours. Homemade spaghetti sauce is easy, healthier for you, and makes your house smell wonderful! You can add almost any vegetable you like including shredded carrots, zucchini, and squash. Depending on what you're serving the sauce with, you can add some rice, beans, or legumes such as lentils.


Casseroles are great because you can toss together various leftovers and use less meat than if you were serving meat as a main dish. Consider using more vegetables or substituting beans or legumes for part of the meat in the casserole. Beans work very well with Mexican or Spanish dishes.

One-Pot Meals

When making one-pot meals (like those boxed meals), use half the amount of meat and add extra pasta, rice, and/or vegetables with a little extra liquid if needed. You can also prepare two boxed meals, but use only one pound of meat instead of two, again adding extra vegetables, pasta, and/or rice instead.

Purchase Meat on Sale

Try to plan your meals around what’s on sale. Stock up on the sale items and make several different recipes with it. You can either freeze the meat before cooking or prepare and freeze for an easy meal later.

Look for marked-down items. You can either freeze immediately for later use or plan your evening meal around the discounted item.

Try less expensive meats or cuts of meats and use a pressure cooker or slow cooker to tenderize or bring out the best flavors.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. My family has learned to love beef tongue. (I’ve even served it to guests, and they never knew the delicious, tender beef was tongue until after they had eaten it.) You can prepare tongue so it doesn’t look like tongue, and it is very tender.

Be creative. You may have other ways to stretch your meat to feed your family. If you have some great ideas, please share them with us. We all like to read about new ways to save money!

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Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Keller. All rights reserved.

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