How to serve less meat to your “meat and potatoes” family.
A reader asked: “I have a meat and potatoes family; how can I possibly save money on meat while keeping my family happy?” Sound familiar?
Here are some tricks, tips and techniques to serve less meat and chances are your family won’t even notice.
Do it gradually. When you make your family’s favorite meals, just use less meat than the recipe calls for. Remember your goal is cutting back, not cutting out completely.
When you use less meat, bulk up recipes with extra veggies. Add beans to chili and zucchini to lasagna. Add celery, onion and carrot to meatloaf and hamburgers.
Use less expensive cuts of meat and stock up when they’re on sale. Instead of chicken breast buy whole chickens. Instead of steak buy chuck roast or London broil. Instead of pork loin serve pork butt.
Learn the best way to cook these cuts so they’re succulent and not dry or tough. It’s really not the cut of meat but the preparation method that determines tenderness.
Add Meatless Monday to your meal rotation. Word to the wise – don’t serve piles of salad or bust out the tofu just yet or you could have a mutiny on your hands.
Serve dishes centered around a non-meat protein like eggs, cheese or beans. Some ideas would be quiche, cheese and bean enchiladas, veggie lasagna, mac and cheese, bean or veggie soups, grilled cheese sandwiches. Cheese Enchiladas with Homemade Red Sauce
Plan meals around favorite vegetables. Family like corn? Make corn chowder. Like broccoli? Make broccoli cheese casserole. Potatoes? Serve loaded baked potatoes with cheese and veggies but little or no meat.
Ratchet up the and flavor they won’t feel cheated or even notice, or look at you and say “Where’s the beef?”
If you cut back the meat, make sure the meat you use is very flavorful. Sausage is a great way to do this and you can buy single sausages at the meat counter or butcher’s case in the store for a dollar.
There are lots of sausage styles made from pork, beef, turkey and chicken. There are lots of varieties available like breakfast sausage, link sausage, kielbasa, smoked sausage, chorizo, both Mexican and Spanish. Turkey Italian sausage, chicken and basil, chicken and apple. This list goes on and on.
Use small amounts of sausage to replace or supplement hamburger, pork or chicken in recipes like spaghetti sauces, pizza, pastas, casseroles, soups or chili.
Save dough with dough. Everyone likes pizza! Make pizza with very little meat but lots of cheese and veggies. Fill calzones with tomato, spinach and mozzarella. Make pot pies or hand pies with veggie based fillings. Use a large piece of toasted bread as base for a rich stew or make grilled sandwiches with soup.
Embrace the bean, all the beans. Give the “go-to” pintos and white beans a break and explore recipes that use garbanzos, black beans or lentils as the protein source. Beans don’t have to look like beans either. You can make falafel, bean burgers, soups, refried beans or hummus. Dried beans are Power Packed for Pennies
Understand your family may be concerned they won’t be satisfied with the new meals. Sometimes spouses and kids think “meatless” means small, puny “healthy in a bad way” types of food. Spa food. They fear the cucumber fricassee, tofu on a stick and fennel twig tea.
The meal needs to look hearty too. Serve something “big” on the plate. Serve chunky stews, chilies or meaty sauces over baked potatoes or halved butternut or acorn squashes or with generous servings of whole wheat pasta or brown rice. Use “meaty” veggies like eggplant and mushrooms as they can mimic the texture of meat.
Meatless or less meat meals don’t have to be carbohydrate bombs. Use spaghetti squash or zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of pasta. Replace half of the pasta with shredded sautéed cabbage. Use cauliflower to make pizza crusts, cauli-rice and faux-taytoes for sopping up gravy or sauces.
Be aware of the cost of your substitutions. It won’t do any good to switch out hamburger for portabella mushrooms if the hamburger is 3.49 a pound and the potabella mushrooms are 5.99 a pound.
If you can’t change dinner, economize on other meals. Like oatmeal for breakfast in lieu of bacon. Have cheese or peanut butter sandwiches instead of turkey sandwiches.
I’ll end with my number one tip – Don’t talk about it. Just make the change and chances are they’ll happily eat whatever is on their plate.