Guest post, from Tips From The Man Cave post, by my husband, Daniel:
Meat has been a staple in the American diet since the first settlers came across the Atlantic in the 1600’s. It is a status symbol and some cuts of meat or types of fish have in their history been seen as only eaten by the poorest of the poor or the richest of the rich. For example crawfish, catfish, and even lobster were considered trash foods. Never look down your nose at something. If your family is anything like mine, than you are trying to save money and make the most out of every sale. Let’s look at a few types of meats and how we can make the most of whatever we find on sale.
1) Chicken, is one of the most common and cheapest cuts of meat on the market. The easier the cut of meat is to work with the cheaper the meat should be. For example boneless chicken breast is one of the more expensive cuts of raw chicken. You can fry it, bake it, and grill it right away with little to no prep and still come away with a good meal. Lesser cuts, usually with the bones still attached tend to be more issue. Thighs present a wonderful challenge. I have seen a package of three thighs sold at the dollar tree in my home town and at other location for the same relative price but for a larger package. Here is where the savvy shopper can use their imagination to take a lesser cut of meat and make more from it. The basic option would be to marinate it overnight (see my last post for ideas) and either grill or bake it. That’s wonderful on its own. You could also boil them, clean the meat off and use it in salads or mixed with spices, cream cheese or mayo to make a sandwich spread. Whatever you do with the meat after boiling save the stock, you can use it for soups or in gravies with a good roux. Another cheap cut of meat available is chicken wings. This part of the chicken that was once a throw away cut. As Americans have developed a taste for Buffalo wings, the price for wings has gone up. When you are looking through the meat case you should find that chicken quarters are cheaper than the bags of pre-butchered wings. These are great values if you are willing to get your hands dirty because you get a great piece to fry/bake and then two “chicken wings”. Like all cuts of meat or really anything else you can buy at different stages of completion, the closer to finished the more it will cost.
2) Beef, is one of the types of meat that really takes some thought. Skirt steak, roasts, even ox tails can be prepped right into some of the best meals you can make. Not to get too deep into the myriad of cuts you can get at bargain prices, I will go over my basic rules on how to deal with each cut. The basic steak cut (this covers T-bone, New York, Filet mignon, porterhouse) is best to me with a little salt, pepper, and right on the grill. The firmer the meat is before cooking the longer it will need to cook to make the most of it and take some of that toughness out. Low and slow are the keys to turning those cuts into gold. Using your smoker, grill, or even the oven, any cook with a little imagination and patience. Start with either a good marinade or dry rub. 200 degrees for three to four hours and it should fall apart. Crock pots are wonderful for those who prefer to prep, drop, and basically forget.
3) Pork falls in line with beef. Low and slow is the way to go for the bigger and tougher portions, season and fry for the straight forward cuts. Pork tends to be cheaper than beef so you can usually finds some great deals all year long. Hams tend to vary depending on what time of year you are in. We try to buy or hams three to four weeks before the holidays (New Years and Easter), so as not to get caught up in the price hikes, we know are coming due to demands of the product.
4) As well, fish such as Salmon, Tilapia, Cod, and Flounder can be had at some of your bargain store for great prices. Wrap in tin foil, season with a little butter and garlic, throw in a dash or two of one of my favorite go to’s Tony Chachere’s, and bake. Also, you can pick-up inexpensive cuts of fish weekly at Winn-Dixie, generally on BOGO promotions, as well as the $1.00 double packs of Salmon fillets at the Dollar Tree for $1.00! Can’t miss with this method!
Hopefully this has been helpful. Keep in mind that all cuts can be useful in the right hands. You just have to have some imagination and an open mind.
I’m off to the cave…until next week!