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Have you noticed meat prices going up at your grocery store recently? You're not alone—according to butcher and author of The Everyday Meat Guide, Ray Venezia, "meat prices have never been higher." Why? "It's because the major supply chain issues on both the processing and distribution sides are driving the high costs of the meat."
So while you can start implementing meat-free Mondays to cut down on costs and up your veggie intake, when you do want to whip up a budget-friendly beef-based dinner, Ray the Butcher has some great tips that will help you stretch a buck and still be able to bring home the beef.
According to Ray, it's all about knowing which cuts to shop for, as well as how to cook them. Below, he shares 3 recipe ideas using less expensive cuts of meat.
1. Pot Roast
"When it comes to a pot roast, what you want to look for is a good piece of boneless chuck which has nice marbling so it's got good, strong flavor. Most of the cuts with pot roast are the tougher cuts, so they're less expensive," he says.
Best Budget-Friendly Cuts of Meat for Pot Roast
"I like the boneless chuck," Ray says. "You could also use the bottom round. The rump roast would also work well, or a shoulder roast."
How to Cook Pot Roast
The secret to breaking down these traditionally tougher cuts of meat and making them tender? It's something many of us already have at home, which Ray calls "one of the best items in your kitchen": the slow-cooker.
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To make his pot roast, Ray adds the meat to a Dutch oven along with diced carrots, onions and celery, brown sugar, already soaked gingersnaps, a package of Sauerbraten mix (Editor's pick: You can order Sauerbraten mix from Knorr or Maggi online), a cup of water and a splash of vinegar, then cooks in the oven at 200°F for 6-8 hours.
Once cooked, Ray uses a spoon to carefully take out the pot roast (you don't want it to come apart, he says), then slices straight down. He likes to arrange the slices of meat over broad noodles, then pour the rest of the contents of the pot over top. "It makes fantastic leftovers," Ray says.
TRY: For more delicious pot roast recipes, try Rach's Tuscan Pot Roast, Chris Kimball's Roman Braised Beef with Tomato and Cloves or Emeril Lagasse's Pot Roast Dianne.
"Meatloaf is not only a delicious meal, extremely economical, it's quick and it's one of the biggest comfort foods we have in this country," Ray says.
Best Budget-Friendly Meat for Meatloaf
Ground meat tends to be inexpensive, according to Ray. You can use ground beef, a mix of ground beef and pork, or a mix of ground beef, pork and veal, he says.
How to Cook Meatloaf
"The most important thing is you never want to over-handle your ground meats, because you take a lot of flavor out if it. And you want to make sure it's seasoned evenly," he continues.
Ray spreads the ground meat out on a cutting board and seasons with egg, breadcrumbs, parsley, grated cheese and garlic powder. In addition to meatloaf, he also uses this mix for meatballs and stuffed peppers. "You have quite a few different meals that you can make out of very inexpensive ground meat," he says.
Roast it in the oven at 375°F, and depending on the size of your meatloaf, it will be done in an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
TRY: For more yummy meatloaf meals, try Rach's French Onion Rolled Meatloaf, Antoni Porowski's Turkey Meatloaf With a Block of Sharp Cheddar Cheese or Katie Lee Biegel's Turkey Meatloaf.
3. Beef Stew
"Beef stew is a great economical meal. It's one where a little bit of meat goes a long way," Ray says.
Best Budget-Friendly Cuts of Meat for Beef Stew
Ray likes to use boneless chuck for beef stew as well as pot roasts.
How to Cook Beef Stew
"One of the most important aspects of beef stew for it to come out great is that the pieces be evenly sized. Get a nice piece of boneless chuck, make sure it's straight on your platter and make even strips out of it," Ray says.
Then, throw it into a Crock-Pot or slow cooker with beef broth, a can of crushed tomatoes, carrots and cut up potatoes and let it cook throughout the day.
"When you come home after work, you'll have a fully-cooked, delicious meal. Good loaf of Italian bread, good bowl of stew, nothing better," Ray says.
TRY: For more hearty beef stew ideas, try Rach's Beef Stew with Dijon Mustard, her Beef, Bacon, Butternut and Beer Stew or Donal Skehan's Beef and Guinness Stew.