Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beef buying basics: The most bang for your buck

There’s no doubt beef is the protein most associated with special occasions or fancy white tablecloth meals. (Have you ever heard of anyone celebrating a big promotion with a chicken breast? Me either.) But beef doesn’t have to be reserved as a once-in-awhile treat — there are plenty of ways to enjoy it several times per week and still stick to your shopping budget.
Here are a few ways I cook a lot of beef each week without having to scrimp on, say, detergent (I can’t help it — my mom raised me on Tide and it's a hard habit to break):
Watch the specials.  This is especially key when buying your higher-end steaks. Since I like to buy thicker, Choice or better steaks, they usually end up being my weekly splurge. But by keeping an eye on specials in the grocer's ads and in-store (and being open to different cuts), sometimes I can get some really good deals on the highest quality beef.
Stock up when there’s a deal. The beauty of beef is it freezes nicely for a good 6 months. If there’s a good price on one of our favorite cuts, I will buy several steaks at a time and freeze what we’re not planning on cooking that week.
The flat iron. Have you ever had a flat iron steak? This relatively new cut is the second-most tender cut of beef (behind the tenderloin) and generally much less expensive.
Don’t be afraid of the thrift. Ever seen those packages of beef marked “thrift” or similar because they’re nearing their sell-by date? They may look a little different, but they’re still perfectly good as long as you plan on cooking or freezing them soon. I’ve gotten some great deals on beef that’s been looked over!
Cook once, eat twice. By cooking a little extra, you can have 2 meals (or more) off the same meat. Extra steak makes a great sandwich, salad or quesadilla ingredient and extra taco meat can mean crispy tacos for dinner, soft tacos or nachos for the next day’s lunch.
Ground beef. It’s not only affordable, but it’s super versatile! I regularly use ground beef to make hamburgers, tacos, empanadas, lasagna and a host of other meals.
And, while I’m on the subject, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend a great blog on this very topic. Beef on a Budget has some great recipes for affordable and delicious beef meals. Be sure to check it out for more inspiration!

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