Friday, May 14, 2010

Ways to Lower the Grocery Bill: Where's the Beef?

In our household, we don't eat much meat. That statement would have been sacrilege a year or so ago. (Jules' has literally been hospitalized for enjoying a steak too rapidly.) Now, however, we don't really miss the meat that used to grace the table so liberally. We aren't vegetarians (yet), but we definitely aren't carnivorous anymore. Jules still loves a steak (even if his stomach doesn't) and I must admit a couple bites tastes pretty good. However, we no longer get hamburgers since they don't agree with us and veggies are showing up in larger and larger quantities. Slowly, but surely, we are beginning to lose our stomach enzymes to be able to break down meat proteins and the taste tends to fall away as well.

In reality, daily protein requirements are very small. Two to four ounces of lean meat a day is more than plenty for most adults. Not per meal but per day. With this in mind, our household has shifted away from eating meat as a staple to eating meat as a part of our dinners.

All dinners in our household use less than half a pound of meat pre-portioned into cans and stored in The Hole. In instances of meat sauce or vegetable beef soup (also portioned in The Hole), it is far less than half a pound. One pint lasts for all of our dinner and then Jules' lunch the next day.

This reduction in meat consumption has been one of the largest factors in lowering our grocery bill. We flat out don't buy any meat when we do monthly grocery shopping. All meat is purchased in really large increments when the all natural, never frozen stuff is on sale for 1 dollar a pound.

Occasionally we go crazy and purchase the clearance meat at Safeway for things like stir fry, breakfast for dinner, pork chops or something. This meat is cut into portions about the size of a deck of cards. One deck of cards is approximately 3 ounces of meat. Most packaged meat is about twice as thick as a card deck and that is how much we use for our dinners.

The rest is then individually wrapped in foil and frozen. For about four dollars we can have enough for four dinners. In our household, that is an extravagant meat filled dinner.

The transition hasn't been hard at all as long as you keep the foods flavorful. A small amount of bacon can go a really long ways. The same is true for beef that has been cooked in its own juices or chicken canned in broth. Most of meat's taste is in the smell, so if you can preserve the scent your tongue can be easily fooled. Once you get used to a smaller portion, you don't have fool yourself at all.

Secondly, the meat is mixed in with other things and cooked in its own juices. No longer is their a large hunk of meat on our plates. Instead meat is mixed with rice, gravy, or in soup. This provides small flavorful bits which make way for other tastes never experienced before. When your dinner plate is piled with a hunk of meat, some kind of veggie, and a starchy side there isn't much room for experimentation. Once you decide that this dinner equation doesn't work, the world is open to much more enjoyable things. Curry, zucchini or squashes, fresh herbs, large salads, and even beets are things that our family is eating and growing.

When you consider the amount of resources which go into a single pound of beef the concept of stretching the meat out makes even more sense. (Click on any of the sentences to find the source of the information.) Two-thousand five hundred gallons of water are used to produce only one pound of beef. Ten times more fossil fuels are necessary to produce one calorie of animal protein than one pound of plant protein. That is ten times more carbon dioxide emitted as well. Grazing land covers 26% of the earth's land surface and one third of all arable land is used for feed crops. With this, and our health, in mind we have made the conscious decision to green up our diet along with our lifestyle.

With food this good, who's missing it!

If you would like to use a protein calculator to find out how much protein your body actually needs visit this website.

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