photo by love・janine

photo by love・janine

Eat less meat. Have you heard that before? It sounds simple, but eating habits can be hard to change.
Although I switched to grass-fed beef, chicken, and pork, I also wanted to reduce my family’s serving sizes of meat, and use what we do buy more wisely. USDA guidelines, (which are politically motivated in many ways,)  recommend these serving sizes for our daily requirement of meat, beans, eggs, and nuts: children should have 5 ounces, women should have 6 ounces, and men should have 7 ounces per DAY. Kind of puts those restaurant portions into perspective.
Eating less meat is better for the environment, better for our health, and better for our budget. To stretch our food budget and keep our serving sizes down, here are some tricks I have learned.



  • Start by going without meat just one day a week. I found that it was an easy change for my family to accept, and I got some practice with vegetarian recipes everyone could enjoy. Currently we eat vegetarian dinners 2-3 times a week.
  • I added smoked paprika to a tomato marinara and it tasted as though it were meat based! You can also add it to cooked beans. I saw it here  first, but was inspired to try it after I had a fabulous smoked tomato sauce at the Bluefin Bay Resort.

Ground Beef

  • Add minced onion to ground beef and patties.
  • Patty 4 burgers for each pound of beef.
  • Add lots of vegetable fixin’s – in season tomatoes, lettuce, onion on a good crusty roll fills out the burger so you feel satisfied with one.
  • Make a dimple in the top of a thick burger with your thumb before grilling so grass-fed beef doesn’t ball up, and be careful not to overcook. (My husband is tired of hearing me yell that out the screen door.)
  • Add extra veggies to sauce. My brother-in-law’s extra special marinara sauce cooked from scratch starts with carrots, celery, and onions sautéed in butter. ( I supposed to share that?) Add mushrooms, diced tomatoes, zucchini… Fatten up that sauce!
  • For tex-mex like tacos or burritos, add pinto beans or tomatoes to reduce the amount of beef and boost the seasoning.

Fajitas, stir fry, kabobs

  • Double the onions, peppers, broccoli, zucchini…You get the idea.

Lunch meat

  • A good deli brand without fillers, like Boar’s Head, can be sliced extra thin, so a ½ lb. goes a long way.
    I slice each large round piece of ham from Applegate Farms in half for twice the sandwiches.


  • Cut bacon slices in half before you cook – it fits better in the pan and feels like you get twice as much! In my family, we count them out ‘cause everyone wants their fair share!
  • Use bacon crumbled over pasta dishes – even a small amount of bacon satisfies meat eaters.


  • Spread pepperoni slices around on pizza, and then add some chopped pepperoni to add flavor with less. I like Organic Prairie pepperoni, and small amounts add spice to sandwiches.
  • We cut pizzas into square pieces instead of pie slice. It helps me eat less, even when I crave just one more piece.


  • Boost the sides – use lots of potatoes, carrots and onions.
  • Add chopped peppers or tomatoes to leftover meat for barbecue sandwiches.


  • Pick that leftover free range chicken clean to the bone! If one isn’t enough, freeze cooked meat until you have enough left over. I toss the leftover chicken, bones and all, in a bag in the freezer until I have enough to use for another meal.
  • Dice and shred it finely and add it to chicken lasagna or enchiladas.
  • Chicken stock – Boil the bones to make stock for soups. Full disclosure: I haven’t mastered a clear stock yet! I will figure this out before fall!

What are your tips to stretch your meat budget? And can you tell me how to make a good chicken stock?


photo by Ken Bosma

photo by Ken Bosma

Grass-fed beef may be more expensive than a supermarket meat special, but it doesn’t have to give you sticker shock. Whether you’ve decided to buy grass-fed, pasture-raised beef for environmental, health, or ethical reasons, there are ways to make it more affordable for your family.

    It doesn’t get any more local than craigslist. Try searching for grass-fed or pasture-raised beef. Local farmers use craigslist to get in touch with consumers, and you can ask all the questions you want. You will need to invest in a deep freezer for most quantities, but buying beef by the side, half, or quarter is a budget-friendly way to purchase a variety of beef. You can also get it custom packaged to what you use. For example, one family uses ground beef in 1 ½ lb. quantities, so they have the processor package it accordingly.
  • Meat CSA
    Community supported agriculture is usually associated with fruits and vegetables, but meat CSAs, also called buying clubs, are becoming more common.
    In a CSA, you get a variety of cuts of what the farmer has available. Some meat buying clubs allow you to choose the cuts ahead of time. Farmers often pass on a discount in exchange for your commitment to purchase meat from them for a certain amount of time. Either way, it’s a good way to get a mix of expensive and inexpensive cuts of meat for a lower price.
    Check for CSAs and buying clubs in your area, or even a simple google search to locate a farm near you.
  • Package pricing
    Many farmers offer package pricing, where you average the cost per pound across the expensive and inexpensive cuts. For example, one farm near me offers packages of 22 lbs. or 54 lbs., including roasts, steaks and ground beef. This is a great way to get to know a farmer and discover what kind and how much meat your family will use. If you don’t see package pricing, you can always ask the farmer to put one together for you, and they may offer you a discount over buying individual cuts.

My family is currently buying meat by the package. I asked an area farm that offered a meat CSA if they would put together packages of whatever the CSA families were getting. We’ve enjoyed a large variety of cuts, and we plan on joining.

What tricks have you found to purchase grass-fed beef for your budget?