5 Outstanding Meaty Meals You Can Make on a Budget

published Mar 11, 2017
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You might be on a budget, but don’t be so fast to rule out hearty, meaty meals from your dinner plan. There are some real superstars in the meat case that deliver serious value without compromising on flavor. First, you’ll need to look beyond the chicken breast and pricey steaks; those cuts just scratch the surface of all the choices that are in front of you. We’re here to show you where the real budget buys are and the best ways to turn them into a satisfying and nourishing meal for the whole table.

Meat-Filled Meals for Every Budget

My goal for including meat in my meal plan is the same as yours — making sure a single meal doesn’t totally blow my budget for the week. But I also want to make a dinner that I actually want to eat. So, how do we get there?

The first hurdle is making the meat case work for you by knowing the cuts that will take you furthest. That can mean swapping lean cuts, like chicken breast or pork tenderloin, for budget-friendly thighs and drumsticks or a pork loin roast. When it comes to flavor, budget cuts of meats are totally on your side. These cuts typically contain more fat than their lean counterparts, which means they deliver on taste as well as price. The other key is leaning on your pantry to stretch a small portion of meat into a meal that can feed the whole table.

Look Beyond the Cuts You Already Know

  • Coated with a fragrant paste of garlic and fresh rosemary and then slow roasted, pork loin roast delivers the same lean tenderness you know and love from pork chops and tenderloin, at a lower price.
  • Or get your fill of pork with a hearty sausage ragù. Pork sausage is often the fattiest preparation, which means you can expect lots of flavor even when you go down on the total amount of meat used in a recipe.
  • Chicken drumsticks and thighs are the budget cuts that deliver on cost and big flavor, especially when you buy them in family-size packs. They cook up with ultra-crispy skin that acts as a magnet for sticky glaze. Don’t go with boneless, though; that’s where you’ll see the price start to creep upwards.
  • Swap the ground beef you’re familiar with for leaner, less expensive ground turkey, then use your pantry to boost the flavor of dinner.
(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

Stretch One Pound of Meat into a Whole Meal

A pound of meat can be enough to comfortably feed a table of four — you just need to imagine the role it plays in your dinner. Broiled sirloin is sliced and paired with the likes of pickled onions and arugula for a dinner-worthy sandwich. It’s hearty, satisfying, and feels special. Lean ground turkey gets a big boost from pantry staples and a mess of greens for a skillet dinner. Bulking your meat up with lots of veggies is a simple trick to stretch the pound. Harness the power of a good sauce by turning a pound of crumbled pork sausage into a meaty ragù to be spooned over creamy polenta.

Meaty meals don’t mean you leave the veggies out, and they certainly don’t have to mean the end of your grocery budget. Think more broadly about how you make meat a part of the meal, even when it’s the main. Start by cooking the most affordable cuts on the market in ways that are both delicious and practical and see how far that one pound of chicken, sausage, sirloin, or ground turkey can go.

5 Budget-Friendly Meaty Meals