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Aug 18, 2014 12:59 PM

Cheap Beef Meals

Dearest Chowhounders,

Now with Pampers on board, I've been trimming the grocery budget week by week. We get all our meats from Whole Foods, which isn't the cheapest, but we are not willing to sacrifice that...yet. Fortunately. We have been eating well but are growing tired of chicken and pork, chicken and pork, etc. Does anyone have ideas on the use of cheaper cuts of beef? Tacos are good, but once I purchase all the toppings and shells, it gets quite expensive and no leftovers. Ground chuck is $4.99/lb where I am, if that helps put into perspective. Right now I am just buying a sirloin for us to half each week, which costs $14 plus a salad or vegetable. Not very prudent. Would like more options, if you have any.

Thank you so very much, as always.

God bless.

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  1. The age old solution is to stretch the meat with something else...
    Chili with beans, spaghetti with meat sauce, meatballs with gravy on noodles.

    Other ideas to break out of the chicken and pork rut... Sausage, turkey, fish, and meatless meals, or things with just a little meat for flavor, like pasta carbonara or many kinds of soup. It would help to know what kind of food you like and how much time to cook.

    5 Replies
    1. re: firecooked

      For the tacos a 50/50 mix of the beef with cooked lentils and chopped walnuts would be an economical move. And buying regular tortillas (vs shells) so the OP can freeze extras.

      1. re: Ttrockwood

        When I make tacos I frequently add mashed black beans to the meat. It blends in nicely and adds a smoky flavor. As an added plus, it makes the meat thicker and it sticks together better on the taco - less messy!

      2. re: firecooked

        This, except for that whole chili with beans thing.

        1. re: swoll50

          a lot of people eat it with beans, and having a bowl of chili with beans for everyone in the house is way, way better than everyone having a spoonful of chili with no beans.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Besides, chili without beans is boring and one dimensional.

      3. Ground chuck is $5?

        May I suggest a chuck roast and use your food processor to "grind" as needed. Also, you can make pot roast which is a delicious meal and relatively inexpensive.

        19 Replies
        1. re: dave_c

          Most grocery stores will grind beef for free.

          1. re: dave_c

            Ground chuck at local stores here is ~$4, outrageous. Last week I went looking for some cheap cuts to turn into stir fry. I'll often grab some bottom round steak, flank, strip, whatever. I'll even cut up a roast if need be, using it for stew and stir fry. The cheapest steaks/roasts I found were at Walmart, as expected, but were $6-7/lb., while over at Winn-Dixie they were pushing $9. WTF??

            Looks like it's chicken stir fry this week. Maybe something will be put on sale next soon.

            1. re: DuffyH

              I bought some eye of round slices at Publix last night for stirfry -- they were $5.29 a pound.

              My butcher (where I usually buy cheap cuts for stir fry) has ground chuck for $3.69.

              1. re: DuffyH

                Well considering (at least in NJ) regular chuck is 3.99/lb in bulk (Costco prices) 3.99 for ground chuck seems reasonable..

                Beef prices in general have gotten prohibitively expensive. The cheap cuts often outprice the premium cuts now...I remember barely 10 years ago getting things like skirt or flap meat for around 2.50$/lb at Costco/ they're up to 6 bucks! Supermarket prices are even more absurd...skirt is like 12 bucks a lb.

                The only beef I buy any more is the 2$/lb sale london broil and 6$/lb sale strip/ribeye deals. Occasionally I'll buy a whole cryo strip loin for 5.79ish.

                The only remaining good deal on beef I'm aware of is the whole brisket at Walmart...2.79 or so.

                1. re: joonjoon

                  Yeah, my best deals this week are boneless chuck roast for $3.95 (WD) and bottom round for $4.99 (Publix). Maybe Sam's will have something cheap.

                  Anyone familiar with BJ's Warehouse meats? We've got one of those about 20 minutes away. It might be worth a visit to see what they've got.

                  1. re: DuffyH

                    BJs is my favorite place to buy meat, at least from my options. Better selection than Costco.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      Thanks joonjoon,

                      That's good news. I don't get to Costco very often (too far), but our close cheap stores, Sams and Walmart, have a pretty minimal selection of beef cuts. A few high-end steaks, ground beef, and maybe one roast is about it. That's not where the bargains are.

                      I'll give BJ's a look-see.

                      1. re: joonjoon

                        Hi joonjoon,

                        We stopped by BJ's today and were pretty pleased with the meat case. One standout for me was the whole eye of round at $3.69 and the smaller long trimmed round for $3.89. With free cutting, it's a good option for roasts, stew, stir fry and fajitas.

                        You were right about the selection, too. Much more variety than Costco or Sam's. Enough to make us consider joining, for sure. If they sold gas at our store, we might consider dropping Sam's for them.

                        ETA - Thanks for the recommendation. :-)

                        1. re: DuffyH

                          Glad you enjoyed it! Back when my friends and I would grill more regularly I would stop by BJs quite frequently...lately I just stick with the supermarket sales.

                          I don't know about yours but our BJs even has things like tripe and pig feet...pretty cool for a club store.

                          1. re: joonjoon

                            We did see one really unusual cut, can't recall what just now. It was something that's normally a specialty item, only available in butcher shops.

                            I was pleased to see top sirloin caps, too. Can't recall the price, but I think they were cheap.

                      2. re: DuffyH

                        I buy a whole beef tenderloin from BJ's for Christmas dinner. I use the fat end for our dinner, and freeze the rest for beef stroganoff, etc. Always very well received.

                      3. re: joonjoon

                        There are a couple of large Hispanic grocery markets here in Central NJ where I can still get ground beef (generally 80% lean)for $2.99 to 3.50/lb. It's great quality, too.
                        Before beef prices started going up I was regularly getting it for $1.99/lb (that was as recently as 8 months ago).

                        Some predictions I've heard warn that beef prices will go thru the roof next year, with ground chuck potentially reaching $7-8/lb. I can remember in the 1970s when beef was in short supply, most supermarkets (at least where I lived) added soy protein to their ground meats.

                        I hope prices don't get that bad, but all in all, it makes me glad that I've always preferred pork anyway.
                        And as a bonus, pork is probably healthier to boot.
                        Unfortunately, even pork prices seem to be going up (though not as much as beef).

                        1. re: The Professor

                          Yeah we still get the 1.99 ground beef on sale but it's becoming rarer. I love beef but I love cheap meat more.

                          It's strange watching deals disappear one by one. We used to routinely get .69-.79c sales for chicken thighs or sale prices are hitting .99.

                          I guess I just need to accept it as a fact of life..

                          1. re: joonjoon

                            If it gets worse, I might have to return to commissary shopping at MacDill AFB. It's an hour's drive there, which means with shopping, we're going to have lunch, too. Altogether, we can spend 5 gallons of gas ($18) plus a cheap lunch for two ($12). $30 before we buy groceries... but it can be worth it, if we buy enough of sale items.

                            Mostly, I'm learning which house brands to buy and which to avoid. Ex: Great Value peanut butter is very dry. Avoid it!

                            1. re: DuffyH

                              Just curious, how is the quality of the meat at your commissary? My dad is Air Force retired, and about every other month I will go with him to Fairchild AFB to stock up on canned and dry foods, as well as stuff like foil, ziploc bags, and cleaning supplies. But I've always found the quality of the meat to be pretty bad, tough steaks and gristly ground beef. I think it's all select grade or ungraded.

                              1. re: gmm

                                Pork is the real star at the commissary. Really nice. We don't buy a lot of steak there, preferring choice or prime for those. For roasts and ground beef it's fine. Chicken we get cheaper at Sams.

                                But you know it's not just the meat case, prices throughout the store are much less than anyplace else. And it's all name brands.

                                1. re: gmm

                                  The Stop N Shop near where I live is now selling 'select' grade beef...and putting big stickers on the package bragging about it. And the prices for it are still higher than anywhere else (in typical Stop N Shop fashion).

                                  I actually don't mind 'select' grade for ground beef...I grind it myself and add some pork and pork fat to it and thusly doctored, it actually makes remarkably flavorful hamburgers.

                                  1. re: The Professor

                                    Select works for me for cheap cuts, too. If I'm going to slice it paper thin for fajitas/stir fry or cook it low and slow, a lesser quality cut suits me fine.

                            2. re: The Professor

                              With there being no end in sight for the drought (some scientists are saying 100 years), don't look for prices to drop. And that deadly piglet virus has killed probably in the hundreds of thousands by now.

                      4. I just made beef stroganoff last night using some bottom round steak I had scored for cheap a while back. I cut really thin slices (across the grain) and first browned, then simmered in about a cup of beef stock. After about 20 minutes the steak was super tender, so I added back in my shrooms and onions and made the sauce. It was every bit as good as the stuff made with tenderloin.

                        We used a 1 lb steak and have about half left over, so ½ lb is plenty for two people. You've still got the cost of the sour cream, shrooms, etc... but it's still a good meal for cheap. We like it best over rice, feeling noodles are too rich.

                        I've used this same steak (it was a BOGO at Publix) for Mongolian Beef. That was truly a delicious meal, and super cheap. Not much more to add but rice and some stir fry veggies. We made onions, carrots and broccoli to go with it.

                        1. What we call tacos isn't really but still. We take a small, soft corn tortilla (you can use flour), add some rice, beans, a small amount of meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato if we have it, some grated cheese, maybe avocado and salsa. Kinda like a small, open face burrito. I know of nothing else that stretches meat as far as this does and tastes so good. We usually use chicken or pork. Even some leftover steak or something is enough for two or three of these.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: c oliver

                            I was going to suggest, either make your own tortillas as c oliver does or else look for the big stacks of tortillas. You might have to go to a Mexican grocery for them but many stores will have them and it's dozens of tortillas for a few bucks usually.


                            Hard shell tacos are an American innovation. Just heat two of these through on a skillet and use both to wrap your fillings.

                            1. re: ennuisans

                              Oh I don't make my own tortillas (although I own a press for Asian dumplings!). Do you find those large bags freeze okay cause we just can't eat that many before they start disintegrating. But still cheap

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I read "We take a small-" as "We make a small-". I need coffee.

                                I have to confess we've let too many of those bags go to waste, but freezing is a really good thought. I haven't bought any since I bought a tortilla press and a bag of masa, both of which are still sitting lonely on my baking rack.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I freeze both corn and flour. I just pop the original bag into a freezer bag. They pop apart quite easily, frozen, and don't need to be separated with parchment or anything.

                                  The texture isn't quite as nice as when fresh (for tacos) but I don't really care... It's not horribly different. And you can't tell at all when making enchiladas or chalupas with them.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    Corn or flour tortillas freeze fine. Corn tortillas can dry out very slightly but they still work even for tacos. Very fresh corn tortillas are good enough to eat with maybe just a little butter and salsa. I make my tacos with two tortillas. As condiments I like thinly sliced cabbage and a squeeze of lime.

                                    1. re: divadmas

                                      Napa cabbage was the same price/lb as the other lettuces this week, so we grabbed a head of it. It shreds beautifully for tacos.

                                    2. re: c oliver

                                      I freeze corn tortillas. There are a lot of good tortillerias nearby and the markets get them fresh daily. I separate them out of the stack by the dozen and freeze in baggies for enchiladas. I cut some into strips for frying as soup or salad toppings, things like that. SO economical. Like dried beans. Crazy inexpensive food stretchers.

                                2. My best advice is learn how to save on everything else so you can buy the best quality groceries you can. (Use sites like TotallyTarget and to get those diapers dirt cheap.)

                                  Meatballs with diced, sauteed veggies like onions, zucchini, mushrooms and carrots in them instead of breadcrumbs. Preserved lemon is my favorite add-in and feta or other crumbly cheese if you have some. It's a great way to use a little of this and a little of that left in the fridge. No need to buy anything special for it.