Cook and serve the right portions. According to nutrition experts, a healthy serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces—about 4 ounces raw. If you’re eating meat for dinner, aim for it to take up no more than one-quarter of your plate. Fill half the plate with vegetables and the final quarter with a whole grain. Eating less meat is better for your health and your budget.
Cook ’em low and slow. Tougher cuts of beef and pork are a lot cheaper than steaks and chops (about $2 to $6 per pound for many cuts compared with $10 or more per pound for steaks), but no one wants to eat a piece of leather for dinner. The best way to cook tough cuts of meat: cook them low and slow, usually for 3 or more hours and often in liquid to make them melt-in-your-mouth.
Bring out the roast. Roasting a big piece of meat is an easy way to feed a crowd. Of course, a crown rib roast or beef tenderloin (unless your market is running an amazing special) isn’t an economical choice. So choose cuts, such as leg of lamb, turkey breast or pork shoulder, and roast them.
Add pasta or rice. Got a few vegetables or a little leftover meat? Maybe you have some fixings for a salad or a light soup, but it’s not quite dinner. Pasta and rice are cheap, healthy pantry items that let you turn a few leftovers into a meal.
Stir-fry for dinner. Stir-frying with plenty of vegetables and just a little bit of meat is an obvious choice when you want to make a quick and healthy dinner. It’s also very forgiving, so if you have a little extra onion or half a leftover zucchini you want to use up, just throw it in your stir-fry.
Cook once, eat twice. Double recipes so that you can get ahead on your cooking and have a dinner or lunch ready for later. The added benefit is it helps use up ingredients that you bought for that recipe (a bunch of herbs, for instance). Recipes that freeze well, like Hearty Vegetable and Beef Stew (found here), or Speedy Chili (found here) are great ones to double. Also consider cooking an extra chicken or more meat than you need. The leftovers are great in soups, salads or quesadillas later in the week.
Pack a lunch. When you’re making dinner, think about what you’re going to eat for lunch tomorrow. If you’re making a salad for dinner, make a little extra and put it in a container (undressed) for lunch the next day. And what about your leftovers from dinner? Is there a little extra chicken or maybe part of a can of beans? Toss that in with your lunch salad. Packing lunch is a great way to make sure you’re not wasting any leftovers and to help you—eat healthy, save money and save time throughout the day.