Meat is generally the most expensive component of a meal, by using less or making it go further we can significantly reduce our annual grocery spend.

Most recipes will suggest 500g (1/2 pound) of meat for a recipe for 4 people. A good kicking off point is to consider how and where you can to reduce this without compromising the flavour or nutritional profile of the meal.

The very first thing is to choose recipes that you can stretch, or that make a little bit go a long way, pizza, pasta, curries, frittata, fritters, burgers, stews, soups, curries and stir fry’s… There is a whole world of fabulous foods that are by their very nature really economical because they allow you to use as much or as little meat as you have. Generally they have evolved from peasant styles of cookery and generally incorporate starchy carbohydrates and seasonal vegetables and a small amount of meat.

Just Italy alone has a different cuisine for every region based around the most plentiful carbohydrate - from Rice and Polenta in the North to Bread and Pasta in the South where wheat is plentiful. The same principal applies all over the globe, Couscous and rice in the Middle East, Oats, Potatoes and Dumplings through Europe, Rice and Noodles in Asia, Taro in the Pacific Islands, Plantain and Rice, Mealy meal and so the list goes on. 

Low Carb isn't really an option in the extreme low cost universe unfortunately unless you have a veggie garden, but that doesn't mean no veg. In fact seasonal veggies and fruits are vital. Seasonal Eating is key, no point spending less on meat if you choose a recipe that uses fresh tomatoes in the middle of winter. The "dg" approach is based on those peasant cuisines we love, using the carb of choice and seasonal veg to make the meat you have go as far as possible. 

Seasonal eating means you vary the veggies but not necessarily the dish itself according to the seasons. A summer pizza might have fresh tomatoes, capsicum and basil leaves, a winter pizza might have roasted pumpkin, caramelised onions and mushrooms. The summer burger is stuffed with lettuce and avocado, the winter burger has a slaw...

You can significantly reduce your grocery spending over a year if you simply get in the habit of making the meat in each recipe go a long way.  

Will you get enough protein?
Meat is only one source of protein in a healthy diet, you will also get protein from eggs, nuts and dairy products through the course of the day. Many people eat far more protein than their body needs.

Will you get enough iron?
When you use less meat in your meals you will need to be aware of iron. Red meat in particular is an excellent source of iron and in a form that is easy for the body to utilise. Many other foods contain “non haem “iron (not from meat iron). It is not as readily absorbed as the iron in meat but the absorption of non haem iron can be significantly improved by simply including some vitamin c with your meals.

Fresh fruit and veg are the best, cheapest and easiest sources of Vitamin C, so eat plenty for optimum iron absorption.

  • Squeeze lemon or orange juice into marinades and over salads, and finish the meal with a slice or two of fresh fruit.

  • Try to avoid drinking coffee and tea directly after a meal as caffeine and tannin (present in tea) both significantly inhibit the absorption of non haem iron.

These techniques will help you gradually use less meat in your recipes
  • Cut meat very finely for stir fries – allow 350-400g for 4 people
  • Shredding cooked chicken using two forks makes it go a long way
  • Add lentils or other pulses to mince dishes to extend them
  • Add extra vegetables,the healthiest, cheapest way to extend a meal

Red lentils can be simmered in your sauce as long as there is plenty of liquid, or they can be precooked (simmer for 10-15 minutes), drained and stirred in. Brown and green lentils take longer to cook, so pre cook before adding.

Try in bolognaise, lasagne, chilli, burger patties, cottage pie and meat loaf.

Use last night's leftovers to start tonight’s meal. That little bowl of leftover cooked meat you were going to scoff for lunch can be stretched in a pasta, over a pizza base or in a risotto, salad, slider or made into puff tarts...

Check out the "one chicken breast challenge" for more ideas on stretching the meat.

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