We were vegetarian for quite a few years, maybe seven or eight, and went back to meat after reading Nourishing Traditions. When I started buying meat again I was shocked at how expensive it was so I've tended to stay with the cheaper cuts or we eat fish or chicken, along with our favourite vegetarian dishes.
Purple sweet potato and onions.
I really like meat with the bone still in it. Either as a roast, chops or in a casserole. The meat seems sweeter and more tender, and the bone gives an added depth of taste. One of my favourite pieces of meat is a pork shoulder. When it's cooked well, the meat is tender and delicious, and it's cheaper than a leg or anything from the middle section.
Sunday's roast pork shoulder.
I encourage you to buy meat from your local butcher, not the supermarket; it's usually cheaper. The butcher will know where the meat comes from, so ask him about each cut while he's wrapping it for you. When the butcher knows you're interested in your food and want to know about it, he'll probably be more careful about giving you good quality meat. You can ask the butcher to trim the fat off, to slice thin or thicker slices, or to dice up or mince a slice for you. It's all in the service they offer you - service you'll never get from a supermarket. There was a time when every housewife knew the various cuts of meat, now it seems very few do. I encourage you to know as much about your food as possible. Learning which part of the animal the various cuts come from is a good start to learning about meat. I've found some good guides to meat cuts. Some cuts are the same in all countries, some are different. The lists are below:
AUSTRALIAN MEAT CUTS
We had this shoulder of pork as a hot roast with baked purple sweet potato, onions and green peas on Sunday. On Monday we made sandwiches with the shoulder, last night's dinner finished it off. I stripped the bones of the good meat and the scrap meat - that with too much fat on it - and gave that to the chooks as an added treat. Chickens are carnivores and love meat. The good meat and some of the roasted bones went into a pot for a very nice pork and vegetable casserole. The bones gave a lot of added flavour to the dish. The shoulder fed us well for three days.
Stripping the shoulder - one plate with good meat, the other with scrap meat for the chickens.
When you buy a shoulder - you can also buy lamb shoulders instead of legs for a delicious roast lamb meal - you can ask the butcher for it to be boned, if that is how you want it. A boned shoulder is easier to cut and you can lay it flat and fill it with stuffing before rolling it back up again and securing it with cooking string. If you do have the butcher bone the shoulder for you, ask him for the bones, because when you roast the meat you can roast the bones at the same time, then make stock with them - and freeze it. But as I said, I like meat with the bone still in so that is how I buy it. There is quite a bit of fat in pork and lamb but if you cook it slowly for a long time, much of the fat will render out, and if you eat it cold the next day, it's very easy to cut the fat out.
The dark brown pieces on these bones are where the flavour is. Use that in your casserole for extra flavour and discard the bones before you serve up.
You can either buy the expensive cuts like T-bone steak, rump, legs of lamb, pork chops or fillet, or stay with the cheaper things like sausages, neck chops or minced steak|ground beef. But there is a middle ground. In between those two extremes there are the cheaper cuts that tend to take longer to cook, but have excellent flavour and give you delicious nutritious food, for much less money. With rising costs, this is one way to keep meat on the table while staying within your budget.