Meat is one of the 'big' expenses in my grocery budget. And I mean this in two ways. Firstly, it costs us a fair bit up front each month. Secondly, it costs the environment a whole more than other forms of food because animals have to be fed food and water and such to create the meat we eat, plus there's all the transport and butchery costs, etc, so a whole lot of water, power, and energy goes into meat production. This is something it is really easy to forget as I stand in front of the chillers at the supermarket, gazing at the yummy looking sausages, corned beef, or chicken drumsticks, so it is usually the monetary cost to us that motivates me to be careful how I spend my 'meat dollars.'
I would like to eat less meat. This is not because I have any grand ideas of being a vegetarian. I like eating meat far too much. And I don't like lentils, or tofu! A lot of people seem to assume I must be vegetarian because I don't often have lots of meat with my lunch (when I was at work). I'd have leftovers, mostly, and salad and eggs...that sort of thing. Anyway, I am not vegetarian nor have any intentions of ever being so. But in saying that, I do think that in our westernised society we rely too heavily on meat. I think we probably eat a whole lot more meat than our bodies really need, and definitely a whole lot more meat than other people in the world manage on quite happily. So I am trying to eat less meat. I have been trying for about 5 years or so. It is a work in progress, and one which is progressing very slowly. I am not very good at making meatless meals, you see. Plus, Boyo is a bit of a traditional 'meatasaurus' and likes to have his meat and three veg. He looks a little askance at anything too weird, and really dislikes things like couscous and chickpeas, or anything really spicy or curried. Which is fair enough. So rather than try to find more meatless meals that we can both stomach, I have tended to focus on having less meat per meal, and filling it out with things like rolled oats, beans, lentils, and loads of vegetables.
When I shop for meat, I am looking for one specific thing. Have you ever looked at the per kilo price? It is shocking!!! I find lamb particularly leaves me with feelings of pent up rage at the injustice of it all, as I wonder how a country with 70million sheep (or thereabouts) still has lamb prices at $20+ per kilo! I am guessing we make more money selling it to Japan, England, anywhere but here. Here, there's beef. Loads and loads of beef. Mustn't sell for enough overseas, that we get it so cheaply. I reckon that up to 80% of the meat at my local PakNSave supermarket is beef in one form or another. There's some pork, and chicken, and a smidgeon of lamb, but mostly it is beef.
I now try not to look at the per kilo price. After all, it can be rather misleading. Some chops can look really expensive, yet they would make us a good meal. Instead, I look at the per meal price. Is this packet of lamb chops going to give us one meal, or two? And how much will that cost us? Is it below $5 per meal? If it is, I have a winner. If it isn't, then it gets put back. Sometimes I will spend a bit more than that, for special meat like lamb or fresh salmon, but mostly I stick carefully to that guideline. I find that by doing that, I am able to feed us really well without spending a huge amount on our meat. I try to make sure that we are eating a mixture of fish (terakihi, kawhai, hoki, lemon fish, salmon and a frozen mix of mussels/squid/shrimps are favourite NZ options), beef, bacon, and chicken, with a meal or two of pork or lamb each month depending what is on special.
When I get home from shopping, the meat is all carefully packaged into meal sized portions before being put in the freezer. Here's some lemon fish, waiting to be wrapped.
So there you go, my secret meat-purchasing tool. Do you have any specific criteria when buying meat?
Monday, 10th January, 2011