Top 5 Protein Choices for budget cooks

Have you been to the grocery store – even I was stunned when I checked out! Prices have skyrocketed and even those who don’t watch their weekly grocery budget may do a double-take at check-out! If ever there was a time to think about how to cut your grocery bill, now is it!

One of the biggest expenses is meat, fish and fowl. Whether it is turkey, chicken, fish, beef, even pork, the price of protein has hit us hard. So, I got to thinking, what are my go to protein options when the budget is tight? Here’s a quick reference list to take with you when you head out to do your grocery shopping!

Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is extremely versatile. There are tons of recipes featuring ground turkey that you can easily find with a quick Internet search. Ground turkey can be used in most recipes that call for ground beef but for a fraction of the price. What you lose in allure, you make up in the form of less calories and less fat. That makes it an excellent choice for those of us watching our waistlines.

Chicken Thighs

Like ground turkey, chicken thighs are very versatile! Bake them, broil them, or use them in casseroles. There are few protein options that give you more bang for your buck than chicken thighs. I try to stock on marinades and barbecue sauces if I happen upon a BOGO or sale. It makes dinner so easy – put the thighs in a baking pan, cover with the sauce of your choice, and bake.

Sausage

Sausage is definitely on the lower end of the price spectrum. Still, it is often overlooked. Don’t be fooled – this cut of meat brings more to the table than meets the eye. It can be used for baked sheet meals, sautéed with onions and peppers for amazing hoagies, added to soup, or thrown on the grill.

Tilapia

Fish tacos, anyone? Panko crusted fish? Garlicky, lemon baked fish? Think Tilapia! You’d be hard pressed to find a more affordable seafood option! Tilapia is a great choice when thinking of seafood dinners that won’t break the bank.

Pork Loin Roast

In the mood for more of a roast, think pork loin. It can assume all sorts of flavorings depending upon how you marinate it since it is so mild tasting. If you are not feeling like cooking, you can always find a flavored roast at the grocers – just put it in a roasting pan in the oven and let the aroma fill the house. You might also be surprised to learn that this cut of meat is surprisingly lean, so even if watching your weight, you can make a meal of this and be guilt-free in the morning.

Featured Recipe – Jambalaya

2 C chopped green peppers

2 C chopped onions

Oil

1 – 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs (chopped into chunks)

1 large smoked sausage, sliced- about a pound (Andouille Sausage for the most authentic flavor, but any smoked sausage will do)

3 cups rice (white is traditional but if you are looking for a healthier version, you can certainly use brown rice).

6 C water

Seasoning – creole or cajun seasoning

In a large dutch oven, pour just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add in the peppers and onions. Saute 5 – 10 minutes until slightly translucent. Sprinkle the seasoning over the chicken thighs, add them to the dutch oven, and cook for about 15 minutes or until browned. Add sliced sausage and cook 5 more minutes. Stir frequently and get the brown bits off the bottom of the pan (these will add great color and flavor to the rice). Stir in the rice and let the juices soak into the grain. Keep stirring 5 minutes as the rice browns in the pot. Add the water and cover. Let the pot simmer on the stove until the rice is fully cooked and tender, about 30 minutes.

This can serve several people and leftovers can easily be frozen.

If you don’t have a great dutch oven at home, be sure to pick one up! This is one of my favorites because of the enamel coating that makes it so much easier to cook in and to clean!

Lodge 7.5 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. XL Red Enamel Dutch Oven (Island Spice Red) –

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