Cheap & Healthy Cuts of Meat: A Nutritionist’s Budget Picks

Oct 19, 2023 | Eating Right

Cost of living pressures in Australia means meat is becoming a luxury item on the dinner table. Believe it or not, you can still enjoy tasty, nutritious, and budget-friendly meals – all it takes is some clever meat choices.

Choosing uncommon cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork can put meat back on the menu without breaking the bank. Some of the healthiest cuts of meat are actually the cheapest buys – you can save up to 50 percent!

There are plenty of affordable, nutritious cuts of meat out there – you just have to know what to ask for. 

In this article, I look at the cheapest and healthiest types of meat, and how to cook with them. I’ll share my favourite affordable cuts of meat that even the most frugal families can keep on the menu.

Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!

Should I Still Spend Money on Meat?

Meat is important for meeting your daily recommended protein intake, plus essential vitamins and minerals. But is it still worth buying if you are on a tight budget?

Yes! You don’t need to buy the popular cuts to get the nutritional benefits of meat. You don’t have to stick to unhealthy sausages or cheap mince, either. Choosing the right cuts can help economise while keeping the family well-fed. 

While processed meats (like ham, bacon and frankfurts) can seem like a great budget protein, they’re a real compromise in the health department. Just 50g of processed meat per day increases your cancer risk by 18% – so fresh lean meat is much healthier. 

As a bonus, sticking to small portions of meat is better for your budget and health. 

Red meat is a valuable part of your weekly diet, but less is more. The Australian recommended dietary intake is 3 to 4 servings per week of red meat. One serving ranges from 65 to 100 grams. 

A lot of people are surprised by how small a 100-gram serve is. This is what 95 grams of steak looks like:

Fill out the rest of the plate with well-seasoned veg and whole grains, and nobody will go hungry!

Mix up your weekly menu with other proteins, too. Good options include 80 to 100 grams of chicken, fish, eggs, or legumes.

Eating well doesn’t need to be expensive – read on to learn which cheap meats I recommend. 

The Best Cheap (And Nutritious) Cuts of Meat in Australia

From a nutritional perspective, leaner is better! However, you don’t have to buy the most expensive cuts of meat to create delicious meals.

Your local butcher is a great place to start – they’re passionate about their meat and are often itching to share their secrets with customers! Less common cuts of meat are often the most flavourful, and butchers love to see every part of the animal used (not just the eye fillet). 

While there’s less variety on supermarket shelves, you can still find some great cheap cuts in the meat aisle. 

Here are my recommendations for cheap and healthy meat in Australia: 

In this segment from A Current Affair, I share my favourite cheap and healthy cuts of meat.

Best Cheap Cuts of Beef

My top recommendations for cheap, healthy cuts of beef are the flatiron and hanger steaks. Both of these have less than 10% fat in them. 

Flatiron steak comes from the shoulder, and it’s prized for its leanness and rich flavour. It’s perfect for cooking on the BBQ over high heat or tossing in a stir-fry. 

Hanger steak is also known as the “butcher’s cut” since the butchers used to keep it for themselves! This extra-juicy cut comes from the diaphragm close to the skirt steak. It’s also great for the barbie or a quick pan-fry.

All your cheaper steak cuts are great for a stir-fry or making fajitas. Bulking out with veg makes a small amount of beef go a bit further. 

Other cheaper cuts butchers recommend include flank steak and rump picanha. Although they’re often touted as affordable options, beef ribs and brisket are both fatty, so not my top picks. 

Munchy crunchy beef schnitzel is a major hit for family dinners

Best Cheap Cuts of Pork

Pork chops can be expensive, but there are other options that don’t break the bank. Pork scotch fillet, or pork neck, is an affordable and incredibly tender cut. 

Scotch fillet is perfect diced up for casseroles, roasted or slow-cooked. Other cheaper pork cuts include pork belly and spare ribs, but these are also very fatty! 

Avoid filling your plate with bacon as a budget substitute, too. These processed meats contain nitrates and other additives that the World Health Organisation warns increase your cancer risk. 

Best Cheap Cuts of Lamb

Lamb is an Aussie favourite, but we all know it can be a bit pricey too. Lamb shank and neck are economical options – plus they’re juicy and flavourful.

Lamb shank is one of the most affordable cuts of lamb, and it’s also incredibly nutritious. This cut is full of flavour and perfect for slow cooking.

Neck lamb chops are a fantastic option for family meals, too. They’re tender, affordable and delicious stewed or slow-cooked – the perfect winter warmer!

Since lamb is such a flavoursome meat, you can get away with serving smaller portions and bulk the plate with veg and grains. My Lamb Cutlets With Pomegranate Cous Cous recipe is delicious with any cut of lamb – even leftovers! 

Best Cheap Cuts of Chicken

Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein, and it’s also very budget-friendly. When trying to save money on your grocery bill, opt for chicken thighs or a whole chicken for roasting. 

Chicken thighs are more nutritious than chicken breast, with higher amounts of dietary iron and vitamin D. It’s a bonus that they’re more affordable, too! 

Chicken thighs can be cooked in the oven, on the BBQ or in a slow cooker. You can marinate chicken in all kinds of flavours, so you won’t get bored! Cooking them bone-in also helps the meat stay nice and moist.

A whole chicken is also a great budget-friendly option since you can spin it over multiple meals. Take a nose-to-tail approach and make your own bone broth with the carcass, ensuring nothing is wasted. 

Drumsticks and chicken wings are often recommended as cheap cuts, but these are much fattier options. 

My crispy chicken wands – crumbing them yourself is cheaper than readymade schnitzels

Best Cheap Fish

Fish is another nutritious protein option that doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly choice, try tinned fish. 

Canned tuna and salmon are both very affordable and still contain plenty of nutrition, including omega-3 fatty acids for heart health. 

You can use tinned salmon or tuna to make delicious fish cakes – my recipe is bulked out with sweet potato, adding sneaky veg and bringing down the cost further. 

In fresh fish, mackerel cutlets are one of the cheapest options, and they’re a fabulous healthy fish to eat. They’re also one of the foods highest in vitamin D.

Getting bored with fried fish? Spice things up with my seafood stew recipe, which works with virtually any fish. 

Use affordable tinned fish to create healthy fishcakes – a family favourite

How to Cook Cheap Cuts of Meat

First of all, don’t assume cheaper meat isn’t delicious! However, it’s true that some require a bit more preparation.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of budget-friendly cuts:

  • Start by marinating to add flavour and help to tenderise the meat.
  • Use a slow cooking method such as slow cooking or stewing. This longer cooking time helps make tougher cuts of meat nice and tender.
  • To keep the meat juicy, don’t overcook it and always let the meat rest before serving.

A great tip is to ask your butcher for recipes or advice on cooking methods. They know how to bring out the best in every product they sell and will happily share their tips. 

Give it a try, and you’ll be surprised at just how tasty budget meat can be. 

8 Top Tips to Save Money on Meat

If you want to stretch your dollar even further, there are a few other tricks that you can use when buying meat. Here are some of the best ways to make your meat purchase last:

  1. Shop at your local butcher: The prices are often cheaper, for one! The bonus is that you support local and develop a relationship with someone you can trust to provide ethical and quality meat.
  2. Buy meat in bulk and freeze: Investing in a larger freezer is a fantastic cost-effective strategy, allowing you to purchase in bulk and significantly reduce your per-kilogram cost. To freeze meat safely, always date your packages: you can freeze raw beef for around six months, and chicken or mince for four months.
  3. Visit your local farmer’s markets: If you can’t purchase in bulk yet, try your local market for the best of the season. Shop at the end of trade for the lowest available per-kilogram price.
  4. Skip the pre-made products: You’re paying a mark-up when you buy ready-to-cook schnitzels or rissoles. Save money by making your own using simple cuts of meat, like my family favourite Homemade Beef Schnitzel and Chicken Schnitzel recipes.
  5. Consider a nose-to-tail approach: Muscle meats such as fillet steak and chicken breasts are the least nutritious compared to organ meats, marrow and thighs. The ethical argument applies here, too – it is highly wasteful only to eat certain parts of an animal!
  6. Plan your meals ahead: Making a meal plan for the week will help ensure that no meat goes to waste. Only buy what you need, and freeze anything you’re not confident you’ll use quickly.
  7. Get creative with sides: Serve smaller portions of meat with flavoursome sides. Instead of plain boiled veg, try my Baby Beetroot & Bean Salad or Warm Kale & Shaved Sprout Salad.
  8. Learn to repurpose leftovers: When preparing meat, consider how to repurpose what’s left for tomorrow night’s dinner. Of course, you can also use leftover cooked meats in salads, sandwiches or wraps.

By following these tips, you can really get the most from your meat! 

Protein Intake: How Much Do I Need and Where do I get it?
Rotate a variety of proteins to benefit your health and your budget

Key Takeaways

So there you have it – some delicious, nutritious meats that won’t break the bank.

With the cost of groceries skyrocketing, these cost-saving tips are more relevant than ever. Cooking for a family is becoming more and more challenging as budgets are squeezed on all sides.

When it comes to saving money on meat, your local butcher is your new best friend! They’re the pros when it comes to what’s affordable and how to prepare it for maximum flavour. 

Don’t be afraid to try a cut of meat you haven’t cooked with before – maybe one you haven’t even heard of! Imagine you’re the guest star on your favourite cooking show and find a creative dish to prepare with your assigned ingredient.

I hope these cost-saving tips help you keep nutritious meals on the dinner table this year. 

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