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Eat well, spend less

I saw a bumper sticker once that said “I love animals, they’re delicious!” and I still laugh every time I think about it.

I do love animals, and they are delicious, and given the chance, I would without question, choose to eat only the very best, organic, hand-reared, meat. But if like me you want to eat well and spend less, then the best of everything isn’t an option. When it comes to meat; fat, cooking method and seasoning all come into play. So, what does that mean for a busy, budget-conscious household on a weeknight?

Food is all about flavour and texture and let’s not forget nutrition. My approach is to buy the best quality I can afford, then find ways to make it go further. Thankfully, the best doesn’t mean it’s the most expensive as long as I’m using the right cut for the job.

if I’m using a premium cut – likely because it cooks quickly, then it needs to be the star. Teaming it with plenty of inexpensive accompaniments will make a little go a long way, because a small quantity of something truly good has the power to elevate the other elements. It’s a quality vs quantity issue.

For example, this easy beef stroganoff can be made with the pricier scotch fillet, rump steaks and sirloin or just from good old schnitzel. Add noodles and a couple of generous serve of veges this dish will stretch from 4 serves to 6. Same recipe, just a different supporting cast.

I love lamb, but on a busy weeknight a slow-roasted leg isn’t in the budget, let alone the schedule, that’s a special occasion meal for us. Lamb mince however means we can enjoy the flavour of lamb without breaking the budget. Burgers, balls and koftas are quick and easy to make but you can’t beat a pizza for both crowd-pleasing and economy. Our lamb pizza with fresh herbs is great for a casual Friday night dinner with friends or just feeding the fam.

Stir-fries are genius for helping a little bit of meat go a long way – packed with veg and a good slosh of seasoning they’re quick, healthy and affordable or take your inspiration from other peasant cuisines – make a cheesy parmesan and pea risotto and top with thin slices of seared rump steak, stuff spicy sliced beef into sliders or fajitas, or use last night’s leftover bolognaise to fill tonight’s calzone.

Slow cooking is great for weekend entertaining. Those old-fashioned cuts like brisket, oxtail or shanks become meltingly tender after a gentle afternoon in the oven at a low temperature - perfect for shredding. Serve with warm sliders, crispy spuds and a winter slaw, or mix into a ragu and spoon over creamy polenta, minimal effort for maximum impact. Just make sure the plate is filled with inexpensive seasonal veg and the dish itself is packed with flavour and trust me, no one will comparing the size of their serving.

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