If you're working on a tight budget during a family gathering or holiday event, there are many options that are affordable and still feed a large number of people. The key to budget cooking is all in the meat or protein because it is the most expensive element of the meal. You'll need to use a large, cheaper meat cut or spread out a more expensive cut to effectively feed the masses on a tight budget.
Large Cuts of Meat
Roasts and large meat cuts make for an easy, budget-friendly meal because not only does the roast cost less than multiple smaller cuts of meat, but it is also easy to cook one roast for everyone. Some ideas for large cuts of meat that are affordable are pork butt seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and cooked with orange juice and chicken stock in a covered pan; or London broil made from top round that is coated in Worcestershire sauce and garlic butter and broiled on high for about 15 minutes to crisp the outside and leave the inside rare. Ham and beef roasts with vegetables are other common large cuts of meat that can easily feed a large group on a tight budget.
Chicken is much more affordable than beef, but you can make it even more affordable by spreading it out in a meal instead of giving each person a full chicken breast One idea is chicken scaloppine served over angel hair pasta with marinara or white wine cream sauce. Cut five or six thin patties out of each chicken breast, and bread and pan sear each one. You can also make dishes like chicken Marsala or bourbon chicken more affordable by cutting chicken breasts or boneless thighs in five or six large chunks and serving it in the sauce. People may get two or three pieces of chicken this way and feel fulfilled, but this is actually only half of a chicken breast or less. To make the cost-saving most effective, make sure you serve the chicken with pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.
Minced meat is a very affordable meat option that can be used in many different ways to spread the protein out, such as lasagne, spaghetti, shepherd's pie or meat loaf. Add special touches to the meal, such as using bacon pieces in the meat loaf and topping it with chipotle-flavoured ketchup. Use sirloin tip or stew meat to make beef stroganoff, beef burgundy or cut it into very thin strips to make steak fajitas. Make a salad and top it with strips of beef, carrots Asian noodles and sesame soy dressing to make an Asian salad. The possibilities are endless.
Sometimes you can turn an obviously inexpensive meal into a trendy meal by changing the presentation. One example is a taco or burrito bar where you put out simple taco ingredients in a bar style and allow each person to make his own. This works well with hamburgers too if you put out multiple cheeses and toppings or with kebabs if you cook small cuts of different meats and veggies and let each person build her kebab at the bar. Sauces and condiments are important to make the bar presentation work well so that each person can choose the flavour he wants.
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