Sunday, February 17, 2008

Carne Diem

Yes, that's right. Meat day. Yesterday, we went shopping for the meats that we normally use during a month. We tend to get those at once, then package and freeze them for later use.

We live pretty close to two great places for getting meat: The local Sam's club is where we get the bulk of our chicken and salmon: In this case, we bought two bags of chicken--one of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and one of boneless, skinless thigh portions. These make up the bulk of our dinners, and I just leave them in the bag in the freezer. We also bought two very big salmon fillets--almost two pounds each.

We also live very close to an actual butcher--which can be hard to find these days. We bought four pounds of ground chuck, two pounds of breakfast sausages, two pounds of lamb steaks, a couple of stuffed pork chops, and two fillet mignon. In short, with the salmon and the chicken, a whole month's worth of meat.

Once we got home, we split up the ground beef and sausage into one-pound portions, vacuum-packed them with our home sealer, and popped the majority of them into the deep-freeze for later.

What's the point of this?

Quality. Vacuum-sealer bags are (to me), expensive, even if you use the off-brands. You can reuse many of the bags after washing them, but I kind of shy away from that as I tend to worry about not getting the bag completely clean. Nonetheless, it's worth it--since you can take advantage of bulk prices for meat, you can usually pull your resources and get a better deal on the more expensive cuts. Factor in the cost of the sealing bags and you're about breaking even, but as a result you've got more variety of better cuts of meat to use.

Another point is time. I like cooking impromptu--from the hip, as chef Cat Cora calls it. Having a variety of meats in my freezer at any given moment gives me a much bigger playground in the kitchen. We have chicken for most of our meals, beef if we're in the mood, and if we just want something different, there's always pork, fish, or lamb. Since we both work full-time, and are both full-time students as well, it can be hard to go out and get groceries during the week. This takes care of that.

This is a really good idea for someone that doesn't live close to a real butcher or to a bulk dealer (like Sam's). Get a deep freeze and a vacuum sealer; for about $400-500 up front, you'll find that buying meat once during the month will save you a lot of trips to the store, will improve the quality of what you get, and can give you a lot more variety in your diet.

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