What kind of meat should I buy?

I really like to get questions from our Spend Smart blog readers. Here’s one about beef stew. Kay asks, “What cut of meat should you buy to make beef stew?” Good question. There are many ways to cook beef: broiling, pan-frying, stir-frying, grilling, roasting, braising and cooking in liquid. But some methods are better suited to some cuts than others. When you make stew you use both moisture and a long cooking time. This means you can use a less tender, usually less expensive cut from the front (chuck) or rear (round) of the animal—any cut from the chuck and round will work except top round. It is important to cook slowly with the lid on—whether in the oven, on top of the stove or in the crockpot.

You would think that it would cost more to buy stew meat than a chuck or round roast because the butcher has to take time to cut it in chunks. That’s not always the case. The butcher I spoke with today said that sometimes stew meat is just made from small chunks of more tender meat that are left after packaging other cuts.

The Cattlemen’s Beef Board has created a list of lean beef cuts and preferred cooking methods.

-pointers from Peggy

Needs versus wants applies to food

Recently, I did an educational program on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. for employees at a local public health department. A dietitian in the group shared a way her family could save money on milk:  “Get my family to drink more water and not always drink milk.” Some in the group seemed surprised that a dietitian would make that suggestion. What did she actually mean? Her point was that she wants her family members to drink the amount of milk they need nutritionally, but not necessarily more than that.

This brings out a good point when it comes to saving money on food…how much are we actually eating/drinking and is it more than we need? In the case of milk, MyPlate recommends that children ages 2 – 8 need the equivalent of 2 cups (16 ounces) per day and everyone age 9 and over needs the equivalent of 3 cups (24 ounces) of milk per day. At my house, the glasses we usually use hold 12 ounces. If I have two of those each day, I have met the recommended amount. For more information, see dairy – milk, cheese and yogurt.

This concept makes an even bigger money-saving impact when you are talking about meats. The daily recommended meat equivalent is 4 to 5 ounces for children aged 2 to 13, and 5 to 6.5 ounces for teens and adults. When you plan meat for a meal, plan for 2 – 3 ounces per person. This will encourage healthy eating and save you money. For additional information on saving money on meat or other protein foods, see meat and beans.

-contributed by Renee Sweers

Heating it up…Summer Barbecues

When barbecuing, you need to follow food safety rules and also cook meat to a temperature that will kill bacteria, if you want to avoid getting sick.  Here are some rules I keep in mind:

    • Keep everything clean. This means utensils and platters (don’t put cooked burgers on the same platter you had the raw ones on). It also means keeping hands clean. If you are cooking and eating away from home, find out if there’s a place to wash your hands. (Is there soap and water in that outhouse?) If not, bring water, soap and paper towels from home.


    • Cook meat thoroughly. The only way to tell for sure is with a thermometer. It sounds weird, but I keep an instant read thermometer in my car…and you can’t believe how many times I’ve had to pull it out. My Dad counts on me always having it with me when he’s smoking or cooking meats. Below is a chart with the recommended temperatures. You might want to clip it out and put it with your grill equipment.



Whole poultry, poultry breasts, ground poultry: 165°F

Ground beef and pork: 160°F

Beef, veal, and lamb (steaks, roasts and chops):

Medium rare 145°F

Medium 160°F

Cuts of pork, ham: 145°F

You can find more information at Foodsafety.gov.

Here’s to a summer of fun, safe, and delicious meals!

-contributed by Renee

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