It’s that time of year, time to forget the oven in your house. With electricity costs rising as well as temperatures it’s time to cook outdoors. Here is a way to save time, money, and energy when cooking for the entire week in a few hours. For many on the east coast the cost of electricity is going through the roof, by using your grill outdoors this will save some money on energy costs. While saving costs on energy, using the grill can also save you money if you purchase meats smartly at the grocery store. Add to that the fact that if you use your grill effectively during the summer you can cook an entire week’s worth of main entrees in just under a couple hours, and here is how to do all of this.
As a father of an 18 month old son, I have found it is important to save money whenever possible, at the same time I still want to prepare meals that are high quality for my family. Over the past couple of years I have read a lot of material about grilling and experimented with different cuts of meat and styles of cooking it on the grill. I have published several articles on different grilling styles and techniques for those that are new to the exciting world of cooking outdoors on a grill. I have realized that you do not have to pay premium prices to get a high quality meal cooked on the grill. The key is that you purchase the meat while it is on sale and freeze it, and that you purchase the appropriate cuts of meat. Do not just buy meat because it is on sale, because it might not meet your desired cooking style.
The first step is to shop smart intelligently at the grocery store. Many people feel they must buy the highest quality of meats, in the end this is not required for most families living on a budget. For steaks it’s not necessary to buy angus steaks or expensive cuts for meat. A top round steak works very well on the grill, and will pick up a lot of flavor from any marinade you use. At most grocery stores during the summer you can find top round steaks for under $2 per pound at least once a month. The key when purchasing a top round steak is to get one that is cut nice and thick and to avoid the thinner cuts. This will aid you in having a nice juicy steak from the grill. An average adult east a portion size about about 8-10 ounces of steak at a meal. This means that if you get a nice three pound steak at a cost of $6, you will have about 5-6 servings. This is a true bargain, as you are paying less than $1.50 per serving of steak. Try to find those costs as a restaurant!
Not only can you find top round steaks for under $2 per pound at least once a month at the grocery store but you can also find pork roasts for the same price. Avoid pork chops at the grocery store, these are usually cut much too thin for proper grilling. Either get a roast, or buy a whole pork tenderloin. Most grocery stores will cut your pork tenderloin for free for you. If you purchase a nine pound pork loin and ask for it to be cut into chops cut one and a half inches thick and the rest cut as a roast. This will usually give you about 9-12 pork chops along with a nice 2-3 lb pork roast. On average an adult will consume one pork chop or 8 ounces of pork roast for a meal. This means you are getting about 17 adult servings for a cost of $18 for the 9 pound pork loin. This means again you are spending less than $1.50 per serving of pork, you won’t find those prices as your local restaurant.
Finally, when you come to chicken, keep in mind that sometimes the boneless and skinless chicken breast will be your most expensive option. There is very little fat in these pieces of chicken which is good for the health conscious, but can also result in a dry product on the grill. Instead I would recommend purchasing chicken thighs. These cuts have more fat, but while grilling a large portion of the fat will melt away as it cooks. There is an advantage to the additional fat to begin with though, this will aid the chicken thigh in absorbing more of the flavor of any marinade that you use. In general the best price you can find on boneless and skinless chicken breasts in the grocery store is about $2 per pound, but you can find chicken thighs for about $1 per pound on sale. This results in a 50% savings. In general an average chicken thigh is about 4-6 ounces. An average adult will eat one to one and half thighs per serving. If you purchase 5 pounds of chicken thighs for $5, this will yield about ten adult servings. This would come out at a huge bargain price of 50 cents per serving!
Of course you are not only saving money on the meat itself, you are also cutting your family’s use of electricity. By cooking outside you are not using the oven. This saves energy in two ways. First, you do not use the energy to run the oven. Also, as anyone knows when the stove is running inside your house gets hotter, and therefore requires the air conditioner to run harder to cool the house. Therefore by cooking outside you are saving energy not only in one way but two. Of course there is one other thing you can save using the grill, and that is time.
While cooking on the grill it is quite easy to cook two or three items at once. This means on a Sunday afternoon you could actually cook all the meats you intend to serve during the week so you can cut down on your cooking time after work during the week. If you are intending on reheating the meat later in the week in the microwave before serving it, cook it just below the desired doneness level so it does not dry out while reheating. You can also grill vegetables and potatoes on the grill as well if you wish to accompany your meals. Even if you don’t do these side items, they will be the only items you need to cook during the week to accompany your reheated meats you grilled on Sunday!
Overall, the grill is a great money saver for families, especially during the summer months if it is used efficiently. Make sure you purchase the proper cuts of meat when they are on sale. Then by using the grill outside your house you will save on your electricity expenses. With proper planning on a Sunday you can do the majority of cooking for your family’s meals for the week and save a lot of time. In the end you will save time, money, and energy if you follow these tips. Happy grilling.