Staying Out of Debt for Good: This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef

It's easy to be  of two minds about this little piggy....Was she indulgent, a spendthrift?  Or was she a wise Piggy who knew that buying a premium cut of meat would be a good investment that netted many more meals than just roast, if portioned wisely?

It's easy enough to suggest the first, isn't it?  I've found that while Roast Beef can be a pricey cut at first glance it often became more economical as the days  went on.  Seldom did it cost more than ground beef per pound, but because it is bought in a greater quantity at once, the price might cause you to stagger a bit.

Did you know that you can cut roast beef into steaks, stew meat and roast beef from most flat cut roasts?  John and I sliced a sirloin roast last month into two steaks ( I could easily have done three) and a pound of beef cubes that we used for shish kebab.  Even humble Chuck Roast (the least expensive roast option) may be sliced to make chuck steaks, stew beef, etc.  I discovered this by reading one of those older cookbooks and vintage magazines which show how to make the best of a big roast.  Now I practice the methods on smaller roasts for John and I with great success.  And FYI...Mama used to buy sirloin roasts and have them rolled.  Butchers these days find the request mystifying but essentially you start at one end of the boneless roast and roll up like a jelly roll, tie with butchers twine and then you can marinate and rotisserie cook it on a grill, slow roast over a pan of smoking chips or bake in the oven as though it were a Rump or Round Roast (which incidentally cost more).  It may be sliced thinly and net many more servings than the average sirloin once it is cooked and has been allowed to rest.

Years ago I learned the wisdom of buying a big nice roast each pay period.  I'd make a pot roast dinner, which the kids enjoyed.  I carefully sliced thin cuts of meat to go with the plentiful and hearty root vegetables that cooked along with the roast and everyone was satisfied.  A couple of days later we often had a bit more roast, this time chopped up and mixed with peas and carrots, some leftover gravy and topped the dish with mashed potatoes to make a Shepherd's pie.  The remaining roast and gravy were saved and the meat chopped fine.  I added cubed potatoes and a chopped onion and simmered slowly on the top of the stove until the potatoes were tender and most of the liquid absorbed.  This was our roast beef hash which Samuel so loved. And if there happened to be a bone, or broth or vegetables or any scrap except fat left we'd set it aside in a container in the freezer to use as the base of a big pot of soup.  Mind you in these days I was feeding 6 routinely at most meals.  That's a lot of mileage out of one roast that generally averaged 2 1/4 pounds.

But more important than the mileage gotten from that cut of meat was the perception it gave to the family of plenty.  I could and often did feed my family meatless meals.  I relied heavily upon ground beef and chicken which were cheap and  stretched every single meal with an extra helping of rice, potatoes or pasta.  But as long as we had roast once a week, the family seldom saw need to complain.

I've mentioned that the roast often cost little more than ground beef but my family saw that lovely big piece of meat going into the crock pot for a roast beef dinner and they felt we had more than enough, that the household economics couldn't be all that bad if we were eating such a good bit of meat as that roast.  No matter that it was going to be stretched again and again with vegetables galore. And it worked every single time, whether we were roasting a big chicken or a ham shank as that week's best bargain.  That was key to budget stretching and keeping everyone focused on how well we managed, that single 'big' meat meal each week.

I think that is often the mistake of those who want to live frugally, not that meals have to be lavish but they often serve foods in a skimpy way.  Even something as simple as properly seasoning food can make all the difference in the world and it is well worth investing in fresh garlic (or at least the bottles of minced garlic), fresh ginger root (which can be sliced and frozen) or a nice warming pepper (jalapeno comes to mind) that adds just that little extra punch of flavor.  Herbs are another place where I'd be tempted to splurge.  You may often buy these as manager's specials and strip them from the vine and freeze, or you might grow your own.  Seasonings are always a worthy investment for the bare bones budget and make the difference in a flavorful satisfying meal over a flat tasting one.

At our poorest, our table boasted a salad every single day.  We always had fruit on the table as dessert or for eating as a snack.  True it might be a lowly head of iceberg lettuce that served as salad, and it might be only apples and oranges (bought in bulk bags, not individually chosen) piled in big bowls but the visual appeal of plenty was there for all to see.  It truly is amazing how the sting of 'poor' can be shaken by such little things that cost less than you'd imagine.

I was never (and still am not!) too proud to accept the bounty of overflow from a garden or a heavily laden fruit tree. We thought nothing of making a game of picking wild fruits and putting them into the freezer for a future treat aside from what we ate fresh. 

We had our little splurges, the things we didn't compromise on, besides that big cut of meat once a week.  Butter and real olive oil, for instance.   Just a little of those two items went a long way to enhancing a meal.  Sometimes I'd prepare mayonnaise from scratch.  Well why not?  We were out, there was no more money until pay day, but I had all the basics for making the stuff right there at home and again, if the illusion was that we had plenty...then I'd done my job well hadn't I?  My kids often drank chocolate milk...made with a deeply rich homemade chocolate syrup that just happened to be stored in the Hershey's syrup bottle.  That looked costly to others too, but it was just a good reuse of a very handy bottle, not an attempt to fool anyone.  And the milk was half whole milk and half dry powder reconstituted milk, but two whole gallons sat on the shelf of the fridge. 

Do you know what else gave the appearance of plenty?  We never failed to set the table nicely for every single meal.  The plates and glasses, the silverware, might well be the cheapest the dollar store had to offer but we used cloth napkins (sometimes just terry wash cloths which were inexpensive, colorful and sturdy for repeated uses).  If we had nothing else for a centerpiece, the aforementioned fruit piled in a 'crystal' bowl from the grocery store dishware section was used.  The kids thought it elegant if we ate by candlelight for supper.  A small savings on electricity for us, luxury as far as they were concerned.

I think what I want to say here is that it's the illusion of  things rather than the actual facts that fool the eye of the initiated and uninitiated alike.  I might well know our bank balance to the penny and know that it was truly a matter of hanging on tight until payday, but no one else need know.   At the time that valances were all the rage I bought a bolt end of fabric...for $1 yard.  We dressed two huge windows with draped fabric valances.  The remainder of the fabric was sewn into napkins and a roman shade for the kitchen window.  I might have spent $10 for that fabric but oh the mileage and how nice it all looked over the inexpensive bed sheet 'curtains' we used at the windows.  And oh how many times I was complimented on what nice window coverings we had in that main room!  No one ever guessed that it cost us less than $20 to do the big picture window, sliding glass doors, roman shade and the 'extras' of napkins!

Our clothing might have been a little worn and in some cases, mended and dyed too, but they were always clean.  We had the children set aside things that were not as nice looking to wear about the house as they worked and played and the nicer items were kept for school and going out to visit.  That idea of saving their best to wear away from home extended to shoes and jackets as well.  We were careful to remove stains from even the clothing worn about the house.  Soap is cheap and elbow grease is in plentiful supply.  We scrubbed and we soaked and we pre-treated with Dawn dish detergent and so our clothes always looked nice as they could, even if they were old.

We insisted upon keeping the house and yard looking nice.  There was a row of inexpensive bulk purchased flowers bordering the sidewalk.  The yard was mown and the shrubbery trimmed. The front door was painted an inviting color.  The front porch was swept and so was the sidewalk.  Inside the floors were clean and the main living areas were always kept free of clutter and company ready.  That made a difference, too, you know.   

Let's not get too flustered with this roast beef Piggy...After all, she undoubtedly was making the best of what she had and doing it quite well!

Comments

a8383 said…
I feel so rich when we are eating a peach cobbler in Jan from peaches put up in summer. Or eating luscious strawberry jam made in May when snow is on the ground. The wealthiest people cannot get good peaches in Jan. I still wear my "second best" shirts at home. And third best for yard work/ painting. So much has to do with self respect and respect for your blessings. Great post! Angela
Lilac Dreams said…
Thank You for giving me a new perspective on the piggies. I like to have many cloth napkins on hand too.
Anonymous said…
I was going to use the roast we had a couple days ago for another meal tonight. Then I read your post! :) One thing we do is to cut a bit of it into thin slices and put on a French bun to make French dip sandwiches with it. We use the beef broth watered down for the little bowls for dipping. If we have them we put beef juice on the bread then lettuce, onion, tomato and maybe mustard and in the buns too. Or we shred some of the roast to make barbecue sandwiches. Make Irish stew or stir fries or stroganoff with leftovers. I am sure you do this too. I keep a list of all the ideas I come up with for menus listing each cut of meat or eggs,soups etc. It helps when my brain feels fried and I am trying to come up with menus! I also have a list of easy easy meals for those hectic days or over tired days.

My Aunt I thought had a good idea. The family like most of us then ate meals together. Yet one day every week the family always ate 'dressed up'. All the silverware, water glasses and such was on the table. Set as much like a formal dinner as they could. They did this after church for years as the family was already in their finest. That way when the children had grown more and went out on a date or at another's house they were familiar with the different silverware place settings and uses and knew all the right manners already naturally.

When we were growing up my parents and many around us did not have much. Yet they always ironed their clothes and kept themselves and their homes clean. There was no excuse for slovenes they all said. We were to keep things mended and straightened and thankful for all we did have. And help others when we could. Even at school they taught us to be kind to anyone and not be too prideful. Today I find it interesting when our children's friends used to say to our kids that we must have money. Why they would ask. Because your house is so pretty and clean they would answer. I knew for a fact our family had way less money than their families but kept my mouth shut. My children knew better than to belittle anyone so were taught to think first before hurting others feelings. They did not really feel poor I do know that. As you said, we had all we needed and it was done with care and thought. We just always kept up with our things and used the money God gave us as best we could. I never cared if people knew we had or did not have much income. We cared more about the kid' moral fiber trying to create a home their friends too felt welcome in. It was as we were raised and so carried it on. I am so thankful God placed us in homes that showed us what was important. There are many things I do though wish I had done better....or at all when they were growing up. You don't get a do over though... My Dad used to say parents do the best they can at each given moment and that is all they can do. Each day is filled with so many decisions and you are bound to regret some of them I guess...

I wish I had known neighbors like you when I was a young homemaker. By 1970 is when women started entering the workplace for adventure and did not place as much concern it seemed on the home. Just before that it seemed homemakers were the majority on each street. I do know you are younger than I am. :) My family was hundreds of miles from our home but remembering what I observed and learned there really helped see us through. I knew my Mother and her friends relied on each other at times for new recipes and hints and friendship. They never seemed convey any sense that they were unhappy being home. Years later I got a chance to ask them if they were happy being at home all those years...they all said Yes! I was too. {{I did though work for a bit over 3 years later in our marriage)}. Life seemed rich even if $ was low. That is how it should be. Sarah
Lena said…
This little piggy really knows how to stretch her dollar in a good way :)
When I work with my roast, I like to keep those bits and pieces of meat and fat to make homemade broth. I do the same with chicken,and then freeze it. Don't even remember when was the last time I bought any broth!
Cheapchick said…
Lots to think about in this post. I buy pork loin and cut it up myself at home into chops, bags of meat for stir fry and shish kebabs. It goes so much further and is cheaper than buying chops. I do the same with large hams. With regard to your home, that is Pride of Ownership. Pride of Ownership doesn't cost money, it just takes some care. When I was a kid we only ever had one new set of clothes every year in the fall for school. The rest of the wardrobe was hand-me-downs from siblings and neighbor kids. There was a constant garbage bag full of clothing going around from family to family. I always just thought that was the way everyone got clothes except for back to school!
Anonymous said…
Terri,
Nice post! I love reading how people make do or find ways to make do for much, much less. Grace Livingston Hill has some books that read along the same kind of line. Thanks for sharing once again. Pam
Deanna said…
Great post! When we were newlyweds living in a tiny apartment with the barest of furnishings, I served dinners on our wedding china most nights. It might be hot dogs but with a pretty table and candlelight, we were as happy as can be.

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