College Kitchen: Eating meat on a budget

Feed that carnivorous appetite without breaking the bank.

The Ground Chuck Pita Sandwich is an example of how to prepare affordable meat in a tasty way.

Maddy Fox

The Ground Chuck Pita Sandwich is an example of how to prepare affordable meat in a tasty way.

Isabella Romano

The best part about going home for the holidays should be the familiar faces, catching up with mom and pops and being heralded as the prodigal child. But it’s not. The best part about going home is the sudden reincorporation of meat into the daily diet. The carnivorous beast, starved for so long, finally gets the nourishment it deserves. 
 
It’s challenging to purchase meat as a student. A cut is expensive and more difficult to prepare than a bowl of pasta, which is why it quickly loses its spot on the shopping list. 
The good news is that the superheroes behind local butcher counters are eager to help.  
 
“Stay away from the pre-packaged stuff,” Spencer Lane, an employee at the Seward Community Co-op butchery said. “If you’re looking for quality and something that will last a while, it’s better to go to the counter.”
 
The Seward Community Co-op is known for its locally sourced, organic meat. While it has better quality and is more ethically reputable than the local grocery store, it can be on the expensive side. 
 
The best grocery alternative is Cub Foods, which offers a wider variety at the butcher counter for a slightly cheaper price. 
 
Here are the most practical meat purchases and where to get them:
 
Ground chuck or ground beef
 
Ground chuck or beef is the most versatile kind of meat, as it can be seasoned and added to a variety of dishes. See the Ground Chuck Pita Sandwich recipe for an easy way to make use of this economical and practical purchase. 
 
Ground chuck at Cub Foods is cheap at $4.99 a pound. However, Seward Co-op offers grass-fed ground beef for $8.49. Though nearly double the price, grass-fed beef is healthier and more ethical. Either way, a pound of ground chuck or ground beef goes a long way and isn’t a one-meal splurge. 
 
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
 
Frankly, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a rip off, even for $2.50 a piece at Cub Foods, especially when a whole chicken, already cooked, is $7.99. But according to Justin Valder, an employee at the Cub Foods butcher counter, it’s the most popular purchase among college students. This is because the convenience justifies the price. With essentially no preparation, a chicken breast can be baked, cooked on the stove or grilled and added to a multitude of meals. 
 
Boneless pork chop
 
Pork chops are a fantastic alternative to steak for a nice dinner. A pork chop is a simple dish; it can be baked or grilled and is difficult to undercook. Like steak, pork chops pair
well with plenty of yummy and easy topping sauces. Plus, at $4.99 a pound — compared to $14.99 for ribeye — it won’t empty the wallet. Cub Foods has a boneless pork chop, which is particularly easy to prepare. 
 
Bacon and sausage
Sunday breakfast just isn’t complete without bacon and sausage. For the deal, head to Cub Foods. Thick-cut bacon is $4.99 a pound, but if a little splurging is in the budget, the bacon at the Co-op is of noticeably better quality, priced at $7.99 a pound. Bacon can be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop, but if there’s time to spare, bake it in the oven to preserve the juiciness. Heat a pan in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then add the bacon to the hot pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. 
 
The sausage, on the other hand, is definitely worth buying at the co-op. It’s $7.99 a pound, but the selection is mouth-watering, and the sausages are made in-store. 
 
Ground Chuck Pita Sandwich
Based on a recipe from Real Simple
 
1/2 pound of ground chuck
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 pocketless pitas
1/2 cup of plain hummus 
1/8 of a medium red onion, sliced
1/4 of a red bell pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
1/2 of a lemon, cut into wedges
 
Mix the garlic and the oregano into the ground chuck, then separate into patty strips, roughly 1 inch by a half inch, and a half-inch thick. Season with salt and pepper. Heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Cook the strips for two minutes on each side or until fully browned. 
 
Top the pitas with hummus, red onion, red pepper, cooked ground chuck strips and parsley. Drizzle the remaining one-half tablespoon of olive oil. Serve the sandwiches with the sliced lemon on the side.