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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Meat Grinder

Frugal Kitchens 101
Years ago if you wanted ground meat, you ground it yourself, went to a butcher shop or an abattoir. Now the vast majority of people buy their ground meat at their local grocery stores. With the advent of large meat processing plants, the meat is often ground several days before you purchase it. The actual ground meat is usually a combination of meats from several sources mixed together so the package of ground beef you put in your cart could contain a combination of ground meats from several farmers! Quite often the ground beef is sold in opaque tubes in a pre-measured amount so you can't see the meat that were packaged off site. All of these practices are meant to keep the price per kilogram low for ground beef. In recent years ground chicken, ground turkey and ground pork have become more popular however in smaller communities finding these ground meats is hit or miss at best. If you buy beef or pork on the hoof you pay a flat price per kilogram whether the meat is ground or not. If you have wild game you either have to grind it yourself or whoever packages it for you will likely grind if you ask.

So, how can a meat grinder save you money? First off ground meat spoils very quickly because of the large surface area. If there is a pathogen on the surface of a steak it will be destroyed by cooking but with ground meat there is a lot more surface area that aids in the multiplication of bacteria. Whenever someone else grinds your meat you are relying on them to use safe preparation methods but we all know that doesn't always happen. Grinding your own meats just before using them gives you the freshest ground meat possible. Even if there was surface bacteria on the meat chunk you ground, it would not be in levels enough to cause spoilage or illness. The mains ways you can use a meat grinder to save you money are:

  • cutting out the middle man - Grinding your own meats eliminates the person(s) who do the grinding. That is reflected in the cost of grinding that is built into the ground meat product.
  • avoid spoilage - If you have used ground meat then you will know it is very discouraging to open a package only for it to have that off smell. Some will go ahead and use the ground beef while others such as myself will not. If you use the ground beef then end up sick or worse. If you don't use it which I highly recommend you waste the price of the meat. Grinding your meat just before using reduces the spoilage problem.
  • meats on sale - Grinding your own meats allows you to take advantage of meats on sale. For example chicken with backs attached go on sale for 79¢/lb. If you remove the skin and bone then grind you get ground chicken for that price instead of the much higher price of about $2.49/lb for pre-ground. Watch for in store specials or just those really great meat deals then grind your own. A local grocery store had an in store special on pork loin shoulder at $1/lb. I bought several to can as barbeque shredded pork but also used a couple to make fresh ground pork.
  • grind novelty meats - A meat grinder allows you to grind meats you can't readily get at your grocery store. These include pork, turkey, chicken and game meats that can be store bought, raised by yourself or from a successful hunt camp. A meat grinder is a must for making homemade sausages!
  • use to grind other foods - Use your meat grinder to: prepare cucumbers for relish, grinding cooked meats for dips and spreads, grinding cheeses and making bread crumbs.
There are three basic styles of meat grinders: manual, electric or attachment for another electric appliance. A manual model clamps to your countertop. It will cost about $80 new but will last a lifetime however finding used manual meat grinders at yard or estate sales is rather easy. Expect to pay anywhere from 50¢ to a few dollars. The nice thing about a manual meat grinder is just that. You can grind meat and other foods anywhere! If you have a lot of food to grind or do a lot of canning and bulk food cooking consider and electric meat grinder. These start at the $120 range and go higher. If you have a stand mixer check for an affordable food grinder attachment. I bought the food grinder attachment (FGA) for my KitchenAid® for $35 in their discount section which was a $30 savings.

Regardless of the style of meat grinder you use, cut the meat into thin strips then feed them into the hopper. I find cold or partially frozen meat works best as does twice grinding. Run a slice of bread through the hopper when you are finished grinding the meat to make clean-up easy. Unfortunately you should not put these bread crumbs into the compost or out for the birds as they will have small bits of meat in them. If you do not want to waste a slice of bread simply do as I do. Disassemble and hand wash in hot, soapy water.

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