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5 Smart Ways to Enjoy Lean Beef on a Budget

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Lean beef is - and has always been - a nutrition powerhouse, a naturally nutrient-rich source of ten essential nutrients that adults and children need for active, healthy lifestyles. On average, one 3-ounce serving (size does matter!) of lean beef has only 179 calories and is an excellent source of: protein, zinc, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorous. Lean beef is also a good source of choline, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, and riboflavin. Now, that‘s maximum nutrition for a minimum amount of calories.

The really good news about today’s beef is that there are 29 cuts that meet government guidelines for lean - and beef choices to satisfy all tastes, schedules and budgets. You can enjoy the flavors you love - without sacrificing nutrition or breaking your food budget. Here are five easy ways to put some delicious protein on your table this fall.

1. Choose less expensive, more flavorful cuts.
Instead of buying pre-cut meat for kabobs, stew, and stir-fry, save money by choosing steaks or roasts and cutting into the meat cubes or strips. You can also buy boneless roasts to cut into steaks (your butcher may be willing to do the cutting for you). Look for beef cuts like chuck shoulder, bottom round, petite fillet, tri-tip, and ranch steak.

2. Match the cooking method to the cut.
Matching the cut to the cooking method is the key to moist, tender, flavorful beef. Less-tender steak cuts from the chuck, round, and flank (shoulder, eye round, top round, and skirt steak) require a tenderizing marinade before grilling or broiling. Moist heat cooking methods, such as braising or a slow cooker, also guarantee flavorful results.

3. Stretch your beef dollar with sales.
Smart shoppers know that sales are a food budget’s best friend, so buy extra and freeze for later use. It’s safe to freeze beef in original packaging or to rewrap it. For long term freezing, overwrap store plastic with aluminum foil, freezer paper, or freezer-weight plastic bags to prevent ‘freezer burn.’ Use frozen steaks and roasts in 9 to 12 months.

4. Plan to cook once and dine twice.
Preparing extra beef ahead of time is an easy way to serve delicious dishes that save on preparation time and food budgets at the same time. A grilled steak one night becomes the main ingredient for tomorrow’s protein-packed salad. Or crumble leftover cooked lean burgers into chili, tacos, pizza, or pasta dishes for a planned meal the next day.

5. Take a (tri) tip from the experts.
Need some new ideas for cooking a tri-tip roast - or grilling a new type of steak from the meat case? No worries - help is online at sites from National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and state beef councils. For some new lean beef ideas, start with these sites:,, and

For more fun, easy tips on healthy living, go to

Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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