One of the best ways to stretch a tight food budget is to think big.
Buying in bulk, especially when it comes to meat, can save a substantial amount of money.
For example, small center-cut pork loin roasts or boneless pork loin chops cost $4 or more a pound. But buying a whole pork loin (usually about 6 to 9 pounds of meat) can cost as little as $2 a pound.
The meat cutters at most markets will gladly cut a whole pork loin into smaller roasts and chops, making it easy to plan several meals. And well-wrapped meat can keep well in the freezer up to a year.
To wrap meat for the freezer use plastic wrap, foil or freezer paper and try to squeeze out as much air from the package as possible.
Home vacuum sealing units work well because the wrapping material usually is high quality and they remove the most air possible. The machines can be pricey, but expensive handheld units are increasingly common.
This recipe for Cuban-style brined pork loin costs only about $1.30 per serving and is a superb way to cook a larger roast for a meal that will feed a family of four or five with plenty of leftovers.
Brining is a technique in which meat is soaked in a salty marinade. The solution is drawn into the meat and not only adds flavor but also assures that you will have tender, juicy results. This works especially well for leaner cuts of meat.
Brines can be made by combining 8 cups of water with 1/2 cup of kosher salt (not table salt) and whatever seasonings you like. Brine chops and smaller cuts for no more than 4 to 6 hours and larger roasts for up to 24 hours.
In this recipe the brine is inspired by Cuban marinades, combining the sweetness of orange juice concentrate and brown sugar with cumin and oregano.
Leftovers can be thinly sliced and made into Cuban sandwiches topped with Swiss cheese, dill pickles and mustard. If you like, butter the outside of the bread and grill it in a sandwich press or paninimaker.
You also can make an excellent hash by dicing leftover pork and combining it with diced, cooked potatoes, chopped onions and chopped parsley. Brown the mixture in olive oil and serve topped with poached eggs.