It's tough being a meat-eater when your pocket's empty. Beef, especially roasts and steaks, is inexorably heading toward $10 a pound (if it hasn't already gotten there in a lot of areas.). Pork, veal and lamb are trotting right along behind it.
The answer: look for dishes that use small amounts of meat, yet speak their flavor out strongly. Like Jager Kohl, a German "Hunter's Cabbage" that's almost a hash, almost a stew: delicious, either way. This and the other recipes are from Ann Rogers' A Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others. As she points out, "Poor poets, unless they truly are vegetarians, need meat...it is better for them than suppers of fortified bread and martinis. They need meat because it is good for them to say, 'I had steak for dinner last night,' and mean it because it is true."
1/2 pound bacon or sausages
3 large potatoes
1 small head cabbage
2 tablespoons flour
salt, pepper and a dash of cider vinegar
1/2 pint sour cream or yogurt
Fry the bacon/sausage; drain off most of the fat and add thick slices of potatoes and cabbage. Sprinkle flour over top, along with spices, then add enough water to barely cover. Cover and simmer 45 min. - 1 hour. Serves 4, with the sour cream/yogurt alongside. "Rye bread and butter and a salad of apples and raisins rounds out this meal."
(Another version of this dish is here -- with polish sausage.)
Pocket-Poor heads in the same direction, but features onions, instead of cabbage.
2 1/2 pounds sweet onions
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
3/4 cup rice
1/2 pound smoked sausages
Peel and thick-slice potatoes and onions; add the rest, and bring to a boil in water just to cover. Season with a little salt and simmer slowly for about 30 min. (Check periodically, and add more water if the rice doesn't have enough.) Serves 4.
or try a Dutch Dish -- same idea, just faster. My Dutch aunt Wilmetta says this reminds her of food she ate as a kid in rural South Dakota.
For each person, use:
1 each small onion, apple and potato
2-3 slices bacon (I've substituted 1/2 cup of cut-up pork loin or stew meat, with good results)
Fry bacon until cooked, but not crisp. While it's frying, peel and grate the vegetables and apple. Break up the bacon, drain off some of the fat, add the veggies and fry at low temperature until done. "Turn out on a hot plate and grind lots of pepper over the top. Eat as is or with fried eggs...and hot, strong coffee."
(Try Flat Broke Foodie for a reverie on butchers and meat. Some other tasty budget meals here, too.)