Hamburger patty

Families might have to get a little creative when it comes to home-cooked meals while the Coronavirus continues to hamper the slaughter plants and drive retail food prices up. (Journal photo by Lacey Newlin.)

My mom never had much imagination when it came to what was for dinner when I was growing up. We raised cattle and had our own calves butchered, so that was just about the only protein in our freezer and thus on our dinner plates. For lunch it was spaghetti with meat sauce, next we have taco meat and burritos, one night it was chicken fried steak or on Sundays we’d grill hamburgers and steaks. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, and chicken fried steak just happens to be one of my all-time favorite dishes, but with the Coronavirus slowing down slaughter plants, increasing the demand and prices of beef and a lot more families eating almost every meal at home, a lot of people can’t afford to eat beef every night—and it’s a real shame. Yesterday someone told me they saw hamburger at the grocery store for $10 a pound. $10 a pound! Retail meat prices are out of control, and what’s worse is the cattleman is not making any more money off those sky high prices.

So if you purchase your meat from a retail location, what are you to do until plants are able to catch up with the demand and the Coronavirus is under control? I would certainly never tell someone to stop eating beef, but we might not all be able to eat it for every meal like my mom always served. A happy medium would be to eat beef somewhere around three nights a week. Try replacing those nights you don’t eat beef with another animal protein that hasn’t been as impacted by the Coronavirus, like pork, chicken, goat or lamb, which still supports agriculture and provides a protein-rich meal. Additionally, if you are like my mom and mainly serve beef, experimenting with new recipes and cooking with proteins you don’t usually use is a fun activity to do with kids and pass the time while we’re all still partially locked down with virus concerns.

Another alternative is to buy direct from a rancher who will most likely charge less than a grocery store or go in with a friend who has a butcher date for a calf or hog. The latter will fill your freezer and get you through the meat shortage with meat to spare.

Lastly, you can always hunt and gather to save a little dough and get out of the house for a little recreation in the sun. The hunting does not apply to beef or pigs of course, and although this isn’t really hunting season, it is a perfect time to throw a fishing line in at the lake and reel in a fish dinner. The morel mushroom season is also over for this year, but hunting for those tiny morsels is fun and they are delicious to fry up and pop in your mouth.

One thing that is in season right now is fruit and vegetables, whether they are cultivated or wild. Gardening has been on the rise this year as both a hobby and a valuable food source. You can still plant lots of vegetables and have a plentiful harvest right in your backyard. If you want to gather berries—sand plums, mulberries and blackberries are all in season right now and even more tasty if you pick them yourself. Plus, if you want to continue to enjoy them all year, take up canning and turn them into scrumptious jams and jellies. Yet another skill that can be gained from this pandemic!

The bottom line is some of us will have to get creative with food while this pandemic continues to turn our economy and retail food system upside down. Just think about it like a recipe you want to make, but you don’t have all the ingredients. There is always a substitute that can be used and most of the time it tastes just as good.

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 580-748-1892 or lnewlin@hpj.com

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