Unprocessed “Lunch Meat”

For a long time I felt really good about where we were on our journey to eat less processed food. Then one day I realized that we were still eating a very processed food every day… lunch meat. We would have it for lunch and sometimes for a quick snack option. Lunch meat is such an easy thing to turn to for lunches – meat and cheese roll-ups, sandwiches, or even to chop up and put it on a salad. One of the things that really struck me was how much I was spending on it. Personally I’m not a big fan of lunch meat, never have been. I think it is a texture issue and sometimes taste. So, for me to eat it, I would end up buying what I considered to be ‘healthier’ deli lunch meat options. I bought the expensive almost $10 per pound lunch meats. Wow! That is a lot of money for overly processed, flavored meat. Thinking back on it, I can’t believe I was doing that. That’s not all, most of the time, the meat would turn rancid before we finished it, so it became money in the garbage.

My husband and I really wanted to make a change, but to be honest, I was at a loss of what to do. I wanted something easy, healthy, and inexpensive. It probably took another month or two before I finally decided what I was going to do, and actually bypass the deli counter on my weekly trip to the store.

This is now our alternative for lunch meat. I buy approximately 5 pounds of boneless, skin-less chicken breasts which cost $1.99 per pound. Then, I load up the crock pot with the chicken and season it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

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Let it cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4 hours.

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While it is still hot, I shred it all.

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I then fill Ziploc bags with lunch-size portions for our family.

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Those bags then go into a large Ziploc bag and into the freezer. Every couple of days I pull out one of these small bags, and we use it for our lunches.

Some of our lunch ideas:

  • Put it on top of salad.
  • Use it inside a tortilla wrap with spinach, avocado, and a little dressing as an alternative to a traditional sandwich.
  • Add barbecue sauce and have a barbecue chicken sandwich.
  • Make chicken salad and have it on bread or with crackers.
  • Season it with taco seasoning and have chicken burritos or taco salad.

For young children, you might try what Little Mouse prefers. She really likes everything separate right now, so I just add a little pile of chicken to her plate along with some veggies and fruit.

I know lunch meat is very convenient and super easy to pick up at the store, but for us, this is what we do instead. I feel really good about this change we have made. It does take a bit more planning, and I try to stay on top of it and cook some more when we are running low, but for us the benefits are worth the effort. I am now spending roughly $10 per month on the chicken rather than $10 per week on the lunch meat. For me, the 20 minutes it takes me to shred and pack the chicken is worth the $30 of savings each month.

I just can’t believe I didn’t start this sooner. I have actually been cooking and freezing chicken this way for years. The only difference is I freeze it in dinner size portions and use it in casseroles, pasta dishes, pizza, barbecue, etc. Having pre-cooked meat in the freezer definitely saves time when getting meals ready. And if you are sometimes shocked at how quickly the day goes by and it’s almost time for dinner, like I often find myself, having half the work done already is HUGE!

You can also read about how I save money on ground meat here.

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