Eat cheap: Supermarket rotisserie chicken makes a fast meal, but convenience costs: about $7 for the average bird. You can roast your own three-pounder in an hour with inexpensive herbs from the pantry for $3.50.
Bone up: Swap boneless chicken breasts ($5.99 a pound) for bone-in thighs ($2.19 a pound), which is perfect for easy-prep-and-cook casseroles.
Talk turkey: Not just for Thanksgiving, a hefty gobbler can serve up three hearty meals, with enough meat left over for sandwiches. Choose a frozen turkey, at $1.29 a pound, over fresh breast fillets, at $4.89 a pound.
Avoid the tender trap: Buy value cuts like chuck pot roast, bone-in sirloin roast, and pork shoulder, at $3 to $5 a pound. While not as juicy or as quick-cooking as rib-eye or pork loin roasts, they have top-notch flavor, tenderize with slow cooking, and can feed a crowd.
Meet a new meat: For an economical version of premium, $20-a-pound filet mignon, try flat iron steak (also called top blade), a richly marbled butcher's bargain at $5 a pound. This newly created cut, from the steer's shoulder blade, used to go into the grinder for hamburger until a more precise cutting technique was developed.
Steer clear: Skip those pricey premade burger patties. Make your own with ground beef from a family pack of three or more pounds and save nearly 15 cents per patty; freeze any extra meat for another night.
Fish around: Switch out halibut and sea bass, which can cost $25 per pound, for wallet-friendly fish with similar tastes and textures. Tilapia and cod are as mild-flavored and firm as fancier fish, at one-third the price.
Fake it: If a dish calls for $11-per-pound lobster or $25-per-pound crab, opt for surimi ($4 to $6 a pound). Used in Japan for 900 years, this imitation shellfish (made with real white fish seasoned with crab or other seafood extracts) works well in salads, crab cakes, and casseroles.
Be happy as a clam: Fresh seafood doesn't get thriftier than blue mussels and chowder clams. Both are under $2 a dozen, and can be made into dollar-stretching soups.