Lately you’ve noticed meat prices creeping higher every week. Your food budget feels cramped! You can save money on meat by using these six simple tips.
Shop the loss leaders. “Loss leaders” are supermarket specials that feature low, low prices. The idea is to draw shoppers to the store where they will buy plenty of other (not-on-sale) items to offset the low price of the loss leader. Plan your weekly menu around meat that’s on sale and save big. Even if your family is small, buy the “family packs” when they’re on sale, then break them into smaller packets to freeze.
Cut meat. I save money by buying meat on sale and then cutting it to my own specs. For instance, I recently bought bone-in chicken breasts for ninety-nine cents a pound and boned it myself, saving about $3 per pound. I buy roasts and cube them to make my own stew beef when the roast is on special. Tougher cuts of meat can be sliced into strips and marinated to make fajitas or stir-fry meats, whole or half pork loins make excellent center-cut pork chops. You pay extra at the grocer for these premium cuts of beef, but a few minutes and a little effort gets you the goods at a much lower price.
Stretch! My mom had six kids to feed on a military man’s paycheck. She did it by stretching her meat purchases using noodles, rice, potatoes and other filling add-ins. You don’t need to make meat the star of every meal. Experiment with recipes where the meat provides some of the taste and other, cheaper ingredients make up the main dish. Another idea: make one or two meals meatless every week.
Join a warehouse club. You can find good buys in the butcher section of your warehouse club if you’re careful. Pay close attention, though, to the prices. You may find that you can save money by shopping supermarket loss leaders. Avoid the highly-processed frozen meat products that come with a hefty price tag as well as lots of additives, preservatives, and extra packaging that you’re paying to purchase and concentrate on buying high-quality cuts of meat in large portions. Ask about having the meat cut to order as many clubs will do this at no additional charge.
Special occasions? Try the full-service meat market. While you’ll pay a higher price per pound for the meat at the market, you’re likely to get high-quality meat that cooks up so well at home that you won’t even be tempted to go to that expensive restaurant. In addition, a good butcher can trim the meat to avoid waste. Keep in mind that meat markets have specials, too; I occasionally buy these specials for my family and I feel I get my money’s worth. The trick is to purchase only what you need and to avoid the delicious goodies that your gourmet market offers along with the meat. Pass on the expensive cheeses, the prepared meals, and the fancy breads that tempt your tastebuds to over-spend.
Double up with a friend to buy in bulk. Investigate local sources for meat to buy in bulk. This tip requires that you have a freezer, but you may be able to save money on excellent cuts of meat by buying in bulk. If eating organic, grass-fed meat is important to you, this option can save you money and upgrade your diet.
You can eat well, enjoy healthy meals, and save money on meat by applying these tips. Bon appétit!