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Last month as part of the organic journey series, we looked at the option of purchasing a whole cow to save money and get a high quality product. I realize that some folks aren’t quite ready for that challenge, so what are some smaller steps we can implement to save on meat?
Meat and poultry can be the single largest expense in the food budget for many of us. Reducing meat consumption is one way to save; not because we are vegetarian, but because it can be expensive! Here are some tips you can use to help your budget in the meat department:
1. Learn Basic Cuts of Meat
One of the most straightforward ways to save is to take larger cuts of meat and cut them down yourself. Many stores even offer to do this for free at the butcher counter if you ask. For a few minutes of time, you can literally shave off a few dollars a pound for the same thing!
Think about the cut you are wanting – a steak, a pork chop or a chicken breast and consider the larger piece of meat it came from. Grocery stores, local butcher shops and even warehouse stores often have nice deals on larger cuts of meat. You might not need all the meat at once, but by cutting it down into different sections of meat and freezing them, you can save significantly (50%) off the per pound price!
A few examples:
|Larger Cut||Sale Price||Smaller Cut||Sale Price|
|NY Strip Roast||$5.99||NY Strip Steak||$7.99|
|Split Chicken Breast||$0.99||Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast||$1.99|
|Whole Pork Loin||$1.99||Boneless Pork Loin Chops||$3.99|
For amazing steaks, look for a roast with the same name and cut it down into the thickness of steaks you want. The New York Strip Roast above is a good example. You can save over $3 per pound just for making 6 simple slices!
Pork can also be cut down. One easy technique is to take a whole pork loin and butcher your own thick cut chops that would normally costs twice as much even on sale. You can also use the loin for roasts, cubed pork meat or butterflied chops.
For poultry, if you are advanced, grab whole chickens and cut them down yourself. If you are just learning, try getting split chicken breast and de-boning them yourself. You really can’t mess it up and they cost half as much. The best part is you can use the bits you cut off to make a great chicken stock so nothing goes to waste!
2. Avoid Fancy Cuts That Cost More
There is really no need to buy meat that is labeled tenderized, butterfly cut or thin cut. Stores tend to markup prices for meat labeled in this way, but in just a few minutes, you can do this yourself, and save 30¢ per pound or more.
3. Use Cooking Techniques to Transform Lower Quality Cuts
For slow-cooking or marinating, you can usually buy less expensive cuts of meat as the meat will become tender and take on the flavors of your marinade. For dishes like meatloaf, burgers or sloppy joes, stretch your beef with breadcrumbs or oatmeal to make them healthier and less expensive. you can add healthy, yet inexpensive fillers like oatmeal or bread crumbs to make you meat go further. One of my all time favorite tips is to use a Jaccard to tenderize inexpensive and sometimes tough cuts of meat.
4. Grind Your Own
Another small time investment with a big payoff is to grind your own meat or have a butcher grind it for you. You can buy a chuck roast, instead of ground chuck meat. Most people are not too familiar with grinding their own meat, but a stand mixer with a food grinder, a manual hand-crank, or even a food processor is all you need to grind meat in minutes. If you prefer not to do it on your own, the butcher or meat person in the grocery store will usually do it for you gladly if you just ask.
5. Look for Marked-Down & Family Packages
At the meat counter, check for items that have been marked down for quick sale. If it is nearing the sell by date, you can buy it to use right away or freeze it to use later. Family-size packages of meat usually cost less per pound so again just divide it up and freeze for use later.
6. Shop In-Season
Meat prices do fluctuate with the season. During grilling season and warmer weather, ground beef and steak prices are higher, while winter favorites like roast cuts will go down in price. Meat also goes on sale at least every other month, so stocking up with a 6-8 week supply will help you save.
Do you use any of these tips to stretch your budget when it comes to meat? Have any other creative ways to save that we should all know about?