Of course, the easiest way to save money on buying meat is… to not buy any meat at all. Beans and rice are cheap and tasty, a dietary staple in many cultures around the world. But if you consider yourself and your family to basically be “obligate carnivores” as my family does, you may struggle to keep meat in your diet while keeping money in your bank account as well. Here are a few tips on how to buy meat on a budget.
Buy large portions. Large pieces of meat generally cost less per pound than smaller cuts—after all, there’s less work involved in wrapping up a whole roast, compared to chopping it up and packaging several steaks in multiple containers. You may end up spending more money up front, but if you can freeze what you don’t mean to eat right away, you will spend less in the long run.
Buy discounted meat. Use some caution here, but this is generally a good tactic in chain supermarket stores. When unsold meat gets about a day away from its “sell by” date, supermarkets often mark down these packages to sell them quickly. If the meat is still unsold on its “sell by” date, those packages are marked down even more, 50 or even 75% off. The supermarket would rather sell the meat cheaply and still make a little money instead of having to dispose of it! If you buy meat on its “sell by” date, be sure to use it immediately, so it doesn’t spoil.
Buy ends and pieces. Not making a centerpiece meal for your company’s CEO any time soon? Often, markets and delis sell “ends and pieces” at a discount. These might be irregularly shaped bits of bacon, or the round ends of deli meats that won’t be on a magazine cover any time soon, but are still perfectly good to eat. And if you are just stuffing them in a sandwich or chopping them up to put in a stew anyway, no one will even notice!
So you bought ten pounds of pork for only $1.50 a pound, or scored a few whole chickens from your backyard homestead neighbor. Dinner for weeks!… you think, but… now what? How to cook all that cheap meat you just got, assuming you are a meat eater?
Slow cooking has been a time saver for families for ages. Tough meat that would otherwise be hard to eat can simmer for hours in a pot, growing soft and tender. The trouble was that someone had to be watching the pot all day, something that’s hard to do in our modern, busy lifestyles. When the slow cooker, or Crock-Pot, as the brand name is, was invented a few decades ago, it was instantly popular. Because it cooked food at a low, constant, heat, without needing to be warmed by a flame or oven, parents could flip it on in the morning, go to work, and return home to a warm, nearly effortless meal. Since most cheap cuts of meat and vegetables generally require somewhat long cooking times, a slow cooker can be a great help to a thrifty lifestyle, as you can cook a cheap, nutritious meal very easily. Below is a basic recipe that works for nearly any cheap cut of meat, but this is only a guide—feel free to add your own vegetables or spices, and adjust cooking times to your preference.
- Chop up veggies. Onions and carrots go with almost every meat. Celery is cheap and is often used with poultry. Toss those in the bottom of the crock pot.
- You don’t need to add liquid, since fat will melt off the meat when cooking, but if you wish to, pour in a cup or two of water or broth.
- Pat dry your meat. Shake on some spices. Salt, pepper, and garlic powder are good basic flavors that go with almost everything.
- Turn on the slow cooker! If you need a meal within 4-5 hours, flip it on high. Otherwise, especially for tough cuts of beef or pork, cooking on low for an average of 8 hours will yield a more tender meal.
There you go! You have an extremely basic slow cooker meal! Again, this is a just a starting point—part of the fun is being able to experiment on your own! What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?
One of the most expensive items in your shopping cart will be meat. Actually it probably is your most expensive item. You can definitely find sales and shop in bulk to cut down in cost, but another thing you can do that will actually make a difference is go meatless for a couple of meals a week. You’ll see your grocery bill go down a bit. But don’t worry, you don’t have to sacrifice taste for your wallet.
Here are some great meat alternatives.
1. Black beans and chickpeas. Most recipes that call for ground beef like tacos or spaghetti sauce are actually quite good with either of these alternatives. They mostly soak in whatever spices you put on them making it even better! I do highly suggest rinsing both of them before preparing them though. Cans of these items are incredibly inexpensive too!
2. Veggies! Yes vegetables are a great meat alternative. When you are making something like lasagna substitute the meat with eggplant or strips of zucchini You seriously won’t miss it! I bet even your kids dive into it with open arms.
3. Tofu. Although it’s not as cheap as say black beans, it is cheaper than meat. And remember this too takes on the flavor of whatever it’s cooked in so it’s a great alternative for protein without the pricetag.
4. Nuts. No, I’m not crazy, they are a great alternative. I recently tried a curry dish using no meat, but just using raw cashews that I soaked in water for a couple of hours and roughly chopped. It was A-MAZ-ING. Almonds are awesome too!
What are some dishes you cook without meat?
By far the most expensive item on our shopping list is meat. If you don’t eat meat, there is one way to save money, but for the rest of us, our grocery bill can get pretty costly especially if you buy natural or organic meats. Here are some tips for saving money when you buy meat.
1. Check out clearance.
There is still a lot of life left in clearance meat. And a lot of times, the cost is cut down by 75% or more! Even if you don’t need it anytime soon, meat freezes wonderfully!
2. Buy bulk and freeze.
This is especially good for hamburger meat. You can save anywhere from $.10-$.50 a pound off. Just make sure you remember to divide it out and freeze it when you get home from the store.
3. Buy local beef.
This is what my family does and we save a TON of money. We get approximately 115 pounds of beef for $2.50 a pound. That’s a pretty good price for ground beef, but that’s for ribeye steaks as well! The meat is WAY better than anything you can find in the local grocery store and it’s free of any hormones or fillers. We know exactly what we are getting when we buy our cow. Sometimes we even know the pasture they were grazing in.
4. Look for coupons.
I see coupons from the store on meat ALL THE TIME. I especially see them at Kroger, Smiths and Albertsons.
5. Take advantage of BOGO at Albertsons.
They have this sale often and it’s a wonderful time to stock up! I’ve done the price comparison and even though Albertsons meat may be more expensive than some stores for individual items, when you take advantage of BOGO, they can’t be beat!
6. Bulk up your ground beef.
Oatmeal and breadcrumbs are a great way to bulk up things like ground beef and it’s healthy for you. If you grind up oatmeal really fine, you can’t even tell it’s in there.