Being completely honest- my family are cavemen (cave people). We like meat. Chicken, beef, pork – it’s on our menu almost every night. We do have meat less meals to help reduce the cost- but we like meat and that’s why we strategically shop: To buy the items we like by saving on the items we need.
That said, meat is expensive. Here are 13 ways to reduce the expense.
1. The Cuts: For most home cooks- there are too many cuts of beef to count. And if you are a basic home cook- many of them we can lump together (Round Roast, London Broil, Eye of Round Roast- I cook them all as if they were the same cut). For my family there are just a few cuts of beef that I’ve lumped many other cuts into (remember I am a MOM cook- not a gourmet cook!) We have steaks (T-bone, Ribeye, etc), roasts (Round, Chuck, London Broil) and ground beef. It doesn’t really matter to me what it is labeled as in the store. It matters to me (a) How I cook it (b) the cost per lb.
2. Have a price point: Here are my Stock up prices for meat.When I find meat at this price or lower I buy more than just enough for one meal:
Ground Beef: $1.99/lb
Beef Roast: $3.99/lb
Beef Steaks: $4.00/lb
Boneless Chicken Breast: $1.99/lb
Bone in Chicken: 99¢/lb
Chicken Legs or Thighs: 50¢/lb
Pork Roast: $1.99/lb
Sausage, fresh: $1.89/lb
Fresh Fish: $3.99/lb
3. Your freezer is your friend: Meat freezes amazing well if properly prepared. I use freezer bags if I need to divide the portions up or simply wrap the package in plastic wrap several times. Date the meat so you use the older meat before the newer packages.I’ve found that I prefer to wrap meat in butcher paper before placing in the freezer bag- it helps cut down on freezer burn and discoloration.
4.Cut it yourself: We like Pepper Steak in our house- but the stir-fry beef strips was always more expensive than the full pieces. So, I buy the larger pieces and slice it myself (See previous post here) instead of the precut meat and paying for someone to slice it.
5. Slow cookers: The most tender cuts of meat are more expensive. But if you slow cook the meat in a slow cooker (or even the oven or stove top) you can turn the cheaper, tougher cuts of meat into a dinner that you almost need a spoon for!
6. Make it flavorful: We pre-marinade our meat before placing most of it in the freezer. Italian Dressing for chicken, seasoning rubs for beef and even a salt brine can help bring out the flavor of frozen meat. It also helps with the tougher (i.e. less expensive) cuts of meat.
7. Look for Quick Sale meats: Stores have a sell-by date on almost every product in their store. Most are good past that date- but they can’t sell it anymore. My grocery stores mark down meat daily. I always head to the quick sale area to see what’s gotta go that day. I’ve gotten packages of bacon for less than $1, entire chickens for around a dollar and beef roasts for $2 or so. I either cook it that night or prepare & freeze it for later use. Ask the meat counter employees when they usually mark down meat and try to shop right after to get the cream of the crop before it’s picked over.
8. Stretch it out: Instead of cooking every member of my family a steak, I might grill a large London Broil like roast and slice it up. I make meat dishes that allow me to stretch it farther with rice or beans (chili, tacos, etc).
9. Follow the seasons: Steaks are going to be on sale more often around “grilling holidays” during the summer. Beef Stew meat is more likely to be on sale during the winter. Ham and Turkey around Thanksgiving and Easter. Lamb is cheaper in the spring. Chicken just bounces all around.
10. Look for coupons: National brands such as Smithfield, Perdue, and Hillshire often put coupons on their products. Combine that coupon with a sale and you’ve got a great deal. Many times you might find a coupon that says “Save $1 on chicken when you buy steak sauce”. That is when I have the meat counter package the meat into $1 packages. I can use a coupon on each set of meat and steak sauce I buy then and save even more. (Check out printable coupons here)
11. Look for rebates: In NC, beer companies cannot put coupons or rebates out for beer so they put rebates and coupons on items that go well with beer- meat and chips are most common. So keep an eye in the beer aisle for rebates- and in most states (check yours) no beer purchase is required to get the rebate! Ibotta often has beer and meat rebates, but in NC they don’t require the beer purchase.
12. Use less: I’ve found in my family that the more I cook- the more they eat…even if they aren’t hungry! I’d much rather my family eat a second serving of salad or corn than another helping of fried chicken so I cook less. I cook just enough for one serving of meat for each family member. If they are still hungry after finishing that serving, they eat seconds of something a bit healthier. If I do cook extras before I call them in to eat, I put the extra up for another meal. If a dish calls for a pound of hamburger (like spaghetti or other dish where the meat is a side note) I simply use less.
13. Get outside your comfort zone. Look at stores outside your normal routine: A while ago, a store I never shop at had ground beef on sale for 99¢/lb. While I didn’t want to buy it at that store, I was able to price match their sales flyer at Walmart and get over 30 pounds at that price! (Walmart has since stopped price matching at most stores) Be sure to check out my personal favorite company- Zaycon Foods!