Today I will dive into the topic of saving money on buying meat. This is where is starts getting tricky because we all have a standard of quality when it comes to meat. And there are many factors to consider when figuring out how to get the best deal on the quality of meat we desire that will effect how much we pay: how the animal is raised, what the animal ate, how it was treated, how far the meat had to travel, how it was butchered, etc.
You can save big money, even on the higher quality meat, if you are intentional with your spending and are strategic with your timing.
Here are some ways to save money buying meat:
:: Look for clearanced meat at Safeway and other stores. Most stores will mark down meat when the pull-date is approaching. Safeway will mark a package down first by 30% then move it to 50% off. You hit the jackpot when you find meat that is already on a loss-leader sale and marked down by 50%. Freeze it in meal-sized portions.
:: Use all the butcher’s services. There’s an advantage to buying meat from the top-shelf grocery stores. Their butchers are actually knowledgeable about meat and provide extra complimentary services for you. Albertsons will marinate your meat for you. Butchers can give you tips on how to best cook a certain cut, especially if you’re unfamiliar with it. They will package the meat into meal sized portions for you so you don’t have to pay for the Ziploc bags yourself.
:: Buy cuts and varieties that you are confident that you can prepare. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased a deeply discounted piece of meat that I was totally unfamiliar with. After months (or maybe a year) of looking at it in the freezer and feeling guilty that I hadn’t cooked it, I just threw it away. Even super-cheap meat is a waste of money if you don’t actually consume it.
:: Save up and buy a portion of a cow from a local farmer. This is really the most economical way to purchase local, grass-fed (pastured) beef. You can find farmers on craigslist or Eat Wild. My friends and I usually pay about $3 – $4 per pound for our beef when we buy a quarter or half a cow.
:: Wait for grocery store loss-leader sales and stock up. If you’re interested in local, natural chicken, New Seasons puts their chicken breast on sale for $3.99 per pound once a year. Start saving $30-$40 a month and put it in a “meat” envelope so you are prepared the next time the sale rolls around. I was able to buy six months worth of chicken in February by saving ahead of time.
If you buy meat from conventional grocery stores, it is probably worth your time to keep track of the lowest prices on the cuts and varieties you most eat. If you know that you can regularly get ground beef for $1.99/lb, then you will know to get to the store when it goes on sale for $.99/lb.
:: Use coupons. Surprising, huh? As with all couponing, wait until the stars align. Wait to use those $1 off any Hormel product coupons for when Safeway or Albertsons has Hormel Marinated Pork Tenderloin on sale Buy One, Get One Free and use two coupons and two doubles. Now you’re looking at meat for one dinner plus leftovers for around $3.
:: Replace meat with high-protein legumes. This is one area in which I have absolutely no experience as beans make me wretch. But I do know that legumes are way cheaper than meat and probably more healthful than most meat options out there. Get your Nourishing Traditions funk on and forgo the canned beans and soak dried beans to save even more money.
I would love to know how you save money buying meat. Leave a comment with your tip!
One thing to note: I know that some of you are passionate about if and what type of meat people should eat. But this series, and this blog, is about saving money on whatever each family chooses to purchase. Please be respectful and keep the debate on sites and forums that deal with such things. I will delete comments that call other reader’s food choices into question.
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