How to Save Money on Meat
You can save big money, even on the higher quality meat, if you are intentional with your spending and are strategic with your timing.
This post is part of a series on How to Save Money on Real Food where we cover how to save money on meat, produce, grains, and dairy.
Meat can take up a bunch of your grocery budget if you’re not careful. There are ways to save money on meat, but it does get a bit tricky as we all have a standard of quality when it comes to meat.
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. Depending on your particular standards, these tips may or may not work for you.
Here are some ways to save money buying meat:
Look for clearanced meat.
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 as 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. Some 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.
Wait for grocery store loss-leader sales and stock up.
The best way to save on meat is to jump on a big grocery store sale and fill your freezer. Start by saving $30-$40 a month and put it in a “meat” envelope so you are prepared the next time the sale rolls around.
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 $2.99/lb, then you will know to get to the store when it goes on sale for less than that.
Replace meat with high-protein legumes or eggs.
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. Read through our big All About Beans page here.
Same with eggs. I can make a hearty egg dish for my family with a dozen or so eggs, which on sale is right around $1. I can’t get anywhere near $1 for a dinner’s worth of meat protein.
Challenge yourself to “go meatless” 1-2 nights a week. Find some delicious vegetarian recipes here.
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