Cutting Back on the Cost of Meat at the Grocery Store

meat

Meat constitutes one of the highest ticket items at the store. For our family of four, we eat around one pound of meat per seating. If I purchase a pound of hamburger meat, for instance, we’ll eat most of it in the form of burgers and have just one meal leftover if I make something else, like meatballs and spaghetti.

I always try to purchase meats when on sale. For instance, I know I can get chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, for $1.99 per pound if I wait until it hits its lowest price. That’s the best price in my area. $2.24 a pound isn’t bad, but if I buy ten pounds and pay fifty cents more per pound, I’m spending another five dollars. If I can get it at the $1.99 per pound price, I scoop up enough to last us through the next sales cycle.

But come on. Chicken breasts get old after a while, even with my numerous chicken recipes: marsala, picatta, barbecued, with pita bread, cut into strips for fajita. After a few nights of chicken based dinners, I’m ready for something different. Steak, however, rarely gets down into the price range I want to see; so we eat little of it, unless I buy it in chunks for stew or strips for fajitas. I sometimes buy the cheaper cuts of meat, which tend to be chewier and tougher when cooked, and marinate them overnight to make them more tender. Then I use them in a variety of recipes.

We do several vegetarian nights as well. I grew up a vegetarian and have multiple cookbooks for fantastic, yummy recipes sans meat. I try to do these when we also have some meat left over, in case my husband wants something to go with the dish.

Still, I sometimes get frustrated with what I spend on meats. Stephanie Nelson, founder of CouponMom.com, wrote The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half. I have a copy, of course (great book, highly recommended), and when I’m at a loss for cutting back on our spending I check it out to see what she has to say.

About lowering your price on meats, she gives these tips:

•    Shop after holidays for the best meat prices. The day after Thanksgiving, turkey prices are really low. Ham hits a great price after Easter. Stick in the freezer for future meals.
•    Create a healthier plate. So many people make meat the main staple and serve a huge portion. Instead, do as the USDA guidelines recommends, says Nelson, and serve the recommended four ounces – or the size of a deck of playing cards.
•    Look for marked-down meats. I do this when I go to the store and, say, want hamburger and don’t have any in my freezer. Meats that are about to expire can be slashed up to fifty percent. This is a shop the day of or the day before you fix it, unless you buy it during your regular trip and take it home to freeze.
•    Shop the freezer aisle. Nelson says fresh meats at their lowest price are cheaper than frozen varieties because stores often discount up to fifty percent off. However, if you don’t have a stocked freezer and you really, really want chicken (and you don’t live close enough to me to so I can loan you a pack!) you may find that buying chicken breasts bagged and frozen costs less.  Nelson says that when comparing the regular price of these items, she finds frozen chicken can be at least ten percent less per pound than fresh at regular price.

I also shop at a local store that runs sales each Wednesday. The downside: You have to go on Wednesday to get the deals. The upside: You can save tremendously on meats. This week, chicken (yep, that word again!) is on sale for its lowest price, so I will be heading over today to stock up.

How do you save on meats for your family?

Imag via Flickr/Northwest Retail