Save Money When Buying Meat
Meat is the most expensive item on your grocery list. To save money when buying meat and to maximize the food value in your family's diet, consider all the options and information in this article.
Buy on sale. Meat prices soar and dip from week to week. When you see meat that is on sale, make sure the price you are to pay is a true bargain. Sometimes the "sale price", while lower than the normal pricing at the store, is not going to save you much. Check the price per pound to determine if the total price is a good one.
What is a good price? Beef priced below $3.25 per pound is a bargain. Pork priced below $2.50 per pound is a good price. Chicken priced below $1.90 per pound is a good price. You can often find better prices on pork and chicken than you can on beef. As an example, I recently picked up "Value Packs" of chicken leg quarters at 59 cents per pound. Stores frequently use "Value Packs" which contain enough meat for a large number of meals, as loss leaders. (A loss leader is an item deliberately priced below the amount the store needs to make a profit. Loss leaders serve to attract customers who will, hopefully, buy numerous other grocery items during their visit.) At first glance the cost for a "Value Pack" might seem like more money than you want to spend, but remember you can make several meals from the package and fulfill your goal of serving low-cost meals.
Prices are often lower in the freezer department. Compare pricing for similar items between the fresh and freezer sections to find the best price.
What to buy. Roasts, whole chickens, and whole turkeys are usually the lowest cost per pound in the fresh meat section. However, ground meats in the fresh section are much higher in price than they used to be and are not much of a bargain any more. For the best prices on ground meats check the freezer section where you might still find ground turkey and turkey sausage for under $2.00 a pound.
Ham is frequently discounted at Easter and Christmas. Sometimes grocery stores will use "Value Packs" of Country Ribs or pork chops as loss-leaders to lure in customers.
With beef, consider a chuck roast. The pricing on this cut of beef is often more reasonable than cuts such as steak. Liver, kidneys, and other organ meats used to be the cheapest beef products available. Organ meats are rarely offered now and are not the bargains they once were.
How to use what you buy. First, pay close attention to serving sizes. A serving of meat is three to four ounces per person (about the size of a deck of cards). Paying attention to serving sizes will extend your budget and may result in a healthier diet.
Second, chose to serve meals which stretch out your protein. In soups, casseroles, and stir-frys for example, the meat is augmented by vegetables and various forms of starches to provide a filling, nutritious meal.
Third, cook up the entire roast or "value pack". Serve correctly portion-sized meals on the first night with the meat as the feature. For instance, with a whole chicken, roast the chicken and serve sliced breast meat with mashed potatoes, green beans, carrots, and half an apple for dessert. Then divide the remaining meat into portions for several future meals. Take off the legs and wings and freeze them for another meal. Pick the remaining meat off the bones. Measure out 2 cups of the shredded meat and freeze for use in soups, casseroles, stir-frys, chicken salad, and other recipes calling for cubed, shredded, or chopped chicken. Take the carcass, and place it in an 8-quart pot. Add water to within 2 inches of the rim of the pot. Boil the bones for 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool off for 15 minutes, then remove the bones with tongs. Pour the stock with its tender, meaty bits into pint-size freezer containers. Use this delicious, hearty stock in soup.
Fourth, use tenderizing cooking methods for less tender cuts of meat. Beef can become leather-like if not cooked properly. Even pork with its higher fat content can end up dry, stringy, and difficult to chew if not cooked right. The easiest and tastiest way to cook less tender cuts of meat is to braise or "slow cook" them.
Here is a good recipe for use in a crock pot. Start by layering potatoes, green beans, and carrots in the pot. Place a roast or country ribs on top of the vegetables. Make ½ cup of a mixture of a creamy salad dressing (like Blue Cheese or Ranch), and a vinegar-based salad dressing (like Italian), and barbeque sauce. Use whatever you have on hand. Substitute ketchup for the barbeque sauce, if need be. Or to use the dregs of a salad dressing, pour in a bit of water, close the lid, shake hard, and then pour over the meat. Set your crock pot on High and the meal is done in 4 to 6 hours. Or set the crock pot on Low and the meal is ready in 8 to 10 hours. Remember to portion servings using the three to four ounces per serving rule and divide the remaining meat into freezer bags for use in future meals.
To produce tender, juicy meats using an oven, brown the meat in a frying pan or on a grill. Next, place the meat in a casserole dish. Pour in ½ cup of water, cover with aluminum foil, and place in a 350 degree oven. Chicken, turkey, and pork cuts like chops and ribs will be "fall-off-the-bone" tender in an hour. Roasts take longer. Check for doneness with a meat thermometer.
Even when your budget is tight you can serve and eat meat. Use the tips in this article to get the best cuts at the best prices and to prepare those cuts so you get every bit of goodness out of them.