Mar 16, 2010

Saving Money on Meat (Carole)

It goes without saying that it is a good idea to stock up on any grocery item when it goes on sale. 

But how do you know when the sale is really a sale??

It’s important to know the usual cost of things that you buy all the time, so you can tell when there is a deal to be had.  Recently I started keeping track of the price of four cuts of meat I buy over and over again.  This is POWERFUL information! 

I write the week’s prices in my purse calendar, that way it’s easy to make a quick comparison when I’m standing in the meat section with a sale sign staring me in the face.  Meat prices go on sale every few weeks (another Loss-Leader), so if you don’t know your usual prices, you have no idea if now is the time to buy a lot or not.

The four meats I track are : hamburger, roast, frozen, boneless skinless chicken breasts, and pork loin roast.  Since these are the only 4 meats I cook with,  they’re all I track.  I try to keep my life simple. 

Last Monday I was doing my weekly grocery shopping and saw that the expensive (less fatty) hamburger was on sale for 10 cents less ($1.89/lb) than the cheap, fatty hamburger!  Because of my tracking, I recognized the bargain!  I bought three large packages of 3 lbs each, re-divided it into 1 lb packages at home and stored them all in my freezer.  Now all the hamburger I will use for the next couple of months will be at this lower price, no matter what the price is at the store the night I actually cook.

Here are some additional meat buying tips: 

Hamburger:  In case no one has ever told you. . . you can rinse high fat hamburger (after it's cooked) in a colander in your sink with hot water  and it becomes nearly fat-free -- no need to buy the expensive hamburger.  Unless it’s on sale.  Coupon Mom also points out in her book that when you buy hamburger in the Styrofoam container with the plastic wrap in the 1 lbs. package, it will always contain MORE than one pound of meat -- have you noticed this?  This is your grocery store’s version of Super Size Me.  It is a marketing device to sell you more hamburger than you think you're buying.  She recommends dividing that 1.3 lbs package in two, freeze one and use less than one pound in your recipe.  You’ll save both money and calories. 

Roasts:  I used to be a big stew meat purchaser.  I like to make chili, stew and beef stroganoff, so it seemed like a no-brainer to buy my meat all cut up and ready to go.  Until I realized that stew meat cost me over $4.00/lbs, while a regular roast is often below $2.00/lbs.  Turned out I was the no-brainer.  Now I buy a whole roast and cut it into bite-size pieces myself and save 50% -- it takes about 3 minutes. 

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (frozen):  My store sells 3 varieties of frozen, boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  After all these years, I finally noticed that even though the bags are all the same size, and typically cost the same amount, they range from 2.5 lbs – 4.0 lbs of chicken per bag.  How have I never noticed this before??  That means that the “chicken tenders” are $2.52/lbs while the “chicken breast with rib meat” is only $1.57/lbs.  Guess which one I buy now?  Saving myself nearly $1.00 per pound.  I also zip past the unfrozen chicken breasts in the meat section.  Often they are on sale.  If they were to ever fall below $1.57/lbs, I would know to buy them.  Your very best deal, however,  is a whole chicken at $.99/lbs on sale (which happens about every other week!).  Put a frozen, whole chicken in the crock pot in the morning (with a bit of salt, pepper and paprika) and you’ve got your own roasted chicken for dinner that night for about 4 dollars – and enough shredded chicken left over for another meal or two during the week.  Your kids will love pulling apart the wishbone after it dries out and guaranteed you’ll feel like Martha Stewart.

Pork Loin Roast:  Buying the non-seasoned pork roast, is obviously your cheapest option.  Marinating or seasoning your own pork roast is so easy, and so inexpensive.  You'll save a couple dollars per pound just by using your own pepper and salt.  You can cook this delightful cut of meat in the crock pot all day, or broil it in the oven in about 15 minutes at night.  Yum.  I often use this cut when I have company.

Keeping track of the cost of the particular cuts of meat you use will pay off in HUNDREDS of saved dollars every year.   And your home freezer becomes your own private, frugal butcher shop! 


Janssen said...

You can also use the carcass of your whole chicken to make chicken broth (stick it in with the leftover ends of vegetables like celery heads, the ends of your onions, and some carrot peelings) and then freeze it into cubes. Way cheaper than using canned or even bullion.

Marie said...

I heard about your blog from Kayla. I am learning so much! Thanks for your words of wisdom. Marie