Thursday, November 6, 2008

Frugal Friday--Purchasing Meat on the Cheap

My family is a meat and potatoes type family! We love to have meat at every meal, so every rarely(think once in a blue moon) do we do meatless meals. So I have done my research and have found ways to keep my average cost per meal to a minimal amount. After having several people ask me how I do it, I thought I would share some of my "secrets".

Some frugal tips for purchasing meat, I found the majority of these in a list of 55 Ways To Save On Groceries(which they now have updated to 20 Ways!). Here is the list along with things that I do to keep meat in my house....

~~Chicken and turkey are usually less expensive, but contain more protein and nutrients than many other meats. They are also lower in saturated fats and cholesterol than many meats .

~~Save money by cutting a whole chicken into parts yourself. You can do this or do what I do because I don't like cutting up whole chickens and just watch ads for when then different chicken pieces are on sale. Around here I can get drumsticks and thighs for 79 cents/lb. I can also get whole chickens for 79 cents/lb. Bone-in chicken breasts are usually on sale around here for 99 cents/lb and when they are I usually will snag several packs. I cook the bone in chicken pieces in my crockpot and it just falls off the bones. Sometimes I will turn around and freeze the meat once it is cooked and off the bone to use in soups and casseroles.

~~The less tender cuts of beef such as round, chuck, and shoulder are less expensive, but are as nutritious as the more tender cuts. Cook them right - braise or stew - and they are just as delicious. I found using a bottom round roast for roast, carrots and potatoes was just as good as an eye of round roast. The last couple of times that I have tried using a chuck roast it just was too fatty. I like using chuck roasts for cutting up and making beef stew out of it when it can be simmering in the crockpot all day.

~~Liver is nearly always a good buy. It is high in nutrition and usually cheaper than many other meats. Beef liver costs less than calves' liver. Pork liver is less expensive and is highest in iron. One disadvantage is that liver is high in cholesterol. (and personally I do not like the taste of it! LOL So I don't fix it!)

~~Ground beef (hamburger) is usually a good buy if it is fairly lean. Extra lean ground beef will yield more meat when cooked and is lower in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol than regular ground beef.

~~When comparing the cost of meat, compare cost per serving and NOT cost per pound. Sometimes a piece of boneless, lean meat may be a better buy than a cheaper cut of meat with a lot of fat and bone that costs less per pound.

~~To figure the cost of meat per serving, divide the price per pound by the number of servings one pound will yield. A 3-ounce portion of cooked lean meat is a serving. The following definitions describe how many 3-ounce servings you can get from various cuts of meat, fish, and poultry.

  • Lean, boneless meat: Extra-lean ground beef; liver; fish fillet; lean, boneless roast; and ham and canned meats = 4 to 5 servings per pound.
  • Small bone-in meat: Such as chuck, round and rump roast, turkey and chicken breast, and stew beef = 3 to 3 l/2 servings per pound.
  • Large bone-in meat: Boston Butt (pork) roast, pork chops, whole chicken and turkey, drumsticks, thighs, whole or half hams = 2 to 2 1/2 servings per pound.
  • Bony meat: Spareribs, pigs feet, hamhocks, and chicken wings = 1 to 1 1/2 servings per pound.

~~It is often more economical to buy a large cut of meat and divide it into several meals or servings than to buy the component cuts separately. Example: Buy a pork loin roast and cut it into pork chops. I usually get 1/2 a pork loin when they are sale. Like when they are $1.99/lb rather than $4.99/lb, I will get 2 or 3 of them. I will cut one into pork chops and then leave the others whole and freeze. Then when I want to use them, thaw them, cut them in half and cook in my crockpot either doing pork, potatoes, and carrots or bq pork for sandwiches or roasted pork and gravy. I usually can get 2 1/2 meals out of one 1/2 pork loin for my family of seven.

~~Compare the cost of frozen and canned meats, fish, and poultry with fresh meat, fish, and poultry. The canned may cost less per serving than the fresh since there is usually no waste in the canned product. One disadvantage of canned meats is that salt has been added and thus, they are higher in sodium than fresh, unsalted meat.

~~Meats that have already been breaded will cost more. Do your own breading.

Here is a couple of other things that I do to stretch meat for my family....

~~I do casseroles BUT my family isn't big on casserole dish type meals all the time so I found a way to stretch the meat that I use for our meals other than putting the meat into casseroles!

~~The majority of my family only likes to eat white meat chicken, so I buy what will get eaten so there is no waste and purchase boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk at Sam's Club or if they are sale at the local grocery store for under $2 per pound.

~~When I get it home, I take the time to divide the packages into meal size portions for my family. I find that the chicken breasts are usually pretty thick and slice them longwise("butterfly cut"), so it looks like I have two pieces of meat rather than just one thick piece. When I do this I can take 3 chicken breasts and make into 6 breasts, hence stretching the meat for a meal for my family.

~~I also take the time to stroll past the meat counter anytime that I am in the store looking for marked down/"Manager's special" meat. Just like getting marked down produce there is nothing wrong with the marked down meat! Most of the time the meat needs to be sold that day, so buy it, take it home, cook it or stick it directly in your freezer. I prefer to divide it up and stick it in my freezer.

~~Also the most obvious tip for purchasing meat is making sure that you are getting meat that is on sale, unless you are purchasing it in large quantities. The reason why I made the large quantities clarification is I know that many places will give you a discount if you are buying large quantities of the same kind of meat.

For other frugal resources, head over to Frugal Fridays at Biblical Womanhood


Sherry said...

I hadn't even though about buying bigger cuts of meat and then just cutting ourselves. Thanks for the tip! :D

Gina @ Six in the Country said...

We are casserole people in our home. That is the single best way I know to make meat stretch to it's limits.

Thanks for all the wonderful advice!

Robin @ Heart of Wisdom said...

Great post. Lots of information. I posted a little snipet on buying meat today.

Donna @The Frugal Mom Blog said...

Thanks for the tips. I really need to stretch our meat further. I have realized that I don't need to use as much as I have been in casseroles and sauces.

Linda said...

Using cost per serving instead of cost per pound is a new one for me. I like to cook a large roast or chicken and use the leftovers in soup or casseroles. I find that my non dark meat (chicken) eaters don't mind mixed in other things. Thanks for the tips!

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

Great tips!


Kate said...

Great tips. We do many of the same things.

I've never butterflied chicken breasts, although that is a great idea. I really dislike handling raw chicken, so I try to avoid it as much as possible. My favorite way to stretch chicken is to put each breast into a plastic bag and pound it until it doubles in size, then cut it in half. That way I get 2 pieces without too much touching. I know it's a little ridiculous, but it works for me.

And manager's specials are the greatest thing ever!

Donna said...

For the sake of nutrition, I've been trying to smuggle liver in. I've been able to grind it up and use in meatballs covered in BBQ sauce without any complaints! :-)
As well as a few beef and noodle dishes with some strong seasonings.