Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Saving on Meat- Part Two

Last week I shared with you how buying meat in bulk and then freezing it saves us money and time. This week I have a few more ideas that help us out. Maybe one or all of them will give you an idea of something you can do to further help out your budget.

* Replace ground beef with ground turkey. Not only is this healthier it is also cheaper. I find that I can get ground turkey for at least $0.50/lb. cheaper than what I can get ground beef. Now ground turkey does taste a little different than ground beef and you may find, like we did, that you just can't quite reconcile saving money and having food that you really do NOT enjoy. Here's what we have found works for us.

Instead of doing a 100% switch, I simply buy a package of ground beef and a package of ground turkey and then separate them out into individual 1lb. packages- 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1/2 lb. ground turkey. Honestly, we have not been able to tell any difference. Well, other than the fact that there is less fat when I fry it! And I have made burgers and meat loaf with this 50/50 mixture.

No, it doesn't save us as much as using all ground turkey would, but we can enjoy our food and it still save a little too.

* Never pay full price. To me this seems like it goes without saying, but I know there are some people that aren't used to this idea. Seriously though, you really don't EVER need to pay full price for meat. Every kind and cut of meat goes on sale usually at least every other month. The key is to plan ahead and stock up on enough meat to last you until the next sale. Once you start doing it, you'll get into the groove and it will become second nature. You'll also start seeing a pattern as to when your local stores run sales on each meat, which will help you plan more effectively.

* When buying meat look for yellow tags. What do yellow tags have to do with saving money on meat? A lot! Yellow tags mean that the meat is price reduced because it is within a day or two of it's sell by/freeze by date. Often you can get meat for the same price or less than a good sale. And if you can't use it right away, you can always freeze it.

Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam recommends asking your meat department manager when they do the meat markdowns. Most stores have a set time daily or weekly when they do them and that is your chance to get the best deals. I personally have just recently starting looking for yellow tagged meat and when I asked at several local stores, I was told they have no set time when they do it. So obviously it varies from store to store.

* Reduce the amount of meat in your recipe. I can almost see some of you raising your eyebrows about now. And to be honest, when someone first suggested this to me I was rather skeptical. I'm a meat lover and I was sure we would notice the lack of meat in whatever dish I made. It took me a little to get up the courage to try it, but I finally did. And guess what? That's right, we barely ever notice it!

If you simply switch to using 3/4 lb. instead of 1 lb. in most recipes, I assure you that you will rarely notice a difference. Now obviously this won't work in things like meat loaf, sloppy joes, or ham balls. But soup, casseroles and such like will do just fine with a little less meat.

* Replace meat with beans. Again, this won't work in just any dish, but I have found that most Mexican dishes taste wonderful with beans replacing all or part of the meat. In fact we prefer the one super quick Mexican skillet dish that I make with beans instead of meat. And we prefer our chili soup with double the beans and half the meat. The great thing is that you can still get your protein, just at half the cost.

* Make your own chicken broth. One of the side benefits of cooking chicken as I mentioned here is that you get chicken broth for FREE! Believe it or not I used to miss this whole blessing. Seriously.

When we first were married, I bought chicken in bulk and then baked it, chopped it up and froze it. One day I was on the phone with my mom and she was talking about this chicken she cooked for something and how she got so much broth from it. Suddenly I felt like I had just been struck with a lightening bolt as I realized what I had been missing out on!

Since then I have been cooking my chicken and love the rich broth that I get as a result. In fact, I think since I started doing that I have bought maybe 7 cans of broth, 6 of which was just last week when I bought them for $0.10/can and used them as filler to get my order to $15 so I could take advantage of a special bonus offer.

What do you do to save money on meat? I'm sure I have much more to learn about this whole subject and I'd love to hear from you all!


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