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For those of us that eat meat, it can be a pretty big portion of any good grocery budget. This post is going to cover some amazing tips that can help you reduce your costs on meat! Ranging from how to save money on meat at the grocery store to some great meal tricks to stretch meat.
What is stretching meat?
Stretching meat is a term used for trying to get a meat product to go as far as possible. An e
It sounds complicated..
The practice is actually fairly simple. It can be a little time-consuming when you’re working to portion the foods out, but it’s worth it in the end. You save money on meat by getting it to stretch into multiple meals.
Why do people want to save money?
The answer varies per person but one of the most common reasons why people want to save money is so that they can have better control over their budgets. Or they could have a smaller income and need to stretch their money as far as it can go. Either way, saving money is a pretty good way to make your money last longer.
Being able to save money while helping your family to eat healthily, is an awesome way to do all of these things and more.
First, let’s save as much money on meat as we can, before getting home.
Here are some great tips to cut the cost of meat:
- Buy cheaper cuts
- Swap meats for the cheaper alternatives
- Look for discounts and markdowns
- Meal plan with “on sale” meats
- Buy in bulk or buy family packs
- Buy whole animals from butchers
- Shop at Aldi
- Plan meatless meals throughout the week
- Avoid buying the middle portion of cows and pigs (these are the expensive cuts)
- Grind your own meat
- Learn to Braise and Roast
- Buy from a butcher shop instead of the grocery store
- Use the free cutting option at your local grocery store
- Trim meat yourself
- Buy after holiday sales
- Portion and freeze meat
Quickly going over a few of those points in my “save money on meat” checklist:
Swapping meat for the cheaper alternatives
Pork is a cheaper meat option to beef and often favored by me as an alternative due to the price. A pork roast versus a beef roast- pork comes out cheaper. Pork ribs versus beef ribs- comes out cheaper AND with more meat on the bones. Not to mention you can’t get good bacon from a cow.
Chicken and turkey can also be used interchangeably in a lot of recipes.
Grinding your own meat
You can buy a manual meat grinder for under $30 and use it over and over again to get the BEST savings on meat! Ground chicken, ground turkey, and ground beef can all get pretty expensive when it’s not on sale.
I personally love to buy discounted meat like beef chuck, pork chops or chicken breasts to run through my meat grinder. This gives me the savings I want because I spent so little on the meat and it gives me control over how much fat goes into the meat. I can also choose to add seasonings, making mealtimes a little faster and tastier.
Learn to braise and roast
Tougher and thicker cuts of meat, like the ones often used in braising and roasting recipes can save you a fortune. They’re usually larger in cut, priced cheaper and when cooked properly, taste really good! Roasting meats has been made much easier thanks to the invention of the crockpot, but there are still several ways you can make a good roast in the oven too!
Buy after holiday sales
After Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas, you’ll find meats like ham and turkey going on sale as stores try to clearance them out of their stock. This is a great time to stock up and save money on these big guys!
I personally have 5 or 6 turkeys in my deep freezer by the end of February because I buy them when my store sales them at $0.39lb. It’s great savings and I can enjoy turkey throughout the year.
Portion and freeze
Properly portioning out meats after you come home from the grocery store or butcher can greatly help you reduce your costs on meat. One of the big issues with grocery shopping is buying huge family packs of meat and by the
This leads to the meat getting tossed in the freezer as a whole, and then thawed and cooked at once. Making the meat not last through nearly as many meals as if you had portioned it out, bagged it up and froze it in smaller portions perfect for your meal plan.
Tip– You can make meat last longer in the freezer and reduce the chance of freezer burn by using a vacuum sealer machine to securely bag the meats in the first place.
How to save money by stretching meat
You can save a lot of money on meat by stretching it into multiple meals. There a large number of ways that you can choose to stretch the meat.
I’m going to highlight my favorite ways to do so, with a few popular cuts of meat. These are all fairly simple to do! I’ll make this easier by organizing by animals, beef, pork, and chicken.
Save money on meat- beef
First up- Ground Beef
Ground beef is expensive and as such, is rarely seen in our house, so we will start here.
There are 3 options that I love to mix and match, but I’m sure research could give you other ways as well.
One way to stretch Ground Beef
When portioning away your ground beef, don’t cut it into pounds. Yes, recipes do call for 1 pound here or 1 pound there. But really, no one will notice in the slightest if you used 3/4lb, or you can get by with 1/2 lb as well
*If your dish looks like the meat reduction took away from the eating portions and now need some bulk, just throw some more of another ingredient into the meal so it’s more filling. Corn, whole beans, rice, and pasta, as examples.
Another way to stretch Ground Beef
OATS. While you can also use lentils or beans, to stretch ground beef, I prefer oats. Mostly because I am intimidated by lentils and I don’t know what dish I’ll be throwing the beef into. I also don’t want to put legumes into it if I’m going to put it into spaghetti.
Quick cook oats, when mixed with meat and cooked will absorb the beef fat and cook thoroughly. This makes it almost unnoticeable in the dish itself because it blends in so well. YAY food camouflage! Not to mention oats are high in fiber and low in calories, so it’s a healthy choice as well.
Use about 1/4 cup of oats per pound of meat. D
on’t choose the leanest of the ground beef, or else whatever you make will risk drying out.
You’ll want ground beef that has 15%-20% fat content. It won’t taste greasier, and if too much fat oil is produced, you can always drain it.
I have used up to 1 cup of oats per pound, but I suggest starting small and working your way up to see where you are comfortable in this.
The third way to stretch Ground Beef
VEGGIES!! You just can’t get enough veggies, especially when it comes to those picky kids, am I right? Mushrooms, carrots, squash, sweet potato, celery, onion, or anything you can puree. Wash, chop, boil or sauté until soft.
Then blend the heck out of it so it’s velvety smooth. Mix into your beef at a rate of ¼-1 cup per pound. And unless you have supertasters in your presence, they’ll never notice.
This is a great way to remove calories, add nutrients, and provide a healthy meal for everyone. Just make sure to cook out as much water from the veggies as you can before mixing it with the ground beef, so it saves you time down the road!
Tip– Find already pureed veggies in the baby food aisle and use those to reduce time.
How to save money on meat- steaks
You can have a cheap and good steak with this one trick!
Steaks are delicious, but you can cut some money by buying the cheaper variety. You know, those tougher cuts. Because there’s a secret not enough people know about.
Good cheap cuts of meat to use for steak are- Chuck Eye Steaks or Eye of Round Steaks.
But these depend on the season and your store.
Make sure you have kosher salt or coarse sea salt on hand. Lay your steaks out and sprinkle salt on each side of the meat. Rub it in gently but try to apply it to as much surface area as possible.
Now let it sit for 45minutes, a little longer is fine too-especially for thicker cuts of meat. Afterward, rinse your steaks off under running water in the sink, then pat them dry.
Season as desired and cook on the stovetop.
How to cook steak on the stove-
Place steaks on a hot pre-heated pan and sear each side for 3 or 4 minutes, until the outside is browned. Then pull the steak off and let rest 5 minutes before cutting into it. Steaks continue cooking after they’re removed from the heating source, so pull them off 5 degrees prior to the temperature you want to eat them.
You’ll notice the meat is much softer and comparable to the more expensive cuts now. This is also referred to as a poor man’s filet mignon.
Why is that?
..you dry brined your meat. The salt drew out the natural juices of the steak which then dissolved the salt. This created a brine and most of it was reabsorbed by the steak. It continues to tenderize the meat throughout the cooking process.
It’s Magic.. well…
It’s Science ..
According to Bill Nye the Science Guy, Science Rules!
[Side note] Dry brine is also a great way to lock moisture into your turkeys when cooked whole. <- My favorite way to cook a turkey.
How to Save Money on Pork
Stretching pork is a little more difficult then ground beef because it mainly plays on the creativity of the chef.
For example- Let’s say you buy a large bone-in pork shoulder for $20.
After you get home from the store cut it into 3 smaller roasts, fat and all. Set the bone aside for another dinner dish. You don’t have to do all of the pork roast meals back-to-back, you can scatter them throughout the month. Just make sure the meat is properly sealed, froze and labeled.
The first night of pork roast:
Make a crock-pot overnight bone broth with the pork bone. In the morning add beans and chopped veggies. Now you can be enjoying a delicious homemade soup by dinner time.
Then there are 3 nights of pork roast:
Make a pork roast as desired. Throw a baked potato and a side salad on the plate, maybe even some steamed veggie. Your family is so full from a large (inexpensive) meal.
Leftover pork roast?
What to do with such a thing! Shred it, dice it, and reuse it. Throw it in enchiladas, tamales, fried rice, pulled pork sandwiches, etc. the only limit here is your own creativity.
How to Save Money on Bacon
Bacon comes in large packs of slices, if you freeze the whole package, you have to thaw and cook the whole package. But bacon is delicious fatty goodness that should be monitored, and not over-indulged upon.
So instead of taking the easy route, open that package before you freeze it and instead, put 1 or 2 slices per person into a gallon baggy (or vacuum seal bag.)
So when the mood strikes and you want to cook it- its already portioned and thereby stretched. –save the grease if you are a cast iron fan, it’s a great way to keep it seasoned.
How to Save Money With Pork Sausage
Pork sausage (ground pork) is cheap. Like really cheap compared to ground turkey, ground beef, ground chicken, etc.
Finding it in the breakfast meats section near the bacon, and it can usually be priced under $2 for a 1lb tube.
Pork sausage makes a lot of dishes (especially Italian styled ones) much tastier. Why use flavorless beef in spaghetti when you can use a flavor-packed and meal enhancing pork for the cheaper price tag too- bonus point!
How to Save Money with Chicken
Boneless skinless chicken breasts (fresh not frozen)
These will run you about $1-$1.50 a boob. If you can, try to make a meal around one breast. Meat shouldn’t be the centerpiece of a dish, but should instead be an ingredient. By finding recipes asking for shredded or cubed chicken, you can use less meat and fill the plate with more vegetables.
Meat isn’t the only way to obtain a protein either, so you shouldn’t worry on the health front for this. You can even go so far as to cut the breast in half.
Save money on ground chicken by doing this:
If you enjoy using ground chicken, consider buying the breasts and your very own meat grinder so you can save. Yes, it means more work for you, but you can find some fairly inexpensive meat grinders and after a few uses it totally pays for itself right?!
Buy cheap cuts of chicken
Chicken thighs are a cheap cut of chicken and have more meat than chicken drumsticks. Drumsticks are often fairly inexpensive as well.
Then there are chicken quarters– which are often cheaper than drumsticks because less prep work goes into them. A bag of them frozen contains 10-15 and ranges around $3-$6 a bag if your store sells them this way. I like to buy them fresh when priced about $0.99lb.
When you want your dinner plate to have meat be the star, these are perfect and budget-friendly ways to do so.
Avoid the expensive cuts of chicken
Chicken wings are almost never worth it unless you find a great sale. There is so little meat on those bones, you’re mainly paying for packaging and bones.
These cuts have been popularized with football games, sauces, and wing delivery places bringing them hot and ready to your door. When comparing the price of raw chicken wings in store and the ready-to-eat wings at your local delivery places, it actually makes more sense to order the fast food.
The BEST Way to Save Money on Chicken is Buying Them Whole
Whole chicken-is the way to go. You can get a whole chicken for about $5 and stretch it into 7 meals.
Night 1- cook whole chicken, some roasted potato, steamed veggies or squash (if the price is right.) Make the plates colorful, 2/3rds veggies, plus the potatoes and then only carve one chicken breast off that bird. The plates are full and so is everyone’s tummy.
Alternatively- for larger families, you can carve off the breast, a wing, and leg. Put on a platter and slice the breast, so it’s shared amongst everyone and prevents the meat eater from grabbing the whole thing to themselves.
The work after dinner- carve that roast beast to remove the other half of the bird and then dig in with your fingers to remove as much meat as possible. Using your fingers is the best way to attack this situation.
Place shredded meats into a bowl and dish out in 1 cup measures for future meals. Reserving the bone carcass for homemade chicken stock and shred off the meat from the breast, wing, and leg as well. All that meat- goes into that bowl for dividing.
Save money by making your own homemade chicken stock
Now take your largest crockpot, and put the chicken carcass in it. (lovely imagery, right?) Anyways, add some celery, carrots, onion, a splash of apple cider vinegar and fill to the brim with water. Let simmer on low overnight. In the morning, turn it off. Remove all chunks. Strain it and wait for it to cool- remove the fat layer at the top and you officially have your very own, homemade chicken stock.
I separate my stock into 2 cup measures, in a sandwich bag and lay flat in the freezer. 2 of the 2 cup bags =32oz carton while 1 bag is about the equivalent to a cans worth. A carton of chicken stock is close to $2
Boom, double win.
Night 2-7 with the shredded chicken meat can be whatever you wish to make. Soups, casseroles, enchiladas, fried rice, homemade pizza, etc.
Once again- the only limit here is your own creativity.
If you found this useful, comment on your favorite tips to save money on meat.