After being a meat cutter all these years you might think of it as being a bit hypocritical of me to write a piece about saving money when purchasing meat at the grocery store. But quite the contrary. Even though you will be saving you will indeed still be purchasing, so in the end, everybody wins.
These days it is even more important to try and save at the supermarket. Meat prices are soaring and saving could mean survival, not necessarily in a life-threatening sort of way, but a penny saved will mean a few dollars being spent on even more important things in your life. So with savings on your mind here are a few tips and (donâ€™t tell anyone) a few trade secrets that will help you put a few more pennies in your pocket.
- Buy in bulk. Purchasing bigger packages, often called family packs or value packs, can save you up to 50 cents or more a pound. For example pork steak in small packages might be $2.89 lb., But if you buy a family pack with four or more steaks that price could drop to $2.39 or more. You then can take the package home and divide it up and package according to your meal plans.
- Never buy anything that is thin cut or has been tenderized. Often times the store will raise prices by 30 cents or more a pound. Example: Arm steak might be $4. 29 lb., thin Arm steak at $4.59. It’s the same meat, just cut a little thinner, actually this involves no extra work from the meat cutter but the price jumps 30 cents a pound. If they run it through the tenderizer, a small step as well, the per pound price will jump.
- Buy a â€œwholeâ€ piece of meat. Let us say a whole boneless pork loin. This piece is where you can get your butterfly chops for example. It is a good chance here that you can save over $1.00 a pound. You could probably get the meat cutter to cut and wrap according to your liking, free of charge!
You can also save on ground beef if you go to your local cutter and ask about a bulk price. Now here the local cutter can go two ways. He will probably offer you a better price if you ask for a ten pound bag. You will have to package it yourself of course. You can still get a decent price if you order it in bulk and have them wrap it for you but the less they have to do the better price you can get.
- Never buy product that has been seasoned. Season your meat at home, whether it be a marinade, a bbq sauce, or whatever. This simple task will save you at least 30 cents a pound.
- If you like chicken, buy them whole and learn to cut them up. Savings here is big time. Chicken parts are pricey by the piece and a whole chicken has them all and a whole lot cheaper. Learn to use a knife and put money in your pocket. (See instructions in my earlier article, Butcher Your Meat Bill.)
- Shop the sales. If you’re lucky enough to have a few stores in your town then you can pick and choose your purchases. Shop sales and save.
- What’s the most economical piece of meat? One that I feel is the most underutilized of all meat at the store … the turkey of course. Despite turkey prices getting a bit higher over the last few years it is still the best value out there. Even after the holidays turkey prices can still stay under a dollar a pound. And if your store over-ordered for the holidays you could probably get them even cheaper. If there is anything a store hates it’s having too many turkeys left over after the holidays. Just think of all the meals you could get from a 15lb. turkey. Granted you will not get 15lbs. of meat but for a typical price of 79 to 89 cents a pound (or cheaper) thatâ€™s a pretty good savings. Remember turkey is not just for the holidays.
Whole bone-in hams can also give you several meals when compared in price to half or quarter boneless hams. Keep in mind that many boneless hams are compressed meat, lunchmeat, if you will, and their price will be considerably higher then a real bone-in ham. Smoked meat items though will only keep in the freezer for a short time. Believe it or not, a smoked item kept in a freezer for a period of time can actually spoil.
- Get the right tools. I would also recommend purchasing a few items to help you once you get your meat home. The first is a hand jaccard. This instrument has several needle like pins that will help you tenderize you meat. Just hold the handle and punch it into your meat. The pins will help spread the fibers out and tenderize the meat for you. The next item would be a cryovac machine. This machine pulls the air from the bags that you place your meat in and seals them tight, ready for the freezer. Last but not least, a few good knives, so you can be a professional at home.
Well, there you have a quick lesson on how to save a few dollars on your meat purchases. And if you watch and save closely your savings can be giant!
Next time, I’ll write about the answers to the questions â€œWhat meat is this?â€ and â€œ What cuts can I get from this?â€.