I am always looking for ways to save money on meat, especially steak. Over 20% of the average American family’s grocery money is spent on the purchase of meat. Whether it is chicken, beef, pork, or some other variety of yumminess, there are strategies for getting better prices. Whether you are a meat and potatoes person, like me, or just an amateur carnivore, here are seven ways to save money on meat.
Buy Meat in Bulk
This principle works great on a lot of different kinds of purchases and can be particularly effective when looking for lower prices on meat. You are going to need a deep freezer to make sure you can use it all. There are two main ways that I use to buy in bulk.
Zaycon has become a cult of high quality, large quantity, semi-delivered meat. I purchase boneless skinless chicken breasts and bacon from Zaycon on a regular basis and plan on trying some of their other meats. I save about 20% over the best prices on chicken and do even better on the best thick cut bacon I have tasted. You do have to go to an event to pick up your order but they are all over the place and happen pretty frequently. You can see all their current prices and upcoming events when you sign up for an account (it’s free and no credit card required) my more comprehensive review of Zayon Fresh.
Buy the Whole Animal
This works the best on poultry. Getting the whole chicken will save you a lot of money over buying most cuts. You can also do this with cows and pigs but the savings aren’t as good. With buying the whole cow you do tend to get great meat and can really benefit by getting a better price on grass fed beef.
If you have the land then you can purchase younger animals and raise them for slaughter. My wife’s family frequently had chickens, pigs, and even cows and then raised them till they were large enough to be processed for meat. When you have a family of seven that goes a long way toward feeding everyone.
Use Less Than Recipes Call For
Recipes will frequently be nice and meaty, but you can cut 25% of the meat out and most people would never notice. Back when Amy and I were first married we would eat hamburger helper and cut out 50% of the meat. It tasted pretty much the same and our ground beef went much farther.
Pick the Right Cuts
There are a ton of different cuts of meat and so many that we have never heard of. Picking cuts that are not as well known or not currently as popular can really save you money. A good example is chicken wings and thighs. There was a time that wings were considered the worst piece of the chicken. Now with all the popular wing places they have become the more expensive cut of chicken.
Ask a local butcher what cuts are the hidden gems and how best to prepare them. You will be amazed at how flavorful you can get these other cuts of meat at a much lower price.
Grind Your Own
Ground beef can get expensive. If you find a deal on beef you can have the butcher at your local grocery store grind it for you. Although, I am really interested in doing it myself and getting to use this awesome looking meat grinder.
Follow the Seasonal Sales
Meat has seasons just like produce. People tend to like certain types of meat during different seasons so the meat industry produces on that schedule. Items that you grill will be more readily available from May to September. Hams and lamb do well in March and April. And turkey has the October to December time frame. Also remember to hit the deals hard just after these seasons pass because the grocery stores will be looking to get rid of any extra stock when the demand drops.
Buy the Ends
If you are looking to save money on lunch meat, many delis will sell you the end of the meat they cut in front of you for much less than the cost getting the slices. The meat is still great and you can cut it into strips for your sandwich.
Check Out The Manager Specials
If you are looking for a deal for dinner that same night then check out manager specials. This is usually meat that is available for sale, but is near the end of its shelf life. You have to know when your grocery store switches out their meat. For instance, if your store puts new meat out on Wednesday afternoon, then expect there to be some great manager specials Wednesday morning. You will need to use or freeze the meat that day because time will be short on it staying fresh.
Use Some Coupons
While your normal butchered meat in the grocery store doesn’t really have coupons (maybe some store ones), the meats from major companies like Butterball and Smithfield Farms do frequently have them. Check the company websites and always hit sites like Coupons.com to see if they have a nice amount off for you.
Add Filler Foods
You can get a lot of flavor in a dish from the meat you put in. If you want to cut down on the expense then try filler foods like pasta, beans or tofu that will absorb the flavor of the meat around them. This way you get most of the same taste and it costs you a lot less for the meal.
Shoot the Meat Yourself
In South Carolina we have a lot of deer. A LOT OF DEER. As a result when hunting season rolls around the quantity of deer each hunter can kill is higher than many other states. While I am myself am not much of a hunter I have many friends who are. One friend frequently offers to shoot a deer for me and then drop it off at the processor. I get the whole deer converted into ground venison and have them add 10% beef fat. Last time I had this done I got right at 40 lbs of ground venison and it cost me $72 for the processing. That translates to $1.80 a lb. That is way better than I can do for 90/10 beef at the grocery store and that is about as organic as you are going to get when it comes to red meat.
Buy the Bone
I know that sounds crazy but hear me out. If you have a Honeybaked Ham store in your area they will let you buy the large ham bone from them for $5 (varies by location). This bone has anywhere from 2-3 lbs of meat still attached. It is a great way to get some high quality ham.
BONUS: Ready to Cook Meal Kits
There are companies that will send you a set of meals that are ready to cook with all the ingredients. If you don’t want to spend all the money it takes for spices and ingredients you may not use, this is a great way to try out more exotically cooked meats. Check out my Hello Fresh vs Blue Apron vs Plated vs Home Chef review for all the details on how these services work.
These are all great ways that you can save money on meat. If you have another way to save money on meat then leave it in the comments or contact me on twitter @SavingFreak.