- Stretch how far your meat goes with dishes like meatballs.
- A local butcher may give you a bargain on meat.
- Organ meats can be a delicious deal.
Meat is a luxury product. It’s expensive to produce (think of all the food, water and space any given animal needs as it grows into your future meal…) and, well, it should be. Super-cheap meats can be unhealthy and while factory farmed, mass-produced meats may save you a few bucks, they can be bad for you in the long run.
The cheapest pound of meat at the store isn’t always the best, for its price and its taste. We asked meat-buying experts for their tips on buying meat while keeping a budget in mind – without sacrificing any quality for the price.
Shop the sales.
Instead of going to the supermarket set on purchasing a pound of chicken drumsticks, see what’s on sale – and stock up.
“When you find meat that’s on sale, purchase it in bulk, take advantage of the discount and go home and either seal it in a freezer tight bag or use something like a food saver to save your meat and freeze it yourself,” Chef Erica Barrett, founder and CEO of Southern Culture Artisan Foods, told INSIDER.
You’re saving on the meat itself and on future trips to the grocery store if you have a freezer full of whatever was cheapest on sale.
Chat up the butcher.
A neighbourhood butcher may be your best friend when it comes to getting deals on meat.
“Just ask, ‘What kind of cuts do you have? Or, ‘Do you have anything special?'” suggested Chef Bobby Hodge of Nashville’s Oak Steakhouse.
A butcher can help talk you through similarly priced meats to determine which is the best value. “Maybe it’s a cut you have never tried and they help you out. Butcher know cheaper cuts that you may not know of that are just as or more flavorful than what you would have bought.”
Also, a butcher may have an abundance of something almost at its prime that needs to leave the refrigerated case, state, so they can cut you a deal. Butchers may also be able to share scraps or bones for cheap, so you can make a meaty soup or stew without paying full price.
Eat tongue, tripe, and kidney.
“A nutritious way to save money on meat would be to go for the organ meats instead of the more common options like steak or drumsticks,” said Caleb Backe, personal trainer and health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics.
“Organ meats are not only a cost-effective option but are more nutrient-dense than your typical muscle-meat. They contain iron, magnesium, zinc, and folate, as well as Vitamin B12, A, and K which all serve to retain muscle mass and keep you fuller for longer. Whether you feel like trying tongue, tripe or kidneys, organ cuts are an effective and healthy way to save money on meat.”
Don’t buy pre-fabricated meats.
Learning some basic butchering skills can help save you cash when you’re buying meat. Think of the difference between pre-cut and whole produce.
“A whole chicken is far less expensive per pound then let’s say a boneless skinless chicken breast,” says Daniel Fleming, executive chef of Primal Cut.
“If you want the chicken breast, cut it off the whole bird, take off the skin and voila! You have now officially saved upwards of 50 cents per pound. Same goes for steaks. Rather than buy a pre-cut Filet Mignon center piece at $US22-25 a pound, do what I do. Buy the whole tenderloin, trim it, cut it yourself, and pay $US12.50 per pound. Roughly a 35% save after waste. And if you’re feeling creative use your scraps for something else like a bordelaise sauce.”
Buy a cheaper cut, just know what to do with it.
When it comes to beef, cuts that aren’t traditional steaks are typically cheaper, and delicious when slow cooked.
“Take the French for example, they have made a killing off this concept through the age-old technique of braising,” said Fleming. “I’ve had some of the best wagyu on this planet (literally have the birth certificates and nose prints from the cows to prove it), but one of my favourite meals is from time spent in France. Braised short rib stew with garden vegetables and a nice beef broth. Yum!”
Make your meat stretch.
“Buy smaller amounts of meat and add ingredients to bulk up your final product,” suggests Fleming. “In my college days, my friends and I would buy a few pounds of chop meat, add some breadcrumbs, a few eggs, maybe some onions and bam! We just took two pounds of meat and made four pounds of meatballs. Works every time.”
Hamburgers can also be mixed with pureed mushrooms or other veggies to stretch ground beef.
Eat less meat.
Meatless Monday is one way to save money on meat, but you can eat meat at every meal if you wish if you just limit your portion sizes.
In America, portion sizes typically don’t match up with suggested serving sizes: For example, the serving size for a steak is 3 ounces, but restaurants and grocery stores typically sell steaks that are four times that or more. Split a 6-ounce filet mignon for dinner and fill up on healthy sides to keep your budget and overall health in check.
Save the bones.
Bon Appetit’s Molly Baz writes: “If you don’t make stock when you roast a chicken, you’re throwing away free money.” And it’s true. All you really need is a chicken carcass (with all the meat eaten off of it), water and salt to make chicken broth, which can be an entirely new meal or ingredient in countless dishes, like risotto.
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