Unless you're a vegetarian, the meat bill will eat up your grocery total more than anything else. Forget about trying to afford a nice cut of beef, if you need to pinch pennies. And the organic stuff? May as well book a table at your local steak joint for that price. In addition to occasional sales and coupons (which can be hard to come by for meat), there are ways to purchase tasty cuts well within your budget.
The most expensive investment you really need to make before getting serious about budget meat is a deep freezer. I found several used units in my area on Craig's List priced between $85-$200. You can easily recover the upfront costs in six months or less.
Grocery Store Manager's Specials
If you haven't found the discount meats bin at your grocery store, ask the butcher where he keeps the reduced for quick sale meats and become a fan. No, the meat isn't spoiled. It is just expiring too quickly to warrant a full price. I've found filet mignon, stuffed pork chops, chuck roast, and bone-in ribeyes for 50% off.
The trick is to cook it no later than the following day or freeze it. When you need to cook it, take it out a day ahead of time to thaw. Be leery of red meats that are really brown or any manager's special that smells funny. When in doubt, trust your nose to make the best decision, regardless of expiration date.
Every delivery program has different packages. Most offer deals for a variety of meats and poultry delivered monthly or quarterly and require that the buyer live in a house with a freezer. In my area very few delivery services will work deals outside of their packages--so if you aren't crazy about shoulder roast, it's coming this month whether you want it or not. Depending on your consumption going with a delivery service can be cheaper than buying full price at the grocery store--you just have to cook what your package contains. Check out Fairbury Steaks
and Schwan's for more details.
Buy from a Rancher
Got meat? Round up a couple beef-loving families, contact a local rancher or farm, and go cowpooling. A side of beef, half the animal, yields about 160 pounds for roughly $3.60 per pound. But this figure includes several cuts of beef--ribeye, sirloin, chuck, ground beef--and it will be tastier and vastly cheaper than anything organic from Whole Foods.
Find a Hunter
Most hunters don't consider themselves frugal for killing their protein. It's definitely a sport and they are worse than most women when it comes to accessorizing. From lodging and hunting licenses to deer leases and feed, hunting can be a rather expensive hobby. The trick is to find a hunter who doesn't much care to have a freezer stocked with venison or wild turkey. Offer to pay for half (or more or less) of the animal and cover some of the animal processing fees. As with any other meat-in-bulk buying strategy, keep a close eye on your freezer to protect the investment.
Purchase in Bulk from a Club
Most club meat is better quality, although may not always offer the best price. You can usually get a lower deal per pound on ground meat and specialty meat, just make sure you divide it into family sized portions in bags to avoid freezer burn. Factoring in the annual club membership, you may make out better buying reduced meat from your grocer.
Related: Meat Coupons
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