Meat costs more than fruits and vegetables. There is no doubt about it. So when you are trying to cut down on your food budget, it makes sense to first see if you can try and reduce the amount you spend on meat. It’ll make a big impact on your overall grocery bill!
But before I offer up some tips and tricks to help you reduce your costs, let’s have a serious conversation about meat production and animal welfare. All it takes is some browsing on Netflix to find multiple documentaries on factory farming. If you are not educated on these practices, I encourage you to read up on them. It is very important to stay informed, and who knows? You may be so influenced that you decide to give up meat altogether.
As for me? Well, I recently had a very dear friend describe herself to me in this way, “I have the heart of a vegan, but the body of a carnivore,” and I resonate with that completely. That’s why instead of giving up meat, my husband and I have instead decided to always careful and make sure that we are purchasing humanely raised, grass-fed meat. And yes, this makes our meat cost even higher. But it is still important to us. We look at it like making a statement with our dollars.
But it is not simply because we are concerned about animal welfare and farming practices. There are also multiple health benefits to eating grass-fed over factory farmed meat, and that has significantly influenced our decision too.
Some health benefits include:
- There is more CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) in grass-fed meat. CLA has been known to fight cancer and reduce heart disease.
- There are more healthy fats present which improves blood sugar
- Grass-fed meat is more likely to be free of antibiotics and hormones
- Grass-fed meat is less likely to contain bacteria
All in all, these benefits make it important to eat grass-fed beef, but it also makes it even more important to work to reduce the cost. So, without further ado, here are some tips and tricks I have picked up along the way:
Meat on sale
The butcher section in most grocery stores has a designated date and time where they reduce the price of older cuts to make room for fresher meat. I know that my grocery store actually does this multiple times a week. So I always make a point of going over there then to scoop stuff up. I’ve gotten steaks, stew meat, ham, you name it. All at a reduced cost.
Meat shares are a great way to reduce costs because you are buying in bulk, and I mean, in bulk! Most ranchers will sell a Whole or half of a cow. Some will even sell a quarter. The same is also true for hogs. Just make sure you do a lot of research before entering into a meat share. Talk to multiple ranches, take tours, ask questions about how they calculate the cost of meat (live weight vs. hanging weight), etc. Because even though you will be saving money in the long run, you are making a huge upfront investment. Not to mention that you will have to buy a stand-alone freezer to store it all in if you don’t already have one.
Additionally, while most ranches coordinate meat shares for you, keep in mind that it is also possible to coordinate your own. So don’t let the steep, upfront cost deter you. If you think a quarter of a cow is still too much meat, consider splitting it with a friend so you each get a 1/8 or a 1/16. Hate organ meats and don’t want any in your share? Ask friends and family to buy those from you to reduce the cost even further.
While a meat share involves a big upfront cost and a large freezer, a meat CSA eliminates those problems. Similar to a produce CSA, some ranches are now offering boxes of meat. These usually include an assortment of cuts (and protein sources) at a reduced cost. Erik and I were lucky enough to find a CSA near us that costs the same as a quarter cow share. At the beginning of each month, I drive to the farmer’s market to pick up my huge bag of meat and pay for my monthly share. The only financial obligation I had to make was signing a contract binding me as a customer for an entire year.
I have been familiar with freezer cooking or once a month meal prep for quite some time now. But for some reason, I didn’t realize there were limitless ways to bulk cook and avoid using your freezer. That is until I read Love Your Leftovers by Nick Evans. Just a real quick word here, while Nick is an exceptional cook and his recipes are delicious, I now eat Whole 30 all the time. That being said, anyone can still use the concepts from this book. So even if you have a particular diet that you follow (Paleo, Gluten-Free, South Beach, whatever), it is worth the read.
What Nick suggests is focusing on a protein and cooking it in bulk. Then, using that protein, creating a week’s worth of meals from it. So, for example, he suggests cooking a large pork roast and then making 5 different dinners from it. In order to have this much meat on hand, you will end up buying larger cuts, and when you do that, you are usually saving a lot of money. That’s because a portion of what we typically pay for at the grocery store are the labor costs of the butcher. (That’s why whole chickens are always cheaper per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts.) My family follows the Nick Evans method at least once a month if not more, and just that small difference alone has made a big impact on our grocery bill. Not to mention, it makes cooking sooo much easier when part of your meal is already prepared.
So there you have it. Four ways to save money on meat. Now I want to hear from you! How are you saving money on food?
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