Growing up in the Midwest, I was raised in a family who loves meat. We read about Pa Ingalls feeding his family in The Little House on the Prairie. Then, our own father would come home from hunting with fresh venison. Not to mention the summer barbecues…or Thanksgiving…or potlucks. Case in point: We like our meat budget. But it can get costly.
To this day, my most expensive purchases at the grocery store are in the meat department. Since my husband is a huge fan of sandwiches and you already know my family history, becoming vegetarians wasn’t much of an option for us.
5 Ways to Chop Your Meat Budget in Half
Instead, I tried out a myriad of ways to chip away at our costly meat budget, finally landing on a few that work great in our home. The more you alternate these techniques – and the ones you’ll discover in your own kitchen – the more variety you’ll offer your dinner table. This brings the focus more on new meals and less on “doing without.”
You can typically buy quality, grass-fed, hormone-free beef or pork in large quantities locally. It can help to go in on the purchase with a few other families – and to invest in a good deep freezer in the garage.
Bonus Tip: If you’re ever worried about your deep freezer losing power or coming unplugged without your knowledge, try freezing several two-liter bottles filled with water. Line them along the bottom of the deep freezer before adding frozen foods. If your freezer does lose power, your food will stay cold for longer. Hopefully, it will buy you enough time to discover the problem.
2. Swap red meat for leaner meats.
Turkey bacon and chicken sausage can make great meat budget reducers at the breakfast table (if you’re like my family, you might like serving breakfast anytime of the day). Leaner meats, according to research conducted at the University of Michigan, are rich in iron and provide protein without containing nearly as much fat (depending on the cut of course).
Not a fan of poultry? Before you throw a spatula at the wall in protest, try browning some ground turkey, then add it to your spaghetti sauce instead of ground beef. Or use it for taco night. Strong seasonings and sauces helped my family ease our way into substituting lean meats for the meats we were used to eating for decades.
This is me not saying the only way to save your meat budget is to eat no meat. What you can do is alternate the occasional meat serving in a meal for something full of protein like beans or nuts. Here are some quick suggestions:
- Substitute meat for extra beans in your next batch of chili.
- Eat protein bars. Save money by buying these at a grocery store (in bulk if the price per unit comes out cheaper) instead of at convenience stores.
- Include meals with nuts or nut butters like almond butter and honey sandwiches or banana nut bread.
4. Chop the meat serving in half.
One trick for cutting down on your meat budget is to stick to the math and use half of what’s listed on the recipe. To supplement, increase the vegetable serving size and include a starch (potatoes, pasta, etc.).
Variations: You could also save money by swapping burger night for pork chops or barbecue some drumsticks versus boneless chicken breasts.
Here are two of my favorite frugal and fast recipes:
Cream of Celery Pork Chops
Recipe Credit: Andria Maus
1 can – Cream of Celery soup
1 cup – milk
4-6 – pork chops
Sear pork chops in a skillet for five seconds per side. Whisk together Cream of Celery and milk. Pour half of the into a glass baking dish. Add pork chops, then add the remaining mix and cover. Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.
Great with steamed broccoli and wild rice.
Ham & Bean Wheat Wraps
1 can – Great Northern beans
1/4 lb – sliced deli ham
Whole wheat wraps
Heat beans in a pot on medium heat. Use scissors to cut deli meat into small pieces and add to the pot. Cook until boiling, then remove from heat. Scoop into wraps and add lettuce and cheese.
Depending on the grocery stores in which you shop, you can score in-store coupons for meat. What I like about them, as opposed to manufacturer’s coupons, is:
- They usually print off right at the check out or can be accessed somewhere within the store.
- They offer shoppers discounted or free items that aren’t normally on coupons – like milk, eggs, bread, fresh produce, or meat.
- They are customized to your shopping history so you waste far less time sorting through irrelevant coupons.
- They offer price cuts on more expensive products like organic, natural, dye-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, etc.
Your meat budget will look different than the next family’s. I think the point is to examine your own spending habits in this area, see if there are less expensive options, and begin the conversation about implementing them.