5 Ways To Slice Your Meat Budget In Half

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.”

meat budget1. Buy meat in large quantities.

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.

meat budget3. Swap the meat serving for a protein alternative.

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

Ingredients:

1 can – Cream of Celery soup

1 cup – milk

4-6 – pork chops

Directions:

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

Ingredients:

1 can – Great Northern beans

1/4 lb – sliced deli ham

Lettuce

Cheddar cheese

Whole wheat wraps

Directions:

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.

meat budget5. Hang onto in-store coupons.

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.

Your Turn: Is meat the most expensive food item on your budget each month? How do you reduce your expenses? Share your methods with us in the comments, that way we can all have the chance to learn from you!

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5 comments to 5 Ways To Slice Your Meat Budget In Half

  • Kathy

    My parents always bought 1/2 beef at a time when I was a child, so we always had steaks and roasts on the table. Today, my husband and I don’t eat as much meat as we did back then but we still like a good steak. We buy our meat almost exclusively from a local meat processor. You can get individual steaks but it is much cheaper to buy their boxes of 6-8. And we get ground beef in 30 pound boxes for much less than at the store. Plus a bonus is that it is locally raised and the quality is much better. Oh, BTW, grass fed beef is not entirely accurate most of the time. If the cattle is raised in a typical ranching state like Oklahoma, or Wyoming, their diets are almost certainly supplemented with grain. It’s hard for them to be on grass when snow is deep, so grain and hay supplements are important.

    • Great information, Kathy. I didn’t know that about grass-fed beef and supplemental sources of food, but it makes sense from what you’ve described. It seems very easy to get caught up in labels (I’m guilty of it, too), when there are often scores of facts we don’t know that describe the full scope of the process. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  • Melanie

    Thank you for at least having one suggestion of switching to something other than meat or any other animal for that matter. We don’t need to eat animals anymore to survive and doing so supports the death of sentinent beings who feel pain just like we do. They are no different than our domestic pets, just different types of animals.

    • Hi Melanie,

      Thank you for sharing your views on this topic. My intention with focusing so heavily on meat was to cater to an audience of people who regularly consume it and who are looking for ways to cut back and save money. I respect your views and am sure there are other readers who feel the same. In fact, if you know of a great vegetarian or vegan cookbook you’d like to suggest in the comments to help people with step #3, please feel free to share it with us.

  • Melanie

    Thank you Laura. There are 2 very good websites that have simple, very good vegan recipes. The Vegan 8 and The Minimalist Baker. People can also go the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at http://www.pcrm.org and click on educational literature for a vegetarian starter kit download or Peta.org for a vegan one. Vegan is always best to be honest as there is a lot of cruelty and abuse in the dairy industry but starting off slowly as vegetarian is a huge help. There are various good vegetarian/vegan replacement foods that are quick to make like the Gardein brand that can be found in the freezer section at stores like Ralphs. Trader Joes and Walmart also carry meatless items too. Gardein and Trader Joes carries meatless chicken nuggets if people want to try something like that. I’m happy to be a resource for anyone that is interested.

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