Meat and poultry are often the most expensive item on a family's grocery budget. According to a 2004 study from the USDA, the categories of meat and poultry accounted for 16.3% of the dollar expenditures on food purchased at retail stores in the U.S. Listed below are some tips to help lower your meat and poultry expenses.
The tougher the cut of meat, often the lower the price. Less tender cuts of meat are usually less expensive, but can still taste delicious with the right preparation. Tender meats can be cooked with dry heat methods such as roasting, frying and broiling. Tougher and cheaper cuts of meat usually require longer cooking times and moist heat methods of cooking such as boiling, braising, and slow cooker cooking.
By planning meals ahead of time, utilizing longer cooking times, and preparing meat with moist heat methods, you can often save money. Slow cookers are great for turning inexpensive, tough cuts of meat into tasty entrees. They are also time savers. With a slow cooker, you can make a one dish meal in the morning with meat, potatoes and other vegetables, let it slow cook all day, and at dinner time, your meal will be ready to eat.
Don't buy meat that has already been cut since you are paying extra for the labor. Unless the meat is on sale or has been marked down, do the cutting yourself at home. For example, don't purchase steak that has already been cut into stir-fry strips or pieces. Buy the complete steak and cut it into strips yourself. Buy whole chickens or turkeys instead of parts and learn how to cut them up yourself. Many basic cookbooks have instruction for how to cut up poultry.
Remember to check expiration dates. If prices are equal, always try to buy the freshest meat available. However, for meals you plan to make the same day, check for meats with freshness dates that are due to expire soon as these items are often marked down.
If your family likes rotisserie chicken from the grocery store's delicatessen department, it may be a cost-effective investment to purchase a rotisserie to use at home instead of paying for the labor costs at the deli to cook your meat for you.
Once or twice a week, serve a main dish vegetarian meal. Some dishes to consider are quiches, veggie burgers on buns, vegetarian lasagna, and cheese pizza with some favorite non-meat toppings.
To avoid spoilage, shop for non-perishables first and make meat one of the last items you place into your grocery cart. Stack meats together in your shopping cart along with other cold items. When you get home, refrigerate or freeze meat promptly.
Choose meat with a good red color and not too much fat around the edges. Some flecks of fat, often called marbling, within the meat are desirable. Marbling makes the meat juicier and more tender.
Meat is usually cheapest at warehouse stores, but the one drawback is that the package sizes are very large. Buy from warehouse stores only if you anticipate being able to consume the meat you buy, or have enough storage space to freeze unused portions.
If your children do not like to eat the dark meat on chicken or turkey, serve them the white meat as a first meal and then use the dark meat ground up in meat loaves and casseroles.
Don't let any part of meat or poultry go to waste. Use the bones and scraps from the meat to make broth for soup, stews and gravies. If you can't use the broth right away, freeze it in ice cube trays for future use.
S. L. Simmons is the editor at Always Frugal and a thrifty mom of two. Visit her site for more tips on saving money on food and groceries.
Copyright 2006 Always Frugal. Reprinted with permission.
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