Wednesday, January 09, 2013

10 Best ways to save money on meat

Buying meat makes me cringe!  It's gotten a lot more expensive, mainly due to the drought conditions of the last sweltering summer.  Don't pay full price if you don't have to.  Here are a few of the best ways I know of to save money on meat.

1.  Know the markdown schedule:  If you're fine with buying meat set to hit the end of it's shelf life, knowing your store's markdown schedule can help you save a good chunk of change.  Plan to cook and/or freeze it right away.  When I buy marked down meat, I note that with a Sharpie on my Food Saver bag so I know that I should plan to cook anything I thaw right away.

2.  Rebates:   If you are lucky to live in a state that typically participates in beer company rebates, you can save a few bucks just by buying meat.  Recently, I found a $3 off $10 purchase of "holiday meat" rebate form that didn't require me to buy the alcohol product sponsoring the rebate.  Check ebay as a lot of people do list rebates.  In general, I have found that it's mostly southern states that are listed.  Some states have very strict liquor laws and you won't find them listed on a rebate form.

3.  Learn to cut meat:  Sometimes, it is cheaper to buy that huge slab of meat and cut it yourself.  This is something that we do, particularly with pork.  My husband carves off a few roasts and the rest are boneless pork loin chops.  Do the math and decide as buying bulk and cutting it yourself could save you a lot of money.

4.  Know what a good price is:  Prices will vary by region, though for me, if I can get boneless chicken breasts for $1.99 or less per pound, I'm doing pretty well.  Once your target price comes around for various cuts of meat, you'll know when to buy.   Plan a menu a few weeks to a month ahead of time and you'll know how much to buy for the month.   Stores like Wegmans have a list of CLPs (Consistent Low Prices) for an entire quarter, and some of the items are meat.  Take note of the prices and use that as your yardstick for finding the best price on whatever meat you need.

5.  Buddy up to the butcher:  There's no shame in asking the butcher for some insider information.  He or she may know that the pork you're eying will go on sale next week.  If  you don't see a cut of meat going on sale, ask if they know when it will.  If the hamburger you wanted is wiped out, ask for more.  Don't be shy --- ring that bell for assistance.  Remember, they can't sell it if they don't have it out there for you to buy.  Most meat department managers will gladly do a special order for you and may be able to get you a discount for buying it in bulk.

6.  The slow cooker is your friend:  Some less expensive cuts of meat (particularly beef) are far less tender than the more expensive cuts.  In this case, buying the less expensive cut, marinading it for a day or so, and then tossing it into a slow cooker will make it melt in your mouth without breaking a molar trying to chew it.  You might do a bit more for prep, but you'll reap the savings for buying a cheaper cut of meat.

7.  Hunt.  Now, this is personally something I can't bear to do, but hunting your own meat will save on your grocery bill.  You can also look around for where you can locally purchase a whole, half, or quarter of a cow. 

8.  Catalinas.  Chaining catalina deals is another innovative way to save on meat.  I did this a few months ago with a Kroger Mega Savings event.  Since the Kroger was over an hour away, my last trip through the store was to buy meat.  I used $15 worth of catalinas on my meat purchase.  Be on the lookout for awesome catalina deals that you can work to your advantage.

9.  Mix up your burger.    In general, I prefer leaner hamburger.  But the leaner grinds are significantly more.  I have bought the cheapest grind and mixed it with a leaner package and then frozen them.  The mix is a bit leaner to suit my tastes, but not as expensive because I only bought a little bit of the leaner grind.

10.  Store brand meats:  Most stores back their store brands with a money back satisfaction guarantee.  Try it and if you don't like it, take it back.  Walmart is one that backs its meats fully with a taste guarantee.  I'm not advocating buying it and then taking it back just to get money.  I am advocating trying a non-brand name that's cheaper, but one that assumes the risk if you don't like it by offering a MBG so you can feel comfortable spending your hard earned money on their product without worry that you'll drop $15 on steaks only to not like them later and feel like you wasted your money.


Do you have any secret tips for saving money on meats?  Many times, you can even 
e-clip coupons for meats like sausages, bacon, etc. onto your store card. 
 Please share your best tips in the comments below!
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