The sound of sizzling meat on the grill is going to cost you more this summer. The price of beef and pork are up an average 7.7 percent, according to recent data from the US Department of Labor.
Severe drought in several western states has thinned cattle herds and a pig virus that’s reduced supply is sending prices through the roof. Decrease in supply and strong consumer demand both overseas and during the peak grilling season is leading to higher prices.
But you don’t have to sacrifice your favorite cuts of meat to save money. You can offset the cost of higher meat prices by beefing up your buying tactics, here’s how:
Know Your Price Per Pound: If you don’t know what a good deal is on ground chuck or sirloin, then you may not know if you’re getting a good price. Check out weekly grocery flyers to see what’s on sale for that week. Grocery stores often market “Buy-One-Get-One-Free” meat sales. But as Couponing.about.com cautions, you need to be careful that the price of the meat hasn’t been raised to accommodate the sale. By knowing what the average price per pound is on your favorite cuts of meat, you can avoid being deceived by fake meat sales. An easy way to calculate the price per pound is to divide the total price of the meat by its weight in total pounds.
Also, depending on the day and time you shop, some deals are easier to spot. According to the Wall Street Journal, meat prices tend to be the lowest on Wednesday evenings as stores prepare to restock the shelves for the weekend. Oftentimes the butcher will tell you when certain cuts of meat will be on sale.
Once you can spot a good deal, you can stock up!
Buy in Bulk: The more you buy, the more you save. According to Grocery411.com, a family pack can be up to $1 per pound cheaper than its smaller counterparts. That one dollar can add up quick in savings when you buy larger quantities. Wholesale clubs, like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s allow you to buy in bulk at reduced costs. Of course, in order for you to take advantage of bulk savings, whether at your local grocery store or a wholesale club, you need plenty of freezer space to store your meats – unless you’re planning on having a large barbeque or have a large family.
Avoid Prepared Meats: Pre-made hamburger patties are drastically more expensive than ground beef. Meats that have already been marinated will also be more expensive than marinating the meat yourself. The same goes for cubed meat and pre-made beef and chicken kabobs. Sure, it’s convenient but if you’re trying to save some money, purchasing your meats without any extras will keep the price down.
Pick the Right Cuts: The perfect steak is tender, juicy and full of flavor! The grade of the beef will dictate the price you pay. Beef is labeled by its grade: Prime, Choice, or Select. Melanie Barkley, senior extension educator with Penn State Extension, says the grade is determined by the amount of marbling and the age of the animal. Marbling is the flecks of fat that are distributed throughout the lean meat. The higher the grade, the more likely you will have a tender, juicy and flavorful steak.
However, you don’t have to purchase Prime grade or an expensive cut to get a great steak. Barkley says Choice and Select cuts of Sirloin and New York Strips are a great value and are great for grilling.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences recommends buying larger cuts of meat when they are on sale and cutting the meat into smaller sized portions and freezing the rest. Retailers and manufacturers charge for the time they spend breaking down meat, so you can save money by cutting it down yourself.
You can also prepare larger cuts of meat for several meals. Pork shoulder roast and beef chuck roast can be prepared as a main meal and then used for “planned overs,” which are leftovers that you plan for and make into another meal.
To explore the variety of beef cuts and recommended cooking methods, visit Beefitswhatsfordinner.com’s Interactive Butcher Counter. If pork is more your taste, you can also learn about the different cuts and cooking methods by visiting Porkbeinspired.com.
Cow-pooling: Many times cutting out the retailer can save you money on meat by purchasing a quarter or half animal. Cow-pooling is the practice under which a group of people team up to purchase a whole cow from a local farm. The cow is then butchered to order and the various cuts are divided among the group. This “meat sharing” practice can also be done with other livestock such as lamb and pigs.
Knutzen’s Meats in Pasco, Wash., says a pound of USDA Choice Grade tenderloin steak purchased through cow-pooling costs from $6 to $7 per pound compared to the equivalent of $16 per pound at your local market. Separate from the potential savings, consumer interest in cow-pooling also stems from the desire to understand more about how their meat was raised – as well as the opportunity to support local farmers.
If price is not an obstacle and you desire pricier cuts like Filet Mignon, Tenderloin and T-Bone, as well as better overall quality – grass fed beef might be on your menu. Grass fed cows eat from a pasture and are not ‘finished’ on a diet of grain and supplements for rapid weight gain – which is said to be better for the cow and better for the beef eater. While grass fed beef tends to be on the pricier side when you purchase at a grocery store, you can find savings via cow-pooling. You can checkout Local Harvest or Eat Wild to find local grass fed farms in your area.
Storage: To avoid throwing your money meat savings out the window, make sure you properly store your meat. FoodStorageMadeEasy.net says using a vacuum sealer is the best way to avoid freezer burn. Meat that has been vacuum sealed can keep two to three years.
How do you save money on meat?
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