Written by Bernie Carr
Meat prices, especially beef, have increased tremendously this year and I am hearing that prices will continue to go up. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, protein foods have increased at the percentages below this year:
Fresh fish and seafood: 11%
Beef and veal: 20.1%
Those are some huge increases that consumers have to cope with. Below are a few ideas on dealing with the high cost of meat.
Use meat as an ingredient instead of the main dish
Instead of cooking a whole steak or chicken breast with a side of veggies for each person, use just one piece of meat as an ingredient among others such as making stir fry dishes, soups, pasta or casseroles. You can get away with using just one steak or half a pound of ground beef to make a dish for the whole family, instead of four steaks for a family of four.
My Dad adds a handful of bread crumbs to burgers or meat loaf and no one notices the difference. You can also try adding oatmeal, grated vegetables or rice when making meatballs. Fillers actually makes the dish taste better. I make burgers using just a half pound of ground beef and mix it with shredded cheese and jalapenos. The burgers are flavorful and everyone likes the novelty of having ingredients mixed in with the meat.
Calculate the bone-in or boneless price
I have been wondering if it’s more cost-effective to buy meat with the bone or without. Bone-in is usually cheaper but the bone is usually tossed, unless you make soup. I saw this Butcher’s Secret for Getting the Best Meat Prices:
Here’s the secret:
- Chicken with bones: multiply the price by 1.5 to get the boneless equivalent
- Pork with bones: multiply the price by 1.2
- Beef with bones: multiply the price by 1.25
- Hamburger (80% lean): multiply the price by 1.2 to get the actual price per pound (you won’t be eating the 20% fat, right?)
Compare the resulting calculation with the price of the boneless version, and now you can tell which is actually cheaper for you.
Buy what’s on sale
Every week, grocery stores publish their sales and loss leaders. Instead of waiting for grocery fliers, I check online and compare prices. Before you leave for the store, download the coupons so you can print or save. If you have the grocery store app on your phone or have the rewards card, the coupon will be saved on your account. Sometimes the deal is automatic, or other times, you have to download the coupon so read the fine print.
I visit the grocery chain that has the most deals on what I am looking for.
Find clearance items
Clearance items are often not advertised, but are offered in-store. Keep your eye’s open when you visit the meat department and look for the “manager’s special.” These are the items that are marked down to clear them out as they may be close to expiration, or just didn’t sell well.
Separate the meat before freezing
Instead of freezing the meat in the package it came in, I divide up the meat into small portions and repackage them in self-sealing (aka Zip-lock) bags. Or you can repackage meat using a food-sealer. The reason this is economical is it allows you to thaw out the smallest amount. If you leave the meat in the original packaging you may end up thawing too much. Check out this article on whether it’s safe to refreeze thawed meat.
Here’s what the USDA says about refreezing thawed meat:
If raw or cooked food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking or heating, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through thawing. After cooking raw foods that were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked foods. And if previously cooked foods are thawed in the refrigerator, you may refreeze the unused portion. Do not refreeze any foods left outside the refrigerator longer than 2 hours. If you purchase previously frozen meat, poultry or fish at a retail store, you can refreeze if it has been handled properly.SOURCE: askUSDA.gov
Use a reduced portion from what the recipe recommends
I started reducing the amount of meat that the recipe recommends. Many recipes state a specific amount such as one pound of meat, but I have been experimenting with using less. For example, my lasagna recipe states using one pound of meat, but reduced it to half pound and no one complained.
There are a lot of other ways to cope with the high price of meat. Share your tips in the comments – we can all use these ideas.
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Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.