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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Shopping For Meat On A Budget

It's no secret that the Frobuzz household is carnivorous. However, the Frobuzz household is also compromised of a grad student, a young professional, dogs, horses, chickens and student loans. Throw that in an equation and you get a smallish grocery budget. Shopping for meat on a tight budget can be difficult but we're not willing to cut back in that area so we employ some different strategies to keep protein in the center of the plate! So I'm going to outline, as easily as possible, how we eat a hunk of meat several nights a week without breaking the bank. This is no easy task considering pork prices are on the rise (thanks PEDv) and beef prices are at a 27 year high (thanks Mother Nature).

Ok, so before you even head to the store you need to have in your mind that you're not going to get T-bones and ribeyes for $3/lb. That would be awesome but will not happen. The goal is to find a diamond in the rough that you can put a little extra work and kitchen time into and still get a good quality meal.

Once you arrive at the meat case, you're looking for markdowns, BOGO (buy one, get one) or large hunks of meat that most people won't buy (think along the lines of a whole ham). You may not find a great deal every time but one good deal on a large sub-primal can last you awhile. On our shopping trip last Sunday, we found a few good deals but only cashed in on one due to our lack of freezer space at the moment.

You have to look beyond what is right in front of you and think about how you can cut things down or use them in different recipes. On this trip, the Ninja is debating which cut is a better deal and which one is the best cut based on color etc.


Shopping For Meat On A Budget
Comparisons are vital - look beyond what is right in front of you.
Just because something is 'convenient' doesn't necessarily mean it's convenient for your wallet. Here are some examples of not so great deals:


Comparing cuts of meat when you're on a tight budget
In this instance it seems awesome that you get a pork country style ribs that are already marinated but that is $4.29 for one serving that is less than a pound. You're basically paying for the fact that it is a single serving, that it's marinated and that it has a pineapple slice.


Comparing cuts of meat when you're on a tight budget
Same with these charcoal steaks, - these are from the chuck but have been cut down and marinated causing their price to be $7 per lb even though a chuck roast is much cheaper per pound.
Examples of good deals:


Comparing cuts of meat when you're on a tight budget
Ham on sale for $1.69/lb. Yes, I know it's a whole ham but you can cut things down and freeze them.
Comparing cuts of meat when you're on a tight budget
These whole  ham butts can be cut down and frozen for use in meals at a later date.
Although we didn't buy a ham, we have done so in the past. We cut it up into smaller portions and freeze them - then I can pull them out for soup, a crock pot meal or to throw on the grill.

This is the deal that we took advantage of last weekend:


Comparing cuts of meat when you're on a tight budget
Beef bottom round roast - buy one get one free!
Yes, you read that correctly. Beef bottom round roasts were buy one get one free! They were normally $6.99/lb and weighed around 2.5 pounds a piece. However, the sale meant that we got 5 pounds of good quality beef for about $17.65 ($2.50/lb). Talk about a steal.

Naturally, we brought two home and got them ready for future meals. Since crockpot season is over, we opted to cut them into steaks instead of keeping them in their roast form. We unwrapped them and took them out of the package - the first step was removing the fat and silver skin (bonus info: that little pad in the bottom of the package is called a 'diaper'). Silver skin is opaque connective tissue that is very tough so removing it can really improve the eating experience.


A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
Preparing to break it down.


The diaper - soaks up juices that may leech out of the meat
 and keeps the tray and packaging looking clean and tidy.
 
A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
Removing the silver skin and external fat (the dogs appreciated this step) - silver skin is tough connective tissue so it's important to remove to improve the eating experience!
 
 Next, the Ninja cuts the roast into steaks that are approximately 1" thick.


A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
Cutting across the grain is important with roasts in order to improve tenderness



A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
Here you can see how many ~1" steaks come from one of the bottom round roasts
A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
Here are the results of the two roasts that were cut down - there were nine steaks and five 'midget' steaks (that's really what they're called), and of course the pieces of fat and silver skin for the dogs.
 
A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
I realize it's hard to determine how big these are - a deck of cards is roughly the size of one-three ounce serving of beef. As you can see, these steaks are about four ounces.
A large piece of meat can be broken into smaller steaks
The final product bagged up - I'll put them in the freezer and when we want to grill, I just pull one out the night before and let it defrost.
Each one of those steaks will serve as a meal for us, along with a veggie or rice side dish. It's about $4.50 total per meal, not per person (not including the veggies or rice). If we didn't do these trips, we would eat less meat and I would not be a happy camper.

I hope this provides insight on how you don't have to change your diet on a tight budget but rather just change your perspective or  your strategies and you can still have high-quality, lean beef on your plate (pork, too)!

Any questions - comments? Do you do something similar at your house?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

3 comments:

  1. Freezing meat. A couple things I found useful:
    1- Pour a little olive oil in the ziploc bag. Drop the meat in. Squish around in the bag until the product is completely covered w/oil. Squeeze air out, seal and freeze. No Freezer Burn!

    2- Recently got a vacuum sealer. Works great. Again, no freezer burn.

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    Replies
    1. Kevin - I had heard great things about the vacuum sealer but never the olive oil. That's a great idea - we'll definitely have to try that! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. It's been a couple years now since I've had to buy meat at the grocery store (other than chicken) and things like this make me even more thankful!! We get a discount pig from hubs company, raise our own beef, and deer hunt every year! We do have a vacuum sealer as well that I use on the deer meat and it's a life saver if you plan on freezing things for very long, totally worth the money I think!

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