6 Ways to Save Money on Meat

Trying to trim your grocery budget?  Since meat is one of the biggest grocery expenses, it only makes sense to try to cut costs there.  Here are 6 ways that I save money on meat.

1. Replace ground beef with ground turkey.
Not only is this healthier it is also cheaper. I find that I can get ground turkey for at least $0.50/lb. cheaper than what I can get ground beef. Ground turkey does taste a little different than ground beef and you may find, like we did, that you just can’t quite reconcile saving money and having food that you really do NOT enjoy. Here’s what we have found works for us.

Instead of doing a 100% switch, I simply buy a package of ground beef and a package of ground turkey and then separate them out into individual 1lb. packages- 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1/2 lb. ground turkey. Honestly, we have not been able to tell any difference even when using it for burgers and meat loaf.  And while it doesn’t save us as much as using all ground turkey would, we can enjoy our food and it still save a little too.

2. Never pay full price
Every kind and cut of meat goes on sale usually at least every other month. If you have a freezer, you can stock up on your favorite meats when they go on sale and freeze them so that they will last you until the next sale. Once you start doing this you’ll likely also start to see a pattern as to when your local stores run sales on each meat, which will help you plan more effectively.

Grocery stores will also often give you savings of up to $1.00/lb. for purchasing larger quantities (5 to 10 lbs.) of meats.  I like to purchase these and repackage them into smaller portions and put them in the freezer for future use.  Sometimes I take it a step further and cook the meat and then freeze it.

Don’t have a freezer?  Take heart, you can still save!  Simply plan your menu around whatever meats are on sale that week.  You can also watch for meats that are close to their sell-by date and marked down.  Stores often give a $1-$3 discount on those packages.  You’ll be able to save a lot just by doing these two things.

Tip: Zaycon Foods sells boneless, skinless chicken breast for $1.84 lb. in hundreds of cities across the United States.  You simply order online and then go pick up the meat on the set date.  It super simple and the meat is great quality!

3. Reduce the amount of meat in your recipe
I bet some of you are raising your eyebrows about now. And to be honest, when someone first suggested this to me I was rather skeptical. I’m a meat lover and I was sure we would notice the lack of meat in whatever dish I made. It took me a little to get up the courage to try it, but I finally did. And guess what?  We barely ever notice it!

If you simply switch to using 3/4 lb. instead of 1 lb. in most recipes, I assure you that you will rarely notice a difference. Now obviously this won’t work in things like meat loaf, sloppy joes, or ham balls. But soup, casseroles and dishes where meat isn’t the main ingredient will do just fine with a little less meat.

4. Replace meat with beans
Again, this won’t work in just any dish, but I have found that most Mexican dishes taste wonderful with beans replacing all or part of the meat. In fact we prefer the one super quick Mexican skillet dish that I make with beans instead of the ground beef the recipe calls for.  When I make chili soup I double the beans and half the meat because that is the way we like it.  And reader Michelle said she adds beans and rice to the Mexican Chicken Roll-ups and makes them go farther that way. The great thing is that by subbing beans for meat you can still get your protein, just at half the cost.

5. View meat as a side dish
Instead of having meat as your main dish, switch it around and have salad, potatoes, beans, cooked veggies etc. as your main dish and meat as your side.  Interestingly, the recommended serving size for meat is only 3 oz. or about the size of a deck of cards.  If you are like us, it’s often easy to eat more than that per meal.

6. Serve at least one meatless meal a week
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that by simply not serving meat sometimes, you will save yourself money.  We like to do at least one meatless dinner a week.  I often serve a breakfast type meal such as pancakes & eggs or Easy Egg Stacks (use mushrooms and you won’t miss the meat much at all!).  Or we’ll have rice and bean wraps, tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, vegetable soup, Bean and Sour Cream Enchiladas, Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup, Country Potato Soup, Crustless Zucchini Quiche or other delicious meatless dishes.

What about you? How do you save money on meat? 

Photo source: Shutterstock

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  1. by Rachel

    On April 13, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    As dumb as this sounds, these are some new ideas to me! I never would have thought to use less meat than a recipe calls for.

    Very good advice. :)

  2. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Rachel, they were new ideas to me once too. So I don’t think you sound dumb. :) Thanks for taking the time to comment- I love knowing that people are learning and being helped by my blog!

  3. [...] Six ways to save on meat (Parents.com) [...]

  4. by Erin McDade

    On April 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    We already use these tips, so I can personally vouch for them: they really do save money. Your freezer is your best friend! Also, when it comes to skipping meat once a week, don’t be shy about tofu. My husband HATED tofu for years, and after a few creative recipes, he’s the one suggesting tofu for dinner. (Besides, if you load up on those veggies, you’re that much closer to shedding that extra baby weight)! Follow my blog for more of my post-baby journey.

  5. by Courtney

    On April 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I really like the idea of using less meat in recipes. I would’ve never thought of that! I also really like the idea of replacing meat with beans. Once I’m finished losing my baby weight and can introduce beans in my diet again, I’ll definitely be trying that one!

    Our family does a lot of the same things you do as well. We purchased a chest freezer right after we got married and have since started stocking up on meats when they go on sale. It has saved us tons of money! We also have a membership to our local Sam’s Club and save money on meat there as well (it’s almost always at least $2-$3 cheaper per pound, especially chicken). We only eat boneless, skinless chicken breasts–which can be rather expensive–so I’m always sure to stock up when our grocery store or Sam’s Club run sales.

    Another idea I recently heard about is talking with people you know who may butcher themselves (not at a store but a friend or church member). Many times, cutting out the middle man will save money as well and is almost always healthier!

    Thanks for the great tips!

  6. by Michelle

    On April 16, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Very good tips. I always use less meat in casseroles. I also try not to make things like sloppy joe, meatloaf, tacos etc… because it takes more meat. I also have a brother that raises cows on the side for butchering. So every November we get 1/4 beef. It is so nice to have good quality hamburger in the freezer!

    BTW-Thanks for mentioning me in this post. :)

  7. by Lydia Beiler

    On April 16, 2012 at 9:00 am

    Erin, can you believe that I have never tried tofu? Somehow it just doesn’t sound good to me. But maybe I should branch out and try it- perhaps I’d be surprised. And it would help save money on meat too!

    Courtney, yes, I don’t know what we’d do without our chest freezer! Saves us a bundle! And good to know that Sam’s has great prices on meat. You mentioned that you only eat boneless, skinless chicken breast and that reminded me of another way to save. Have you ever tried chicken thighs? They are quite a bit less expensive and we like them a little better than chicken breast for the simple fact that they are not as dry. And I’ve been able to find them boneless, skinless too.

    Michelle, yeah, we don’t eat a lot of things like sloppy joe and meat loaf either. When we do, it’s usually for a special meal. How awesome that you can get beef from your brother! We were able to do that with a friend of ours a year ago. We paid a tiny bit more than I would have for meat in-store but it is SUCH good meat that I don’t mind at all. And you are welcome. ;)

  8. by amelia

    On April 16, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I love ideas 3-6! In addition to being cheaper, these are great for preserving the planet.

  9. by Jolene

    On July 19, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for the ideas! My fiance is a HUGE meat-eater, but we are both very budget-minded, so it gets to be a balancing act when it comes to our grocery bill. Someone mentioned buying boneless, skinless chicken; unless there is a specific reason people are opposed to bone-in with skin chicken, it often is cheaper to buy the whole bird and cut it up yourself.

    Also, while this may take a little effort, I grew up with my mom and dad always canning meat. They would wait until there was a good sale on any type of meat (pork, chicken, beef) and then would buy it by the BOX (per request at the meat counter) and make a day of cutting up the meat and canning it. Although it takes some planning, canned meat will stay good for ages, it can be kept in the cupboard/pantry (for those who don’t have much freezer space), and it is very easy to use because it is already cooked! Canned meat is great in stews, casseroles, or even just on its own. One of my quick ‘n easy favorites is to put canned beef/pork in a crock pot, add some BBQ, and VOILA! Hot BBQ sandwiches!

    Thanks again for the tips!

  10. by Lydia Beiler

    On July 20, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Jolene, we love meat here too! :) Yes, buying a whole bird is typically cheaper. Sometimes I wonder though how much cheaper it is till you take out all the bones and skin. But then of course you can make chicken stock with that. I don’t have much experience cutting up whole chickens but I do often get the whole legs and cut them apart.

    Love how you can meat! I have done just a little bit of that and it is so incredibly convenient! It is definitely something I want to do more of. Thanks for sharing!

  11. by Mina

    On August 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I’m a meat and potatoes girl, so less meat is not my preferred option. I wait for BOGO free sales and stock up!

  12. by Lydia Beiler

    On August 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Mina, actually I am a meat and potatoes girl too. Love my meat and don’t think I could ever go vegetarian! Yup, BOGO sales are a great way to save. Love ‘em!

  13. by Lyndsay

    On August 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I have a family of 6, which includes me and my husband and 4 growing boys ages 4-13. And they can eat a lot! I asked our local grocery stores what days they typically mark meat down for fast sale. (Thursday mornings) They will mark it down to half the price, all I have to do is buy it and throw it in our deep freeze right away. I also add rice to our sloppy joe and taco meat to make it stretch farther. It takes a little longer to cook, but is so worth it! I also buy chickens whole, and can make them last 3-4 meals, each. I put it in the crock pot, and our first meal I will serve the chicken with a lot of veggies, and rice or bread as a side. Then I take the rest off the bone. I usually get another meal out of it making stir fry (lots of veggies!). I can then get a third meal making chicken yum (a mexican chicken casserole, my kids just call it that!), and have enough leftovers to fix myself and my youngest either chicken salad or tacos for lunch.

  14. by Ashley

    On October 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    If you live somewhere near a slaughter house or know someone who raises livestock you can probably purchase fresh meat in large quantities from them. We usually get 1/2 a cow once a year for about the same price per pound as ground beef except we get all the good cuts too!

  15. by Lydia Beiler

    On October 18, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Great suggestions Ashley! We were able to purchase part of a cow from some friends of ours a year ago and saved a lot! And the meat was so much better too.

  16. by Amber

    On November 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    I always buy an extra ham at Christmas and Easter, you get a lot of meat and they are usually on sale for a whole ham for under $20. THey are great for feeding a large crowd, or you can cook it and do lots with it, and I love to have the bone to make ham and beans. Same with Thanksgiving and buying a turkey to keep (these tips assume you have a chest freezer).

    One last tip, I use mushrooms chopped finely in my chili, it looks like ground beef, and I don’t use only the mushrooms, but substitute some of the mushrooms for the meat. It’s healthier too!

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