My husband, Aaron, and I are the typical young family.
We got married right out of college, both started chasing our dream jobs from the bottom (I established Celeste Communications and he went back to the family restaurant), had a baby and live in a little rental house.
We’re working hard and saving as much as we can to buy a house/farm, upgrade from the vehicles that got us through college and someday put another kid through diapers (not anytime soon though!)
When I was pregnant with Lorelei, I was completely terrified of all the added expenses of a baby. While covering two different events for two different clients, I found myself sitting in on sessions about couponing.
One of those was given by a farm wife much like me. Couponing was not a necessity for her family, however, the more she could save the more they could put towards their future goals.
When she mentioned that her sister-in-law never paid for baby wipes I was sold.
The next weekend, Aaron and I started implementing a drastic overhaul of our grocery shopping strategy.
The more I learned about couponing, the more I realized that it was not the only change we needed to make. There were seldom coupons for meat, which was a significant portion of our grocery expenses.
So Aaron and I fell back on what we had learned in our college meat science class and made some major changes in our meat buying. Its been almost two years since I’ve paid full price for any meat and I don’t see that changing any time soon!
1. Stock up and freeze
I can’t emphasize this one enough. Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to shopping meat sales.
When I find a fantastic price on a meat cut we eat, I often buy as many as they have and put them all in the freezer.
This also makes it easy for us to add variety to our menu. Otherwise, we’d be eating nothing but ground beef dishes for a week just because it was on sale.
We have a 5 cubic foot chest freezer and the freezer in our side-by-side refrigerator and both stay full at all times! (We got our chest freezer from Sam’s Club for about $175 and it paid for itself in meat savings in just a few months!)
Now we have a rule in our house that whenever you go to the grocery you check the reduced section (see tip #2). Which means that when my husband makes a quick trip for rice or powdered sugar or some other ingredient that I am notorious for running out of, I often get a phone call that goes something like “I just bought 15 lbs of ground beef, can you make room in the freezer?”
2. Shop the “Reduced for Quick Sale” section.
This is a section where the meat department discounts a package of meat because it is nearing the “sell by” date or because it has started to discolor.
I wrote an entire post about shopping in this section here. Generally, the reduced price is the lowest price you’ll ever see. As long as you freeze or cook the meat before the expiration date on the package, its perfectly safe!
3. Track price per lb of your favorite cuts until you learn the lowest sale price.
At our particular grocery, there are some meats that seldom end up in the reduced section. Chicken breasts are one of them.
In order to save on chicken, we started tracking the sale prices. After about three months, we learned that at our grocery $1.99/lb is as cheap as chicken breasts ever get.
The next time that $1.99/lb sale came around, we stocked up on chicken breasts.
This also helps us when we go to Sam’s Club. We used to assume that just because its the Sam’s price it must be the cheapest around but we’ve learned that with meat that’s not always the case.
(Note: We recently discovered that our Sam’s Club is now selling chicken breasts at $1.99/lb all the time! So now, if our Kroger sells it for cheaper we’ll stock up but otherwise we’ll head to Sams. Always keep an eye out for a better “lowest” price).
4. Don’t buy Angus or organic or specialty labelled meat.
Beef is beef. Pork is pork. Chicken is chicken.
People can argue until they’re blue in the face that they prefer Angus, organic, grassfed, etc… but at the end of the day, every package of meat sold in grocery stores was USDA inspected and safe!
Personally, I don’t want to pay any extra for my meat just because the label says something special. If you do, that’s completely fine. In America, we are blessed to have many options to chose from at the meat counter.
If your top priority is saving money, however, specialty labelled meats are probably not for you!
Do I ever buy organic, Angus, etc? Sometimes.
When I find it in the reduced for quick sale section for cheaper than its non-organic or Angus counterpart. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I don’t discriminate. Cheap meat is cheap meat!
5. Try new cuts in old recipes.
When we started tracking sales, we realized that one of our local grocery stores ran pork sirloin chops for 99 cents/lb fairly regularly.
This seemed like a great deal… except for the fact that we had no idea what to do with pork sirloin chops.
While browsing Pinterest, I came across a crock pot chicken taco recipe where you add fajita seasoning, a jar of salsa and chicken breast to the crockpot and let it all cook down low and slow for 6-8 hours. I realized if I cut the bones out of the pork sirloin chops, I could use the same recipe to cook and tenderize the chops, shred them and make pork tacos.
Now crockpot pork tacos are one of our favorite (and easiest) recipes!
The same trick works for lots of different cuts. I often substitute chicken breast for boneless pork chops and vice versa.
By changing our shopping strategies and couponing, my husband and I have cut our monthly grocery expenses by an average of 30%.
Plus, by having a freezer stash of meat I can now “shop” in my freezer.
When I get swamped at CelesteComm or Lorelei decides to boycott naps for a day, I don’t have to worry about trying to fit in a trip to the grocery before I start working on supper, I just pull some meat out of the freezer!
So now I’m saving money and eliminating stress. For this mom, it doesn’t get much better than that!
Do you have meat shopping, money saving tips? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking to save even more!