For years, my parents spent an average of $50 per week on meat at the grocery store to feed our family of six.
Unfortunately, my dad was in an accident that required multiple surgeries and physical therapy.
Once our family began living on a fixed income, home-cooked meals with meat only happened once a week or on special occasions.
As I got older, I discovered we actually can afford to feed our large family meat on a regular basis.
Rather than spending $50 per week at the grocery store, I found ways to feed our family meat on only $50 per month. We actually get more meat now than we ever did when my father was working!
Before I start my own family, I‘m prepared to start things off right and save thousands of dollars on meat the rest of my life.
You can, too. Here’s my secret to spending so little on meat:
Buy from Meat Wholesalers
Wholesale meat suppliers often sell to restaurants and grocery stores, but anyone can walk in off the street and buy meat in bulk.
Check your zip code in the Wholesale Meat Supplier Directory.
By shopping at our local wholesaler, we get three months’ worth of beef, pork, chicken and fish for only $50, and it all fits in our standard-sized freezer.
This covers most meals each week, and dramatically cuts down our grocery-store meat purchases.
Prices may vary, depending on your local market. But you’re always guaranteed to pay less at a wholesaler than you would at the supermarket.
Keep in mind wholesalers’ hours are usually different than the typical supermarket. Many are open from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Pro tip: Bring a jacket! These places are often just one giant freezer full of meat.
Don’t have a meat wholesaler near you? Here are five other ways to save:
1. Shop at Local Farms
Many local farms and ranches are willing to sell you an entire cow or pig, and you can easily buy turkeys and chickens for a low cost.
Kitchen Stewardship has an in-depth guide on how to buy an entire cow.
Once you pick your cow, work with the butcher to specify how many pounds you want in each style of meat — ground, steaks, ribs, etc.
When all’s said and done, you’ll leave with over 200 pounds of beef, which could easily last more than a year.
Sure, the up-front cost is higher, but you can save hundreds of dollars on meat each year. Plus, this is much higher quality meat than you’d find in a grocery store. In many cases, it’ll also be organic.
This option isn’t for everyone, especially if you live in an apartment. But it’s perfect if you live in the suburbs with a large family, a second freezer and plenty of space.
2. Look for Coupons and Sales
Pay attention to your grocery store’s sales flyers.
If meat goes on sale significantly cheaper than it normally sells for, it’d be smart to stock up.
Meat coupons are rare, but you can find them on company websites and in the Sunday paper. Sometimes, they’ll be right on the meat packages.
Check out our couponing resources to get started.
3. Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores
Many ethnic markets offer meat and other ingredients you’d expect to pay a fortune for in other places, but for way less.
As an amateur chef and major foodie, I shop at Asian groceries for rare ingredients for my dishes.
Chains like H-Mart carry everything you typically see in any grocery store, but they also carry snacks, meats and produce seen exclusively in Asian cuisines.
With all of the affordable meat options, try cooking outside your comfort zone.
4. Compare Average Grocery-Store Prices
Grab a notebook and visit each of your local grocery stores.
Write down your favorite meats’ average price-per-pound. Ask employees how often they run meat sales and what price you can expect at any given time.
Compare your findings to pick the cheapest grocery in your area. Calculate how much gas money you’d have to spend to get there to decide whether a sale is worth it.
In my area, the cheapest place to buy meat is Aldi, but it’s 10-15 minutes away from where I live. I always use Aldi as the baseline price to decide whether or not a sale at another store is worth it.
5. Cut Down On Meat-Per-Meal
When my mother cooks, she uses a huge amount of meat.
She has this mindset that the family needs as much meat as possible to be full and satisfied.
When I cook, I use a fraction of her amount of meat. For example, if I’m cooking chili, I’ll only use a quarter of a pound of beef instead of the entire pound.
The rest goes in the freezer, and I can use it for at least two more meals.
To make the meal filling, I increase the amount of beans, vegetables and other ingredients, and it tastes exactly the same.
Your Turn: Will you use these ideas to save money on meat?
Shannon Quinn is a writer and entrepreneur living in the Greater Philadelphia area. She spends a great deal of her time discovering creative ways to save money so that she can live comfortably on a small budget.