Shannon Quinn - The Penny Hoarder

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!

How to Save Money on Meat

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:

1. Buy Wholesale Meat

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:

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.  

6. 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.

[Ed. note: On Oct. 3, 2016, Amazon revised its policy on customer reviews.]

I recently reached the coveted Top Amazon Reviewer status. Within the next year, I should have everything I possibly need to be a “real adult” -- whenever that happens -- for free.

A lot of people have asked me, “How do I become a Top Amazon Reviewer?”

I started out writing book reviews to help some of my favorite self-published authors. In the process, I learned about the marketing power of reviews.

After over a year of slowly improving my reviewer ranking to one of the top 10,000 spots, I now receive hundreds of dollars of free and deeply discounted products each month.

This week, I received two different blouses that normally retail for $20 each, a vegan face lotion ($26), a tooth whitening kit ($45) and a set of baby bibs ($20). I could accept more, but I choose to only review products I can truly use, or ones I can give away to my friends and family.

It’s completely free to get started, so what are you waiting for?

How to Become a Top Amazon Reviewer

Ready to start trading your honest thoughts about a product for free stuff? Here’s what to do.

1. Sign up for an Amazon account

Make sure it’s linked to an email you frequently check and include some information about yourself in your account profile.

It’s good to list the types of products you’re interested in reviewing. You do NOT need to use your full name, or a real picture of yourself.

2. Download the Amazon App

Get the app for your smartphone.

It comes with a barcode scanner, which makes it super easy to look up products you already own.

If you really want to buy something to review, companies always match new product releases with sales and coupon deals. It should always be cheap and easy to find something to review.

3. Start Writing Reviews

Write honest, unbiased reviews of products you’ve already tried.

What products do you buy over and over again -- and why? Which products did you hate so much you’ll never buy them again?

Remember to check your grammar and spelling!

4. Consider Product Questions

If you’re at a loss for words, think about the questions you’d have if you were a customer buying an item on Amazon.

"Is it worth my money? Does it really work? Are there better brands out there?"

Genuinely try to help the customer decide whether this is the right product for them.

5. Check the Number of Reviews

If an item has too many existing reviews, it’s unlikely anyone will read yours.

If an item has few or no reviews, you have a greater chance of being noticed.

Your ranking only improves when you get "Helpful Votes" from customers who felt you helped them make a decision about their purchase.

6. Review the Types of Items You Want to Get for Free

When I started reviewing a lot of health products, I got inquiries from supplement companies before I was even a Top Reviewer.

If you consistently review the same things repeatedly, you’ll become an “expert” in the field.

7. Pay Attention to Product Release Dates

Many companies release new products at least two weeks before they’re for sale on Amazon. The faster you post your review, the more likely it is someone will give you a “Helpful Vote.”

8. Update Your Account Often

...but be sure not to flood it with reviews.

If you have more “Helpful Votes” than reviews, your ranking goes up.

If you write too many reviews before you get any “Helpful Votes,” you’ll actually make it harder for yourself to improve your ranking.

9. Create Review-Focused Social Media Accounts

Start social media accounts devoted to your Amazon reviews.

Companies target reviewers based on age, gender and social media following.

Once you become a Top Reviewer, companies sometimes request you give them shout-outs on multiple social media accounts. The more expensive the product, the more advertising the companies will want from you in order to get items for free.

10. Be Honest

You MUST disclose if you got a product for free. It’s one of the Federal Trade Commission’s rules, and Amazon will enforce it.

It even has an algorithm that automatically blocks certain reviews from going up, as well as employees who investigate people who may be breaking this rule.

Will You Become a Top Reviewer?

It may seem like a long process, but if you take on the challenge, the fruits of your labor will be well worth the struggle.

Being a Top Amazon Reviewer may not pay any bills, but it can help save you and your family thousands of dollars, since you’ll get free stuff you would otherwise have paid for.

Your Turn: Have you ever written reviews for Amazon? Will you try to become a Top Reviewer?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.

Shannon Quinn is a writer, entrepreneur, and legal student living in and around both the Greater Philadelphia and New York areas. She spends a great deal of her time discovering creative ways to save money so that she can live comfortably on a small budget.