Monday, May 14, 2012

Suggestions to Limit Meat & Dairy Prices

This one isn’t for the vegetarians among us.  So, if you're against eating meat and dairy, your view is duly noted but this blog post isn't a debate on whether people should or shouldn't do it.  It's about how those who choose to can save money on their expenses.
Often people ask me how they can save on everyday items like food, and I have thought about that over the years.  I do save on food, but realized after tracking expenses that I really don’t save as much on food.  I have some strategies to keep costs low in certain areas, like buying in bulk and going to the farmer’s market, but there are two areas I’ve only been moderately successful in saving and that’s meat and dairy products.
The reason for this is simple:  I like high quality products for the most part and meat and dairy are two areas where I won’t buy cheap because the quality of the product is so much more inferior.  But I do have some strategies for keeping meat and dairy costs low.
1.       Buy whole chickens, not parts, unless there’s a mega deal.  I buy Greenwise (Publix) chickens or Springer Mountain Farms.  I use coupons for Springer Mountain Farms chicken, either from the newspaper or by contacting the company directly.  Most are for $1.50.  I have written previous articles about how to get 3-4 meals out of one chicken, so for my $6 chicken (or thereabouts), I get 3-4 meals and broth.  That’s fairly economical for a humanely-raised chicken and the taste is incomparable between the two – we would never go back to cheap chicken.  We’d rather eat fewer high quality chickens.  And that brings me to tip #2 –
2.       Eat less meat, so you can eat better quality. We eat meat maybe 2-3 times a week.  The rest of the time, we eat vegetarian.  That way, we can be more selective.  We’re not dependent on it.  Some nights we eat frittatas made with eggs.  Some nights we eat pasta, and some vegetarian curries or stir fries.  But we don’t depend on having meat at every single meal.  Stepping back from meat means you don’t have to keep as much on hand.  And who wouldn’t love a three cheese lasagna?  Meatless meals don't have to be tasteless.
3.       Try different cuts of meat you’re not used to.  My husband made a beef stew recently because I found some grass fed beef ribs for a really cheap price.  It wouldn’t have been enough meat for us to eat ribs, but between the bones and the meat on those bones, we had a nice, tasty pot of stew once we threw in some spuds, carrots, onions and tomato sauce and seasoned it up.  I also like chicken thighs and they can be quite savory.
4.       Improve your everyday fare.  Either ask your grocery store meat department or butcher to grind something especially for you.  For example, I find that I prefer fresh ground meat very much.  So, I find a decent quality, reasonably priced steak and ask them to grind it for me, fresh.  It really makes a big difference and the bonus?  No pink slime! 
5.       Accept gifts.  One of the guys I work with hunts deer and he will give me venison if I want it.  The meat is fresh and very tasty and can be used very much like lean beef.  Another friend made wild boar sausage and brought us some.  That was good, too.
6.       Learn to get it yourself.  In my state, I have an advantage, but I do get to go fishing, scalloping, crabbing and there is a lot of sea life in abundance.  Raise chickens for fresh chicken and eggs, and yes this is even possible in urban areas, in many places.  That way you know the person who is originating it and where it came from and what it took to get it.  Plus, you learn a lot.
And of course, just to placate the vegetarians among us, you could give up meat and dairy altogether and then you wouldn't have any expense to them at all.  Not that you should, but you certainly could. 


Paul said...

Some great tips! It has to be said that the more one improves one's cooking skills, the more options one has!

Angus said...

Excellent ideas.

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