Holiday season is here! And for many, including myself, that means planning special dinners with family and friends and reviving holiday heirloom recipes. But with the price of groceries these days — especially in the meat department — the holiday season feels more bah humbug! than merry and bright.
But while we can’t change the prices at the grocery stores, there are some strategies that can help manage one’s grocery budget especially in regards to meat purchases. If we can rethink the way we shop for meat for our everyday meals, we could have more funds for those special pieces.
The following tips help me stretch my food dollar all year long. I hope they can help you and your family this holiday season — and beyond:
- Try to get into the habit of shopping with sale ads. These weekly ads are delivered to mailboxes each Wednesday, which is plenty of time to look through to see what’s on sale and plan your meals for the following week. Overtime, you’ll become familiar with average prices so you can recognize great deals.
- When you see a great deal, stock up! Raw meat freezes well when wrapped properly.
- It’s safe to freeze meat directly in their supermarket packages, but I’d recommend putting the meat, package and all, in a freezer baggie for extra protection.
- Try to use the frozen meat within a couple of months to enjoy its highest quality.
- Become familiar with the value cuts of beef. These are the round, chuck and brisket cuts. You tend to get more meat for your money with these cuts, but they will take some specialized slow and low-temperature cooking methods to tenderize these cuts. For more information about these slow cooking methods, call our Food Help Line at: 913-715-7070.
- Keep in mind, these traditionally cheaper cuts can make wonderful company meals: meatloaf, Salsbury steaks, beef bouguignon, pot roast, chili, cheeseburger soup, enchiladas, taco bar, burgers, etc.
- Know that some meats are less expensive at certain times of the year. Recently, I saw an ad offering a free turkey when you buy a ham, which would allow me to get two main course dinner meats for two different dinners for the price of one. Also, after big holidays, event meats like ham, turkey and lamb will be marked down due to the fact that stores are trying to clear out their inventory.
- When possible, buy in bulk. You’ll pay less per pound.
- Shredded meat goes farther than whole cuts. Cook a whole chicken or roast then shred it. You’ll save money on the front end because whole, bone-in pieces cost less at the store, and once shredded, they go much farther than whole chicken breasts or steaks.
- Take the edge off everyone’s appetite by serving a lower cost first course, such as a nutritious soup or salad. Then they will be satisfied with smaller servings of more expensive main dish items.
- For your everyday dinners, plan a weekly breakfast night. Eggs are excellent sources of protein, and they’re very affordable. And, prepare meatless meals once or twice a week. For example, make a stir-fry with lots of vegetables and whole grain pasta, a vegetarian chili or marinara sauce. Or, add protein to your diet with dried or canned legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils and white beans).
- Finally, rethink meat’s role on the plate. It doesn’t have to — nor probably should — be the main meal attraction. Even on the USDA's ChooseMyPlate, the meat portion is less than a quarter of the plate. Put your focus on vegetables and whole grains instead and let them be the star attraction at your next holiday meal. Your budget — and your health — will thank you for that later.