Keeping Down The Rising Cost of Meat

Every now and then I survey the stores I usually shop at to determine what the best buys among meat are. Over the past couple of years, and even more specifically the past 6 months, prices have risen but many bargains remain. What follows is my list of the cheapest meats, their price per pound and price per serving. People often tell me the prices I find are much lower than the prices they can find. While the cost of living in my area isn’t especially high, it’s not the lowest in the nation either. I think that if you look hard enough, and really pay attention to your market, that you’ll be surprised at how many out-right bargains you can find among the regularly priced goods.

EGGS (not exactly a meat, but close enough)

  • Medium Eggs–about $1.50 per dozen–25¢ per 2-egg serving–Medium eggs weigh about 21 ounces per dozen. Large eggs weigh about 25 ounces per dozen. Each medium sized egg weighs about 1-3/4 ounces instead of 2 ounces. I’m willing to give up 1/4 of an ounce of egg for the significant savings that medium eggs can bring.

BEEF

  • Ground Beef–5lb bullets–$1.75 per lb–44¢ per 1/4lb raw or about 2.5 ounces cooked lean meat–Most cuts of beef are at least twice this price. A single pound of regular ground beef (27 to 30% fat) gives you about 10 ounces of cooked, lean meat. The fat content of ground beef can be drastically reduced through the common tightwad practices of rinsing it in warm water after frying. This gives the cooked meat a nutritional profile similar to cooked 10% fat ground beef, and for a much better price.

POULTRY

  • Chicken Leg-Quarters–10lb bags–58¢ per lb–29¢ per 1/2lb raw or about 3 ounces cooked lean meat–Half a pound of chicken is necessary per serving because of all the waste going to bones, skin and fat.
  • Whole Chickens–88¢ per pound–44¢ per 1/2lb raw or about 3.5 ounces cooked lean meat–whole chickens provide slightly more cooked chicken per pound than leg-quarters, but usually cost about twice as much per pound. When on sale for the same price as leg-quarters, whole chickens are the better buy. They make a fancy meal for company too.
  • Ground Turkey–1lb bullets, frozen–$1.58 per lb–40¢ per 1/4lb raw or about 3 ounces cooked lean meat
  • Ground Turkey Sausage–1lb bullets, frozen–$1.58 per lb–40¢ per 1/4lb raw or about 3 ounces cooked lean meat–20¢ per 2oz raw patty, for breakfast (home-shaped patties, not store-bought preformed patties)
  • Whole & Half Turkey Hams–Usually 2 to 3 lbs per ham–$2.28 per lb–38¢ per 2-2/3 ounce cooked lean meat–6 sevings per pound. Since these are already fully cooked, they don’t lose much weight when cooked again at home.–23¢ per 1-1/2 ounce breakfast-sized serving (10 servings per pound)

PORK

  • Bacon Ends & Pieces–3lb box–$1.68 per lb–21¢ per 2oz raw or about 2 to 3 good sized slices, at least 1-ounce cooked (compare to cost of turkey sausage and turkey ham above, which have a similar price per portion)
  • Assorted Pork Chops with bones, usually Shoulder cuts (on sale)–$1.99 per pound–at least 5-pounds per package for lowest price–67¢ per 1/3-pound raw or about 3 ounces cooked meat–note this is more than twice the cost of chicken leg-quarters which can be cooked like pork chops in many recipes
  • Pork Picnics, smoked & fresh–Not sure of current prices, will begin to go on sale in early fall

FISH

  • Canned Tuna–6oz can–55¢ per can–28¢ per 2-ounce serving of cooked lean meat–2 servings per can
  • Canned Salmon–14oz can–$1.58 per can–31¢ per 2-ounce serving of cooked lean meat–5 servings per can
  • Frozen Fish Fillets–Whiting, Pollock, & Flounder–2 lb bags–$4.50 to $5 per bag–56¢  to 63¢ per 1/4 pound raw or about 3 ounces cooked lean meat. Note that this is over the twice the cost of a servings of chicken leg-quarters. We love fish, and try to serve it at least twice a week. Canned fish for one meal and frozen for the other. When we’re especially poor we stick to canned fish because frozen fish fillets are one of the most expensive foods in our budget.
  • Refrigerated Imitation Crab–1-1/2 pound packages–$2.25 per pound–42¢ per 3 ounce portion of cooked lean meat

FOR COMPARISON

  • Specialty eggs costing over $4 per dozen, or 70¢ per 2-egg serving. This is over twice the cost of simple medium-sized eggs @ 25¢/2-eggs
  • It’s easy to pay $4 to $5 per pound of beef, costing $1 to $1.25 per serving. Compare to 44¢ per serving for regular fat ground beef.
  • Boneless Chicken Breasts, especially all-natural brands, often charge $6 per pound or $1.50 per serving of 3 ounces cooked lean meat. Compare to 29¢ per serving for chicken-leg quarters.
  • Pre-cooked, packaged bacon costs $1.50 for a 1-ounce serving of cooked bacon. Compare that to 21¢ for a larger serving of homecooked bacon ends & pieces. Plus with homecooked bacon you have the extra kitchen byproduct–bacon grease; for FREE.
  • Most fish, frozen or fresh, costs upwards of $4 to $12 per pound, or $1 to $3 per serving. Compare this to 56¢  to 63¢ per serving of frozen fillets.
  • Home cooked dry beans are the best bargain. Bulk beans at 50¢ per pound provide 6 hearty servings for only 8-1/3¢ per serving. Beans or lentils that cost as much as $1 per pound are still only 17¢ per large serving.

It’s easy to see how combing beans with meat is an excellent way to make it stretch farther and reduce your costs. If you’re trying to keep costs down as low as possible, then Eggs, Chicken Leg-Quarters & Canned Tuna are the best meat buys and dry beans are the best protein bargain by far.

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28 Comments

Filed under Budget, Grocery Shopping, Low Cost Foods

28 responses to “Keeping Down The Rising Cost of Meat

  1. GREAT POST!
    Especially since I get to go grocery shopping tomorrow.

  2. Sheila

    I got boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen for $1.49 yesterday at the Save-a Lot market. The flyer says this is good til July 12 in case anyone wants to stock up. We have this market in Florida, west coast, but I don’t know what other states they are in.
    Thanks for figuring all those prices out. I’m going to print it and keep it in my purse for reference.

  3. Sheila

    I forgot to mention ground turkey but not sausage bullets are still $.99 a pound.

  4. I get boneless pork loin roast on sale for $1.89 a pound here, and occasionally it dips to $1.69 a pound. It is the same as boneless chops if you slice it, and it’s all meat. I get 2 roasts at a time, cut them in half, and have four in the freezer, and we still eat them for days when I cook them (with lots of potatoes).

    Also, when pork shoulder or rump roast goes on sale for 99 cents a pound, I have the butcher cut it for me (for free) into steaks. I put the individual steaks in the freezer for breakfasts or dinners, and we stretch it out a long way.

  5. That’s helpful Maggie : )

    Was wondering, what meats do you find it easiest to add to beans and the like to add flavor?

    Peaceful weekend to you : ) Wendy

  6. I want to shop where you do!

    We traditionally buy nearly everything at Costco. It’s our major shopping trip twice a month. We do a couple of quick trips to the local stores but they consist of a Fred Meyer and Safeway, neither of which boasts great pricing (except a few select sale items each week). I compensate by reducing how much meat we use, but Oregon Dad would love to have larger portions! We get 5 – 1lb bullets of 9% ground beef for $12, 6 lbs of frozen boneless skinless ALL NATURAL chicken breasts for $13, and 28 drumsticks (not sure lbs, but enough for 2 dinners) for $10. We buy these 2x a month plus a pack a few fillers (breakfast sausage, hot dogs, etc…) and that’s usually it in the meat department. I’m going to start watching ads better for whole fryers and thigh/leg pieces.

    Thanks!

  7. nikki

    HI Maggie,
    I live in Iowa and the prices here are some what cheaper than your paying. At least, if you shop the ads, which I do a lot of.
    I must say, rinsing the 73% beef with hot water after cooking and draining it does make a big difference. I’ve seen it on sale around here for $1.49 a lb.
    Really glad to find you again.

  8. Bethany

    For those living in areas with Meijer stores, the 64 oz. frozen boneless skinless chicken breast are frequentely on sale BOGO, which works out to about $1.87/lb; and frozen talipia fillets packs are also frequentely BOGO, about $4 for 2 packs. These deals are a great way to stock up on lean meats. A few weeks ago they had boneless center cut pork loins for $1.99/lb, these are good for pulled pork, or can be sliced into chops. They had been selling ground chuck and ground round on sale for between $1.69-$1.99/lb, but it seems that the beef prices are steadily rising. I have found that if you use Maggies “taco lentils and rice” recipe from the HBHW site and adapt the seasonings, you can mix it 1/2 and 1/2 with the ground beef in tacos, chili, pasta sauce, sloppy joes, and no one really notices, and it cuts the price of the meat in half.

  9. Bethany

    Oops- the talipia are buy 2- get 2, for $11.98, still a pretty good deal at $3/lb for fish fillets.

  10. lewella

    Around here I like to pay about two dollars per pound for meat. I’m not sure how realistic this is going to be anymore considering the prices are going up but every so often large eggs go on sale for 98 cents and boneless skinless chicken thighs for 2 dollars a pound. Both good buys if you ask me. Otherwise I’ve been incorporating more vegatarian meals into our diet for both nutrition and savings.

  11. Thanks for sharing this. I think we have to get more creative in the kitchen when we are cooking the same cuts of meat all the time. But it is so much more affordable to just stock up on what we know will be a good deal. I also always look for the “reduced for quick sale” packages at my store too. The other day I got 2 picnic packs of chicken (legs and thighs) that were both over 4 pounds for just over $3 each. It was about 69¢/pound. and I didn’t have to cut them up!

  12. I wish we were bean eaters…so we could save on meat. They upset my tummy : ( I’m pretty fortunate to have a husband and sons that like to hunt. We had plenty of venison through out the winter…that we ground up & added a little fat to. We also added seasoning to it to make breakfast sausage & Italian sausage.

    Another way I have found to save on boneless chicken breast is to buy a small package & butterfly cut it. It makes two meals. We then grill it add some BQ sauce and other fixings & serve it on a bun.

  13. Hey Wendy Bird, I use turkey ham for seasoning beans these days. It adds the flavor of bacon without the fat. Lately though, with the rising cost of everythign, I’ve been buying bacon ends and pieces again, just because they’re so cheap and versatile. The family is happy because they much prefer pork bacon to turkey bacon. Although I prefer turkey bacon myself. Turkey Ham though, is a family favorite. It’s usually a lot cheaper than pork ham, and extremely versatile too.

  14. Hi Jamie (PolkaDotMommy)

    You have to remember all of this meat is not the good stuff, it’s the cheap stuff. I would buy natural and preservative meats if we could afford it, but right now it’s completely out of the picture. So I’ve looked at what I can afford and now I’m trying to make the best of that. If we could prices like you mention for natural and antibiotic free meats, then I would definitely buy them. Around here it’s $5 per pound for Natural Ground Beef and twice as much per pound for any other cut of beef. Natural Chicken breasts are at least $7 per pound, way outside of my budget.

  15. I wanted to thank everyone for sharing their local costs. It’s good to know that better prices can be found in so many places.

    I found 10# bags of chicken leg quarters for $3.91 last week and bought 3 of them. That’s 39C per pound, not bad at all. I always buy marked down meat when I can find it. That’s the only way we eat other stuff besides the meats listed above.

  16. Kristin

    Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for a bit now, and remember seeing the Angel Food Menus on the Hillbilly Housewife site. Do you still use those? Are they really any good for someone that is trying to be thrifty as well as healthy?

    Thank you so much for all of your hard work.

  17. Hi Kristin, I am no longer the HBHW. Your question is better given to Suzanne, the new HBHW.

    I’ve never been one to use Angel Food because in my humble opinion it’s cheaper for me to buy stuff on my own than from them. I have purchased from them once or twice and the food was very good quality. Often better quality than I would actually buy myself. Also I found that the processed foods included in our box were not things that I was comfortable buying.

    Now that we are Gluten Free and Casein Free, Angel Food is a waste of our money because their boxes contain food we cannot eat.

    Sorry I couldn’t be more help. 🙂

  18. Kristin

    No, ma’am, I was just soliciting opinions. This will be my first month purchasing from them. I figured I’d give it a three month go.

    I know that Suzanne has taken over that site, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

    Thank you again.

  19. Sorry Kristin, I must have misunderstood. A lot of people find Angel Food to be very useful. I think that for me it doesn’t work so good, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good program. One of the reasons it’s been so successful is because it genuinely helps so many families. I say if it works for you, then by all means, enjoy.

  20. Christine

    I have stopped using Angel Food because the pickup time in inconvenient and I usually have to work. It’s also on the other side of town. My other complaint is that all of the food items are so processed or breaded and are just not very healthy. I can do a better job at Super Wally World and it will be much healthier. If I only eat meat at one meal a day, I can stick to my $40 a week grocery budget.

  21. Hello, I am so glad to have found your site. I am in the process of creating menus for my family. We are living, just like everyone I guess, in a very tight income. One of the ways I need to save is, of course, through my food spending.

    Thank you for your sharing.

    mari

  22. AnnJo

    I’ve started grinding my own ground beef. In my area (near Seattle), extra lean ground beef can run from $2.59 (at Costco) up to $3.99 a pound, but chuck roasts and steaks often go on sale for $1.99 and result in a VERY lean grind. You can cook down a couple of pounds of it and have virtually no fat to drain off.

    Of course, I already had my Kitchenaid stand mixer and was given the grinding attachment as a gift a couple of years ago, so there was no investment in the equipment. It takes only a few minutes to grind three or four pounds of beef, and you know it’s fresh!

  23. Virginia

    We’ have a local (45 miles away) meat shop where I can get enough meat to have meat in every eveing meal for an entire month for less than 100 dollars. Of course our diet is not as ristrictive as yours Maggiealthough we have reduced our wheat intake with your help.

    We get lean ground beef for $1.99/lb as long as we buy 10 lbs; sausage for about 1.50/lb; roasts seasoned to save me the work for $2 or less and boneless chicken breasts cheaper than any grocery store. I am planning to buy some quarters at the local grocery store beginning here in Sept. I find it somewhat wasteful to have been using the boneless breasts for soups and caseroles when I can use quarters for a little less work.

    Another recommendation if really pinched is ALDI’s stores. I get enough vegtables for a month for less than $10 as long as you can eat all the soduim in traditionally canned goods.

    I did not like Angel Food anymore when I went back a few months ago. Like everyone else they are feeling the pinch too and the quality of their foods has been suffering. If I were really hard up I might go back but it would take 8 of their boxes to feed our family of 5 for 4 weeks. That’s $240 and I can just scrimp on meat to save the $60 to avoid going back. We spend about $300 a month on groceries right now and some of that is snacks which if necessary we could forgo.

  24. I like to make “big batch beef,” where I buy lots of ground beef when it is on sale, cook it up with lots of celery, onion, tomato, spinich, garlic, and spices. I usually ring it out in a cheese cloth (instead of rinsing since it has all my other goodies in it). I make this stuff up and then freeze it to use in all my recipes. It lends much more flavor than plain ground beef. It is also virtually fat free after all the time I spend getting the fat out. It also has a huge boost of nutrients from the added produce (which no one even knows is in there!) It stretches 6 lbs of the regular (not lean) ground beef to 9 lbs.

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  26. Love the tips! I use my crockpot more than ever and that allows me to buy cheap cuts of meat and slow cook to create tender meat without the higher cost! Thanks -Machelle

  27. Thank you for always giving such clear, helpful, information. I have linked to this post today!

  28. Pingback: show me the money: part i, finding low-cost recipes « Dude, where’s the stove?

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