Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Meat: how to get the most for your money

Meats can be a major drain on a grocery budget...
Here are a few ideas to try so you can stretch that dollar further, without upsetting the meat loving family members.

turkey:  buy them in October and November when they are at their cheapest and keep in the freezer- get enough for the whole year, because they'll keep. When using, either thaw and cut to cook in several dishes or roast and reheat/reinvent leftovers.

lunch meat: the pre-sliced packages and deli meats can get super expensive. Consider buying a precooked boneless package (sometimes referred to as a chub) and asking the meat department to slice it for you (they do it for free) or if you prefer, buy bone-in or uncooked and prep it  yourself at home.
To store the large amounts, simply divide into smaller portions and place in a freezer bag in the freezer. When thawing add a paper towel to the bag to absorb excess moisture.
$14.26 worth (just shy of 9lbs) ready for the freezer

special cuts: If you'd like pork chops, but don't like their price, look for a pork loin and ask the meat department to cut it for you.
I've been told they'll prep it however you like at no additional charge. Our family doesn't eat a large variety of meats, so I don't know all the particulars, but let this idea be your guide for other cuts of meat.
If you're unsure, talk to the person in charge at the meat department. You'll usually find them quite knowledgeable on what you can do with the various cuts.

scraps- I have found that when I'm trimming up meat (especially pork) there is quite a bit of meat marbled in with the fat. Instead of tossing it out with the fat, I take the extra time to cut it out and then when I'm all done I bag it up and stick it in the freezer to use later in a stir fry (or anything that uses smaller pieces of meat)

bones- I often find the bone-in pieces of meat to be less expensive, so if you're trying to stretch each penny, look for the bone-in variety.
After prepping your meat, put the bones and a little water in a slow cooker for several hours to create broth or stock. For more flavor add onions and/or other vegetables. Strain through cheesecloth to separate the broth/stock from everything else.
If you don't want to deal with cutting the meat from the bones, slow cooking the meat in a liquid (I recommend broths, stocks, or cream of soups) for several hours will help it fall off the bone

Stretch it even further: take the fat you trimmed off and make soap. Seriously, all you need is some lye (a product of ashes and water) and fat. You can technically use any fat, but it's best to use fat from beef (Tallo). I haven't tried it yet, but if my husband has anything to say about it, we'll be making our own soap at least once in the future.

11 comments:

  1. My local grocery store sells a very inexpensive pork -boneless, usually with 2-4 large pieces in it. I have just vacuum/freezer bagged them individually, as well as cut them up as individual steaks. I also have a "cash & carry" that sells large cuts of meat (beef & pork) that when seperated out into single meals (2-adults & 2 teenagers)costs $2.00 lb or lower. Anytime I can get meat @ $2.00 a pound or less is great. We are a archery hunting family, so our 'red' meat is fat free (elk & deer). We steak out as much as possible & ground up the rest. Investing into a vacuum sealer saves alot of $$ when you need to buy bulk. Thanks for the great site!!! Sarah K.

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  2. Would you buy a whole turkey and thaw it out, cut it up, and then freeze it? I am a new wife going on year two and am about to give birth to our first child; a baby girl. I do not know a lot about freezing meats and such and re-freezing them. When does it turn bad and how many times can I freeze it?

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    1. Heather - I'm fairly new to this too, but I don't think you are supposed to refreeze meat that hasn't been cooked. I *think* your two options would be: Buy a turkey that is NOT frozen, cut it up and freeze in the smaller portions OR But a frozen turkey, cook it, then refreeze the smaller portions (use for dinners, casserole, whatever). Hopefully someone who knows for sure will respond too! :)

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    2. I have not personally done this, however, it should be fine. A lot of the "fresh" meat from the grocery has been frozen and then thawed for sale and it's safe to freeze again. I've been debating on whether or not to try it myself. I wish I could give you a more concrete answer.

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    3. You cannot REfreeze any meat. Once it's been frozen and thawed out, you have to use it. You can't refreeze it or it will go bad. You can however, buy a turkey that is not frozen, cut it up and then freeze it. It's hard to find them unfrozen at the grocery store, but it is possible. If I am looking for them that way, I usually ask the meat guys at the store and they are very knowledgeable and will tell me when they will be putting out certain types of meat. Good luck with the job of housewife and mother! I feel so proud every time my family sits down to a delicious meal that I've prepared for them! I've been married ten years and still love taking care of my husband and daughter!

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  3. Keep your carrot, onion, celery ends & peels in a ziploc or storage in the fridge or freezer and put those in the broth with meat scraps/bones instead of using the good parts of the veggie, since you don't eat the veggies in the broth (they are strained out).

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  4. Great post! About the soap, I used to make my own soap and lotion to sell at the farmer's markets. Making soap is very easy. There is tons of info about it on the web. Tallow tends to clog pores. I used Olive, Coconut, and Palm oil. You can use just olive oil for a Castile soap. You also need to make sure you get the oil, water, and lye ratio correct. Look for a lye calculator on the web. You can also use pretty much anything for a mold. Making your own soap costs about $0.50/bar and it's better for your skin. There's no harmful chemicals or detergents in it.

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  5. Where the heck do you live? Where I live milk is 4.56 a gallon and eggs are 3 bucks a dozen. My grocery bill is very high.

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    1. I'm in central Ohio. The everyday price at many of the the local stores is higher than what I actually pay for many of my grocery purchases. Store brand milk is usually somewhere around $3/gal and eggs are usually just shy of $2 per dozen. Again those are store brand prices, not national or organic brands.

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    2. When you say to use liquid or soup to remove meat from the bones, would you then just pick out the bones and freeze the chicken with the liquid? Or would you drain the chicken and bones and then remove the bones and freeze the chicken without liquid? I'm very new to cooking and I'm still learning-thank you for such a great blog! I've already learned so much! :) -Brandi

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    3. I'm not sure I understand the question entirely. If you're freezing cooked meats for later convenience use, you should separate the liquid out. Depending on how you cooked it, you may want to freeze the liquid separately to use as a broth or stock later. I personally prefer freezing the raw meat for later unless I'm preparing a certain dish for the freezer.

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Now it's your turn...what's on your mind? I love reading your comments and try to answer any questions you have.

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