The Carnivore’s Guide to Frugal Eating

Since starting this blog, I have read a lot of different posts from fellow personal finance bloggers. One of the most striking things I have gathered along the way is that they REALLY want you to cut meat out of your diet.

Whether it’s a push to observe “Meatless Mondays” or go completely vegetarian, meat is often viewed by PF bloggers as prohibitively expensive. But should you really cut a major protein source out of your diet for the sole purpose of saving money?

Personally, I couldn’t do it. To those who are in the same happily omnivorous boat, I’m going to come right out and say this: IT’S OKAY TO EAT MEAT. Seriously, even if you’re on a tight budget. The key to making it work is a combination of smart shopping, choosing the right types of meat, and controlling your portion sizes.

Want to know more?

Let’s start with a few examples of inexpensive meats we often buy at the local grocery store:

  • Whole Roasting Chicken ($0.99/lb)*
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: whole chickens are awesome. For less than $1 per pound, you can easily stretch a 5 lb chicken across three different meals. The carcasses are also great for making your own chicken stock!
  • Chicken Thighs/Drumsticks ($0.99/lb)
    My husband and I used these as alternatives to chicken wings at our last Super Bowl party, since $3.00/lb is a ridiculous price to pay for something that’s mostly bone. Other possible uses include crispy fried chicken or sweet & sticky baked drumsticks.
  • Pork Shoulder ($1.29/lb)
    Pork shoulder can be very fatty, but it’s great for the crock pot! A single 7-8 lb pork roast can yield over 20 servings of delicious pulled pork, which (in my opinion) is a pretty fantastic deal.
  • Fresh Young Turkey ($1.49/lb)
    While most people associate turkey with Thanksgiving, there’s no reason why you can’t have it on a regular basis. Like chicken, turkeys are very versatile and can be stretched across several consecutive meals. Looking for ideas? Try some of these recipes.
  • Hot Dogs ($1.99/lb)
    True, hot dogs are not exactly healthy (due to the presence of nitrites, corn syrup and other questionable ingredients). However, they are relatively inexpensive and a staple of most American cookouts. Consume in moderation.
  • Ground Beef ($2.19/lb)
    As far as beef goes, your cheapest option by far is pre-packaged ground beef. We usually buy 80% lean. It may be less desirable than the 90% or 95% lean options… but personally, I’d rather spend a few seconds draining the fat after cooking than spend an extra $1 per pound.
  • Italian Sausage ($2.99/lb)
    Fresh Italian sausage, sold in mild and spicy varieties, can be enjoyed by itself (topped with peppers and onions) or incorporated into just about any pasta dish. Yum!

*Disclaimer: Food prices are from Wegmans in Rochester, NY. Prices vary regionally.

While the prices listed above are already quite good for meat products, there are ways to get the cost even lower. Here are a few additional tips:

  • Buy in bulk.
    This is a good idea for most things… but especially meat. I can usually save anywhere from $0.50 to $1.00 per pound on most meat products by shopping at BJ’s. Whatever we don’t use right away, we just portion out and freeze for later. If you have enough freezer space, I also suggest checking out food stores that sells 40 lb cases of all-natural chicken and super-lean beef for an awesomely low unit price.
  • Stock up seasonally.
    Meat prices can fluctuate wildly depending on the time of year. For example, chicken wing prices always skyrocket before the Super Bowl due to nationwide “shortages.” Conversely, turkeys are always marked down before Thanksgiving and corned beef is always marked down before St. Patrick’s Day. Familiarize yourself with these seasonal trends and stock up on your favorite meats when prices are low.
  • Go hunting/fishing.
    I’ll admit, I’m not really into hunting… but if you are, you could get your own fresh venison, rabbit, duck, fish, etc. for little to no cost. Just be sure to check with your local government regarding hunting/fishing licenses and regulations.
  • Reduce your portion sizes.
    Whenever we buy ground beef, I always separate it out into portions weighing less than 1 lb each. (For example, a 5.5 lb pack would be split into 6 equal portions.) Similarly, I always buy the lightest 10-pack of chicken breasts available. Would you care if your burgers were 10% smaller than usual? I certainly don’t.
  • Keep your recipes balanced.
    If you need to use an expensive cut of meat (specifically beef), try to balance each portion out with inexpensive ingredients like beans, rice, potatoes, frozen veggies, etc. If you’re looking for some inspiration, Budget Bytes does a good job of balancing meat recipes to keep the per-serving cost low.

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Kohl’s

Grilling your food rather than frying is a great method to eat healthier.  The T-Fal Opti-Grill Indoor Electric Grill allows you to grill indoors and it features automatic setting letting you grill your food just right each time.  You can even defrost frozen food and you can choose from six cooking programs depending on whether you are grilling poultry, fish, red meat, and more.  An innovative food invention is the Excalibur 9-Tray Food Dehydrator that lets you make tasty healthy snacks without adding oils or chemicals.  The food dehydrator features nine BPA-free trays giving 15 square feet of drying space, a timer, and an adjustable thermostat. Make sure you don’t miss out on all the amazing deals and coupons at Kohl’s!

Vitacost

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Neiman Marcus

Being properly hydrated is important especially if you’re active.  The Citrus Zinger Water Bottle lets you give a burst of citrus flavors to your water by letting you press lemons, limes, and clementines right into your water.   The water bottle allows you to create flavorful drinks that are all natural and free of refined sugars and artificial ingredients.  Neiman Marcus offers delicious healthy meals, entrees, side dishes and more.  If you love veggies the green bean casserole is a great side dish topped with a creamy wild mushroom sauce.  Another healthy and scrumptious meal is the Jalapeno Smoked Turkey that is flavored with jalapeno seasoning, and smoked over hickory chips for 8-10 hours.  Use Groupon Coupons to save on your Neiman Marcus order with a number of coupons including free shipping and free returns.