The price of meat is skyrocketing as the supply chain in the United States continues to be shaky. Many readers have reported sparse inventories of meat at their local grocers, and some places are limiting the quantities that you can buy.
Does this mean that you have to become a vegetarian? Does it mean that you have to eschew healthy hormone-free meats and go with the very lowest quality grocery store options?
Not at all.
Here’s a combination of strategies you can use to help your meat purchases go further.
Buy in bulk locally
The absolute best way to buy meat when you’re on a budget is to purchase in bulk and to do so locally. We purchase direct from a local farmer who field-raises his animals and doesn’t use hormones and antibiotics. You can buy a quarter or a half of a pig or cow, and you’ll pay on average a much lower price than you would if you bought the meat packaged separately over the course of the season. As well, you are locking in your meat price by purchasing it all at once. This way, you won’t be strongly affected by meat inflation until next season.
Here are a few tips for bulk purchases of meat
- Check out the farm from which the meat originates. You want animals that were not raised in cramped factory farmed conditions, not fed GMO feed, and not injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. If you are making a purchase like this go for the best quality you can find.
- If that is more meat than your family can use, or more money than you can spend right now, consider going in with another family and splitting the purchase.
- You need a deep freezer in order to make the most of such a large purchase.
- I also like to can meat so that I am not as dependent on my freezer. Look into canning entire roasts, chicken, ham, meatballs, or chili. (You can also check out my canning cookbook for more whole-food canning recipes.)
- Have the poorer cuts turned into stew meat or ground meat.
- Slow cooking a lower quality cut can turn something tough into something that melts in your mouth.
- Learn more about buying meat free of hormones and antibiotics HERE.
Often when you purchase meat in bulk, you end up cooking large portions. You probably won’t open a Styrofoam tray of chicken breasts, but instead you’ll purchase a whole chicken. You will be more likely to cook a stew or a roast. Have a plan for what you can do with those leftovers to extend them through another meal. Here are a few quick ideas:
- Make gravy – if you have a serving a meat too small to go around for all of your family members, consider making a gravy and serving it over mashed potatoes. Add some onion and mushrooms to the gravy to extend it even further. Here’s an entire article about the glory of gravy.
- Make a soup or stew – this is another way to extend a serving that isn’t quite big enough to go around. Here’s a universal soup formula to use what you have on hand.
- Mix it with beans and add Mexican seasoning to make burritos or to serve over rice.
- When you make a large roast, thinly slice the meat for sandwiches and salads throughout the work and school week.
- Cover leftover stew with pie crust or biscuit dough for a delicious potpie.
- Look for recipes specifically written to use up leftovers. (This cookbook has my best leftover ideas.)
- If you have more leftovers than you can use before they spoil, sometimes they can be canned – check out the instructions here.
You can find more ideas for repurposing leftovers HERE.
Don’t waste anything
Use up the things that most people throw away. When preparing the meat, if you are cutting away some fat or bone, place it in a bowl and put it in the freezer. When you have enough like scraps of meat, it’s time to make broth from it. You can make hearty broth from ham, turkey, chicken, beef, or pork – virtually any kind of meat. Use the inedible parts and cook it down for hours to get a rich and delicious broth. You can then use this broth as a base for soup or to cook your rice in to add a hit of nutrition.
Do you have such a tiny amount of leftovers that it won’t equal a full serving? Start a container in your freezer for those leftovers and create “leftover soup”. Sometimes it’s fantastic, sometimes it isn’t so great, but those odds and ends can combine to make meals that I consider to be basically “freebies.” We always have a large Tupperware container in the freezer that contains little bits of vegetables or meat. Add a jar of homemade broth and a handful of rice, barley or pasta, and you’ve created “leftover soup.” It will be different every single time, based on your family’s leftovers.
Hunt and fish
This answer isn’t for everyone. Some folks prefer to forget that the meat on the styrofoam trays at the grocery store didn’t originate on those trays. Others have gotten locked into a more narrow definition of “meat”, believing that the options are fish, pork, beef, and chicken. However, if you aren’t bothered by the concept of hunting, there is an abundance of meat walking, swimming, and flying around. Invest in a good game cookbook to best prepare meats that may not be familiar to you.
You don’t have to hunt, yourself. I’m fortunate to have some friends and neighbors who hunt. In exchange for some of the bounty, I’ve bartered my skills at canning things like venison chili or moose meatballs in spaghetti sauce.
If you fish, that can put an instant meal on the table. Learning to quickly and efficiently clean fish is a great skill and can gently prepare you for butchering other types of meat.
Perhaps with the sharp uptick in meat prices, it’s time to brush up on these skills and learn to harvest what is naturally abundant in your area.
How do you combat the outrageous meat prices? Share your ideas on how to buy meat on a budget in the comments section below.