Food prices, a large concern for most American households, saw an increase of 2.8% during the last year period for groceries including staples such as milk, bread, vegetables and meat. With wholesale meat prices already up 25% more than last year, here are some great ways to save on beef and pork in order to leave a little more wiggle room for the rest of your groceries.
Bacon is taking the hardest hit as prices for 50% lean pork bellies are up an enormous 64% year over year, to $1.44 per pound. Until last year, the price of pork bellies had never gone above $1 a pound. When the price hit $1.23 per pound in mid-March the USDA predicted pork prices would be up 5.5% this year, but now they are predicting they might be up 6% or 7%. So here are four good ways to save on beef and pork during tough times.
1. Buy grass-fed beef in bulk.
Since the rise in corn prices is mostly responsible for the rise of beef prices, try going for animals fed with grass. Grass-fed beef can be more expensive than corn-fed, but it’s more stable because the cows eat mostly what’s growing for free so your budget will be far less volatile; look for prices at around $3 a pound. Also, purchase in bulk and freeze the rest because frozen raw meat can last eight months to one year. Depending on your standards in beef, you could pay as much as $7 per pound, but the quality is worth it and the price is locked in, so you always know how much you can afford.
2. Look for “ends” and cheaper cuts.
These are the scrappy, odd-sized pieces left from trimming the sliced bacon off the slab. They are typically fattier than center cut bacon and also more seasoned as they have more outer surface area than the rest of the bacon. There are many things you can do with this including using it just like normal bacon, and at $4 a pound, bacon ends are way cheaper than good $8-a-pound, sustainably raised pork bacon. Additionally, beef vendors will often put the roasts and stew meat up on sale, which is good quality meat usually at less than $3 per pound.
3. Complement your meat dishes with other ingredients.
There are many ways to have meat dishes that do not clean out your stores and freezer. Making a hearty chili comprised of equal parts beef, diced carrots, finely-chopped red cabbage and beans, or a pasta sauce heavy on onions and tomatoes, can significantly reduce the amount of beef you need to use thus saving you money. Or, use meats to flavor dishes centered mainly around vegetables, grains or beans. Even if you want to make a steak or pork roast, augment it with sauteed mushrooms or mashed potatoes so you cut down on the need for double portions. If you can keep meat to 25% or so of the bulk of your main dish, you can keep high prices from destroying your grocery budget.
4. Avoid “value-added” meats.
A euphemism plaguing and tricking consumers, food processing companies love the concept of adding “value” to your food when they’re actually just adding cost and often chemical preservatives and unhealthy additives. Microwavable sausage links and ravioli might be quick and simple, but the high cost to your wallet and your health isn’t worth the minimal time savings. These ready made meals and other prepared foods like sliced fruits and vegetables have been shown to save very little time and at a pretty outrageous cost – anywhere from $50 to $80 an hour according to a study done by Arizona State University. Use meats without any added value and you’ll save money in addition to consuming a healthy meal.