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7 ways to save on meat

WFD? That stands for "what's for dinner?" and with the way meat prices are going, the answer probably won't be beef or pork.

By MSN Money Partner May 23, 2014 12:53PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneySummer is right around the corner. It's time to fire up the grill and get ready for some serious sticker shock.

Beef and pork prices are at all-time highs. Chicken is cheaper, but demand has pushed wholesale prices to record highs there as well, and that means more expensive poultry will likely be landing at your marketplace soon.

With that in mind, here are some tips to keep your meat prices to a minimum.

1. Track prices per pound to stock up and save

Start your meat savings by keeping an eye on the price per pound of your favorite cuts and then stock up whenever there's a sale.

You'll find the biggest bargains before holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Buy extra meat and throw it in the freezer for use later. Properly packaged meat can, depending on the cut, retain its quality up to a year in your freezer.

In addition to sale meat, look for marked-down packages nearing their expiration dates. So long as you cook or freeze it right away, it's perfectly safe and can save you a bundle.

2. Watch for added liquid

While you're checking the price per pound, look over the label for words such as "enhanced with," "flavored with" or "flavor solution."

Many meats are injected with a sodium solution, broth or flavor enhancer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 90 percent of pork has a solution added, while the same happens to 30 percent of poultry and 15 percent of beef.

The additive supposedly makes your meat tastier and juicier, but we can't help but think it's a sneaky way to get you to pay a lot of money for salt water. In some cases, up to 20 percent or more of the meat's weight can be added liquid. For a better value, steer clear of this pumped-up meat whenever possible.

3. Buy in bulk

Supermarkets often price family packs at a cheaper per-pound cost than smaller packages.

Even if you're only a single or part of a couple, pick up the larger sizes whenever they’re cheaper. Then, divide the package at home and stick the extra meat in the freezer.

Barbecue © Michael Hitoshi, Digital Vision, Getty Images4. Go to the source

If you want to really buy in bulk, head straight to the ranch or farm.

Buying a half or quarter steer or hog is one way to bring your per-pound price down, particularly if you can help butcher and package the meat. Of course, you could end up with a couple hundred pounds of meat, so this strategy works best if you have a separate freezer to store all that protein.

It can also be pricey upfront, even though your overall cost will be lower than if you bought the meat at retail price. If your pockets aren't that deep, ask family and friends if they would like to go in on the purchase with you.

5. Stick to cheaper cuts

Chicken prices may be going up, but poultry remains your best bet for cheap meat.

However, if you feel you can't live without a little pork or beef, try using cheaper cuts to keep your costs down. That means using sirloin steak rather than T-bones and spareribs instead of baby back ones.

You may have to adjust your cooking style a little, but even cheap cuts can be delicious.

6. Slice and dice yourself

The more prep work a producer does prior to packaging, the more expensive your meat will be.

Save money by buying whole pork loin and slicing it up into pork chops yourself. Or skip the package of chicken parts in favor of a whole roaster you cut up at home.

If you don't trust your knife skills, ask at the butcher counter instead. Upon request, some stores will do some complimentary cutting on your behalf. Then, you get the best of both worlds: the price of a larger cut with the convenience of trimmed and sliced meat.

7. Learn to love meatless meals

Finally, the best way to save money on meat is to simply not eat it.

If you can't fathom the idea of a main dish without meat, it's time to expand your horizons. There are plenty of delicious meals to be made with very little or no meat. Check out a vegetarian cookbook or look up some of our meatless Frugal Family Feasts for inspiration.

Is your grocery budget feeling pinched?

More from Money Talks News

May 27, 2014 1:57PM
This is a useful article MSN given the fact that summer is upon us, but in this economy Americans have more to worry about than grilling budgets.  I can barely afford my car payments each month, and luxury spending on things like vacations are basically no-existent (and this from someone who works 45-50 hours each week at well above minimum wage).  Unfortunately I was not lucky enough to grow up with a trust fund, and I have to find ways to make my dollars last.  These are my top tips for savings:

1. Review your car insurance regularly, the big guys like geico and esurance change their pricing every year.
2. Pack a bag lunch most days. Save money by eating out less in general.
3. Don't waste money in bars. They are the biggest frivolous expense in a lot of lives.
4. Get rid of financial advisors who do not bring you any value. The 1% a year they cost adds up to enormous sums over a lifetime.
5. Don't be above using coupons.
6. Do what Suzey Orman recommends and trade in expensive whole life policies for Term life. Mine from Life Ant costs $19 a month and I can sleep at night knowing my family is secure if anything happens to me. 
7. Drive slower. You can increase fuel efficiency 20% by driving slightly less aggressive, and slowing down 5-10 mph on highways.

By making some small changes, you can really stretch your dollars.  Hey, maybe some luxury is still possible for us everyday Janes and Joes.

Jun 3, 2014 7:31AM
For most of us nice beef is a thing of the past now chicken is becoming so expensive what do you switch to next. Inflation figures in the US are so distorted it seems they exclude the things you need on a daily basis. Food,gas,rent, and car insurance have all risen much faster than the one to two percent the government claims. Where is the Obama who claims to be a champion of the low and middle class. He actually has to answer to the big corporate money who elected him. The stock market went up about 30% in 2013 how many of you got a 30% raise most likely non of you. His policies only make the top richer while he pretends to help us at the bottom?????????????????
May 25, 2014 4:17PM

Go out and club, squirrels, rats and snakes; Plenty of free meat...

ps....Forgot pigeons...

Jun 3, 2014 8:25AM
The most glaring omission here is getting the marked-down "manager special" meat: the stuff nearing its due date but hasn't sold yet. These items are usually $2-5 cheaper than regular price, and if you're not going to use them that day they'll go straight to the freezer once you get home. The same deals can be found in the bakery section, although my local stores tend to hide the day-old rack in another section of the store.
Jun 3, 2014 4:30AM
Always remember as you are told:   There really is no inflation.  It's all in your mind.
Jun 3, 2014 5:49AM

you think its bad know  wait a few more months' it will get even  worst

Jun 3, 2014 7:20AM
This has to be the biggest "DAH" list yet.
Jun 3, 2014 10:26AM
Hmmm?  ABC aired an article on package shrinkage yesterday now MSN is talking about rising prices in the meat counter confirming what average Americans have known and that is , our Dollar is shrinking.
Jun 3, 2014 9:43AM
And think about when oblowme finally raises minimum wage to $11.50 hr. Everyone on social insecurity, pension or disability will really be screwed. Seems that the gubment does NOT include food or fuel in the inflation equation, so as a result there is no cola, or at best a very small bump up. 
Oh, and don't worry about our politicians, they made sure to cover their own azz's for when they retire or get voted out.
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