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Beef: It's not what's for dinner

Beef prices have been going up, up, up. Here are six ways to fight the sticker shock and bring your grocery bill down, down, down.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 13, 2014 12:14PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIf your idea of a delicious dinner is a slab of red meat with some sides, get ready for sticker shock. Beef prices are hitting record highs, and it could be years before they come down.

Don't despair. You can have your beef and eat it too. Here are six ways to either save on beef or free up some money in your grocery budget so you can occasionally splurge for steaks on the grill this summer.

Close up of steak and salad © Image Studios, UpperCut Images, Getty Images1. Buy the cheap cuts

Sure, we'd all like to have filet mignon and rib roast every night, but you're on a budget, right? That means you need to swap out those expensive cuts for something cheaper.

Take a stab at cooking these less expensive cuts of beef:

  • Sirloin steak.
  • Chuck steak or roast.
  • Round steak.
  • Eye of round.
  • Ground beef.

Of course, you may need to try marinating or slow cooking tougher cuts but with the right technique, they can still be delicious.

2. Fill your freezer with bulk beef

If you can't bear the thought of giving up prime cuts completely, try to get them a little cheaper by buying a side or quarter of beef.

Buying bulk meat will require two things: a lot of freezer space and a lot of money upfront. If you have both, you could save beaucoup bucks on the overall cost of your beef.

However, you have to know how to calculate your true cost or you may end up spending more than you think. You see, most beef sides are sold by hanging weight, which is the cow after it's been slaughtered but before it's been cut, trimmed and wrapped.

Once all that processing takes place, you lose an average of 25 percent (or more) of the cow. The 300 pounds of hanging beef you paid for turns into 225 pounds in your freezer.

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service has published this informative bulletin (.pdf file) with more details about how to buy a side of beef.

3. Go cowpooling

Can't fathom having 225 pounds of meat in your freezer at one time? Then it is time to set up a cowpool.

Unlike the cowpools that involve sharing milk from a single cow, beef cowpools are simply many people splitting a single animal. Some involve one person rounding up friends to share a steer, while other farms allow individuals to register and be matched to an existing pool.

Whether you are splitting the beef or buying your own side, you may want to check out this section on Cooking Light's website regarding cowpooling.

4. Minimize the meat per meal

There is no reason to serve each family member their own hunk of beef each night. Do their hearts and your wallet a favor by spreading a smaller portion of meat across the whole family.

Mark Bittman said it best in his column in The New York Times. The food writer who went from telling us "How to Cook Everything," his bestselling cookbook in 1998, to explaining "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" in 2007 has been on the front lines of trying to convince Americans to reduce their meat consumption. That doesn't mean passing on beef completely but rather making a little go a long way.

See this plantain ground beef torte as an example of a dish in which the beef takes a supporting, not starring, role.

5. Learn to love other proteins

For many people, beef is their go-to protein choice, but it most certainly isn't the only option available. Pork and chicken are cheaper meat substitutes which, while not beef, aren't bad.

The USDA weekly report on retail pork prices (.pdf file) finds that stores nationwide are selling pork for far below the average beef price. Bone-in loin was running an average of $2.67 per pound the week of March 7. Meanwhile, fresh pork tenderloin was $4.14 per pound, assorted bone-in pork chops were $2.16 a pound, and bone-in pork sirloin end roast was bargain priced at $1.58 per pound.

As for chicken, it's not as cheap as it used to be, but it's still a frugal shopper's best friend. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whole chickens were averaging about $1.53 per pound in January.

Of course, you can get your protein without eating meat. For the ultimate cheap dinnertime dish, look for meals centered on these protein sources:

  • Eggs.
  • Beans.
  • Canned tuna.
  • Quinoa.

6. Make meatless Mondays a tradition

While we're on the subject of alternate protein sources, how about you drop meat from the menu altogether a couple of days a week?

The Catholics in the crowd are probably already doing meatless Fridays, but don't stop there. Have a meatless Monday -- or Tuesday or Wednesday -- too.

With the money you save from those meatless meals, you'll be able to buy the good stuff when it comes time to fire up the grill.

Have high beef prices changed how you shop and menu plan?

More on Money Talks News:

Mar 13, 2014 3:19PM

No suggestion to go hunting & kill your own red meat...?

If I have a good season I dont even buy meat from the grocery store.  Naturally fed, no steroids or hormones, way leaner and healthier for you.

picture of cow painting a sign that says

eats mor chicken !

Mar 13, 2014 3:11PM
Blame the drought. Many beef producers were forced to sell their cattle because they couldn't afford to feed them, and it takes three years at least to build up a herd again.
Mar 13, 2014 2:37PM
Fortunately, the high prices have not deterred me because the kids are now grown and gone and I'm only cooking for 2 instead of 6 these days, although would not buy the bulk beef for the same reasons.  We have always served alternate meats (chicken, pork) but I love my beef!

EBT Beef.....Its what's for supper!...How can Washington continue to give away the farm...EBT food cards, SNAP baby food, forever unemployment checks, free cell phones and minutes.  Most EBT cards are sold illegally to shyster store owners for cigs and booze.



Mar 13, 2014 3:57PM
Summer's almost here. Filets on the Weber every week. Don't give a damn what they cost. One of the perks of only having to feed two people. I gave up booze and tobacco, but I'll be damned if I give up beef.
Mar 13, 2014 2:52PM
WE can't comment on the Obammacare article?  Why is MSN so afraid of the truth?  And then this article says you don't need to eat meat everyday, I think a better WHAT WE DON"T NEED is the STUPID LIBERALS telling us what we should and shouldn't do. What's next McDonald's selling veggie burgers, BW3's selling tofu on a stick to look like a chicken wing!!  Waiting to see those replace ribs and chicken on the white house menu.
Mar 13, 2014 3:36PM

You can now get the Obamacare Meal at McDonalds. You order what ever you want and the guy behind you has to pay for it.

Mar 13, 2014 3:38PM

Our local Acme just had Black Angus strip steaks for $5.99 a pound.

I snagged a whole loin. Nice steaks and a great deal!

Mar 13, 2014 4:01PM
Or simply do what we do: stock up the freezer full of wild game.  It's free (and abundant in my state), and healthier than commercial beef.  After a year of eating mostly game, my cholesterol and triglycerides are great.
Mar 13, 2014 3:40PM

The Catholics in the crowd are probably already doing meatless Fridays, but don't stop there. Have a meatless Monday -- or Tuesday or Wednesday -- too.

During Lent maybe, but no meat on Friday is long gone with the Catholics in the crowd.  Ever heard of Vatican II?

Mar 13, 2014 3:35PM
There is a story on MSN MONEY titled, Americans Embrace Obummercare. Bull Crap. No we don't! Interesting how MSN doesn't have a comment section after that article. Hummmm!
Mar 13, 2014 5:11PM
Something to think about.  Other places around the world, such as China have new found riches.  They have developed a taste for beef and can now afford it.  With a population base such as China, the demand for beef is high and the "supply and demand" model pushes prices higher for everyone...... including us.  As if our massive debt to them was not enough, it looks like they have an effect our food supply also.
Mar 13, 2014 3:17PM
Yep, one out of five American households are on food stamps, now called SNAP-Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.  My brother and his wife raised four kids on a working NW Montana cattle ranch but they ate beef rarely.
Mar 13, 2014 5:00PM
@Surfangler... I too noticed awhile back that some articles here allow you to comment & some don't. I thought that kind of odd. After a short time I realized that the nature of the article seemed to dictate whether discussion was allowed or not. Most definately propaganda practices being used here. I have concluded that:
A: They allow discussion when they want to know what a majority of the people think, similar to taking polls concerning a particular trend or events.
B: They don't allow discussion when they "ALREADY KNOW" what the majority think about it but post the article anyway to affect as many as they can that don't realize this. As in your reference to the ObamaCare article not having discussion because they KNOW what the majority thinks but post it anyways to possibly sway a few reading it to "go ahead & sign up". They are struggling bad to get those numbers up & know an article like this will maybe only sway a few uninformed people to sign up but at this sad point in its deployment they will do anything to add even a handfull. ROLMFAO...

Mar 13, 2014 6:31PM
Thanks to higher meat prices it's getting much easier for me to follow my doctor's advice to eat less cholesterol.
Obamma Care is nothing more than Welfare Health Care for the unhealthy poor paid for by the healthy middle and upper class.  It will go bankrupt just like every other govt handout program. 
Sirloin in Laredo, Tx, 3.99 lb .......... oh, it is indeed for dinner and lunch as well!

Damn, I must have been concentrating on "embracing Obamacare", ..... NOT!
MSN please bite me, I will eat steak any time I feel like it. If you don't eat meat that is fine, but keep your gaytard liberal propaganda to yourselves.
Mar 13, 2014 7:24PM
Saul David Alinsky(January 30, 1909 – June 12, 1972) was an American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing. He is often noted for his book From that book here are Saul's thoughts on how to create a social state:

There are 8 levels of control that must be obtained before you are able to create a social state. The first is the most important.

1) Healthcare – Control healthcare and you control the people

2) Poverty – Increase the Poverty level as high as possible, poor people are easier to control and will not fight back if you are providing everything for them to live.

3) Debt – Increase the debt to an unsustainable level. That way you are able to increase taxes, and this will produce more poverty.

4) Gun Control – Remove the ability to defend themselves from the Government. That way you are able to create a police state.

5) Welfare – Take control of every aspect of their lives (Food, Housing, and Income)

6) Education – Take control of what people read and listen to – take control of what children learn in school.

7) Religion – Remove the belief in the God from the Government and schools.

8) Class Warfare – Divide the people into the wealthy and the poor. This will cause more discontent and it will be easier to (Tax) the wealthy with the support of the poor.

Any of this sound familiar?
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