Dec 3, 2009

TOT Thursday - know your limits!

It's no secret that when budgeting for your meals, proteins will be the most expensive ingredient on your list (unless you have eggs every meal!) But even meats obey supermarket sales cycles, so here's how you can start cutting your budget for meats THIS WEEK:

Set limits on what you will pay for your meat items! In reading many blogs and watching my own sales here (south of Boston), I've found this simple guide applies just about everywhere in the US:

*$2 per pound or less: boneless meat, ground meat, sausages, beef steaks

*$1 per pound or less: bone-in meat, including whole chicken

I rarely have to go outside of these price limits, unless I really want to pay extra for a pricier cut of beef or fish - but even then I've been able to get petit sirloins for under $4 per pound. When I see meat fall to these prices, I buy double and freeze into meal sized portions!

You can also pick up extra savings by finding out when the butcher marks his meat for quick sale (meat that is about to come to the "sell by" date), and by purchasing extra "holiday" meats when they drop the prices (Ground beef before Labor Day, ham around Easter, turkey around Thanksgiving).

The important thing to remember is this: I can decide if I want to spend a little more. Because I buy my day-to-day ingredients at the lowest price and stock up, I'm not beholden to the supermarket's regular prices. I can't remember the last time I had to pay $4/lb for boneless chicken breast! But I have the extra room in my budget if I want to have a nice steak dinner with my husband for special occasions.

And to REALLY stretch your weekly meat budget - try breakfast for dinner! Breakfast is the least expensive meal of the day, and the kids get a kick out of having a meal "out of order".

How do you make your meat budget go further?

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