Blog Series: HOW WE SAVE OVER $600 A MONTH ON GROCERY AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS
PART ONE: SAVING MONEY ON MEAT
Are you looking to trim your grocery and household budget?
Even though I’ve learned quite a bit about trimming things up with our budget, I am always wanting to hear everyone’s tips and tricks to save money!
So even if you’re pretty savvy with your wallet, I’m hoping some of these tips will help you out.
In this series, I’ll be sharing some of the ways that we have LEARNED TO SAVE OVER $600 A MONTH ON GROCERY AND HOUSEHOLD ITEMS, KEEPING OUR MONTHLY BUDGET FOR A FAMILY OF 5 UNDER $450.
To be completely honest here, I don’t stay at home with my kids because we can “afford” it. My husband has a good job (that we’re very thankful for) but it is not a two-person income by any means. We have had to learn to be good with the money we have and to steward it wisely. We’ve had to make some sacrifices and give up some unimportant extras to keep me home. And I’m eternally grateful.
It was a choice that was important to me and my husband for our family, so we make it work.
I hope that this blog series gives you some applicable ways to keep your budget lower each month so that you are able to provide the things that are important for your family.
In these posts I’m going to tackle areas where I’ve learned how to save money and keep our grocery bill reasonable, while still eating well, eating healthy(ish), and eating gluten-free.
This first entry in the series tackles meat, but stick around for tips coming up on how to save on produce, gluten-free specific foods, beauty care items, and household cleaning products.
Here are some practical ways we save money on meat and keep our grocery and household bill for our family of 5 under $450 a month.
Needless to say, if you’re not a meat-eater, this is probably a good post to skip. But jump back in for the next post about saving serious money on produce!
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in. I so appreciate your support)
If you ARE a meat-eater, you know meat can suck up a bunch of your grocery budget. It can get out of hand really fast.
Here are the top 5 ways I’ve found to lower the amount we spend on meat a month
1. USE MEAT AS AN ENHANCEMENT, NOT THE MAIN INGREDIENT
This has made a huge difference for us. I used to make very meat-heavy dishes frequently. The meat was really the star of the show, but as our family grew, I just honestly hated how much these meals started to cost!
We began to cut out frequent meals of
- Steak and potatoes
- Sloppy joes
- Chicken breast (where it’s one per person sort of dish)
These meals are still great every once in a while, but using meat as one of many ingredients spreads it so much farther.
Try to create more meals that incorporate a grain or starch (like squash, rice, or potato), beans, and tons of vegetables. Some examples of meals we love that do this would be
- Loaded Nachos (using sweet-potato slices as the base instead of tortilla chips is BOMB!)
- Chicken pot pie gravy with biscuits or mashed potatoes
- Pasta with diced or ground meat in the sauce
- Chili and cornbread
- Pad Thai
These meals utilize grains and/or starches and loads of vegetables to expand the meat and make it more filling.
I think we have a slightly skewed view of how much meat we should be consuming in Western culture. In MOST other cultures, meat is not the main ingredient. It is often a special treat or it’s used sparingly.
Meat has traditionally been eaten in large quantities only in times of feasting. You know, big parties.
If you’re concerned about the lack of protein, I hope I can put your mind at ease!
Even though reducing the intake of meat does deplete some protein, you can boost protein with so many other sources.
A mere ¼ cup of cooked beans is equivalent to an ounce of meat in protein. Only 1 tablespoon of peanut butter has the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat, too. How crazy is that? Just because you reduce the meat, doesn’t mean you’re not getting enough protein. If you’re adding beans, nuts, peas, seeds, or even yogurt, your protein and nutrient levels aren’t going to change much, if at all.
Also, beans, peas, tofu, nuts, seeds, and eggs can all provide similar nutrients and minerals as meat can when eaten in the right amounts.
2. USE PUREED SWEET POTATO, CARROT, AND SPINACH IN GROUND MEAT TO “BEEF IT UP” *pun totally intended*
This trick is fantastic. I take about ½ cup of diced sweet potato, 1 carrot, and a handful of spinach and puree it in my food processor. I add this to a pound of ground meat and mix it together thoroughly. Sometimes it’s nice to add in ¼ of an onion, too, if it will complement the dish well.
Doing this adds flavor, some added nutrition, more vegetables than what’s hopefully already in the dish, and expands the meat to go further.
So much win, right?
If you don’t like the added sweetness of the sweet potato, even a regular ol’ potato would work. They just don’t have the same nutrient-dense power-punch that a sweet potato has, but is still a good option in my opinion.
When we have company over unexpectedly this is also the quickest way to make more of whatever is for dinner, too!
You can even make a bunch of the puree at once and freeze it in 1 cup increments for whenever you need it
3. EAT MEAT IN ONLY ONE MEAL A DAY
Not what you wanted to hear? Sorry! But may I ever-so-gently suggest that we really tend to overdo it in western society?
Bacon or sausage with breakfast. Meat-filled sandwiches for lunch. Meatloaf for dinner.
That definitely adds up!
And I’d argue (kindly) that we just really don’t need to eat that much meat every single day. Even according to the USDA, 5 ½ ounces of lean meat is all that is recommended per day when eating a 2,000 calorie diet. But if you’re eating vegetarian and substituting with beans, you only need 1 ¼ cup of cooked beans a day.
So, what if you are doing both? Well, you only need half of both, right? Or a balance to equal the same amount of protein and minerals.
I will only cook one meal a day that has meat in it (or sometimes none, depending on the menu).
Most nights I DO make enough dinner that we have left-overs for lunch the following day, but I don’t prepare another lunch with MORE meat than what was already used. Does that make sense? Sometimes we’ll eat meat twice a day, but it’s because we had meat in dinner the night before and we’re just eating the leftovers.
I hope that’s making sense.
Ok, anyway, to wrap it up:
When we want bacon with our breakfast, I plan a meatless dinner and lunch. And if we’re having meat with dinner, no sausage sandwiches for breakfast!
4. ADD A MEATLESS (DARE I SAY VEGETARIAN?) MEAL NIGHT ONE – TWO TIMES A WEEK
We started off with doing one night a week as a meatless dinner to see how well we’d do with that. My husband has a crazy-high metabolism and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t going to be too hungry or lose weight buy cutting out the meat. But it was all good. We found some very filling and tasty meals that don’t feel, how should I say, erm…sad.
Meatless meals shouldn’t be a dreaded night or something where you expect to be unsatisfied or hungry afterward.
Once I figured out some great meatless meals, we were able to incorporate more of them on a regular basis, and now shoot for two meatless dinner nights a week.
Some of our favorite meatless meals are
- Sweet potato chili
- Pho with tofu
- Pizza loaded with vegetables (especially mushrooms for me and hubby)
- Tacos with beans as protein source
- Broccoli potato cheddar soup with rolls
- Nachos with beans and avocado
On the flip-side, I found a few meals that just really didn’t work for us, too.
- My husband doesn’t like stir-fry without meat and was always really hungry soon after.
- I also tried making a shepherd’s pie with mushrooms instead of meat, and I’ll tell you what, it was seriously lacking for me. I just wanted meat in it.
And I don’t want that to be a thing on meatless nights! I don’t want us all wishing we were eating meat.
Find meals that you truly enjoy and don’t miss the meat in them. And who knows! Maybe you’ll like mushroom shepherd’s pie? Could be your thing.
5. STOCK UP ON MEAT YOU KNOW YOU’LL USE WHEN IT’S ON SALE
This one will ALWAYS save you money in the end! So even if it costs a little bit more one month, it will save money for the next month, making it totally worth it in my book.
I’m not a big fan of coupons, but stocking up on items that that you use on a regular basis when they are on sale is wise.
Why I don’t use coupons to save (slight rabbit trail here)
- I HAVE FOUND THAT I SPEND MUCH MORE WHEN I COUPON BECAUSE MOST OF THE ITEMS I ACTUALLY WANT AND REGULARLY BUY DON’T HAVE COUPONS.
Hear me out.
We try to buy mostly whole foods. It is pretty rare to find coupons for fresh produce, fresh meat (or even good quality frozen meat), or bulk items.
I will tend to buy things I don’t really want or need because there’s a coupon for it. Hm. Counter productive. Even though it looks like you’re saving on paper, if you weren’t going to buy it to begin with, it’s leeching your budget.
- I DON’T HAVE TIME TO COUPON
Since it’s been fairly counter-productive for me, it ends up completely wasting my time. I can spend HOURS scouring the web and coupon apps for products I need, but I tend to maybe only find one, if that.
And usually I will see something I don’t need, but might want, so it becomes a battle for self-control.
Back to sale items!
Okay, so, how do we save money on meat, if we’re not scouring ads for coupons?
I keep my eyes open to the meat items we already buy on a regular basis. Even if I do not need to buy meat that day, I’ll still swing by the meat aisle every single time I go grocery shopping.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across sales on meat we regularly buy this way. It always feels so good. I pretend it’s like winning the lottery.
And meat freezes great! So as long as the use-by or freeze-by date gives you enough time to get home and stick it in the freezer, it’s worth it!
For example, I ran across organic whole chickens on sale for nearly half off not too long ago. I bought all three of them and then the following month I came in an extra $20 under budget.
Totally paid off.
Thanks, little birdies!
Extra Tip #1: Buy good quality meat
This seems totally backwards, but hear me out.
We actually buy good meat.
We do not buy the cheapest meat that is mostly gristle and fat. It ends up not being worth it because of, well, all the gristle and fat. The meat ends up actually costing more than it appears. It’s often cheap for a reason. Sneaky-sneaks.
Also, out of personal conviction, we only buy humanely raised meat. Even better when it’s organically fed (at the very least vegetarian fed), and/or locally raised.
I have come to a point where I care about knowing where and how the meat I’m purchasing is being raised and butchered. If the meat you eat comes from sick chickens, or hormone-pumped cows, it’s going to taste disappointing and can be less satisfying in your meal…on top of all the health repercussions.
Another benefit from eating good quality meat is that it feels more like a treat, which is exactly how we want it to feel.
It’s a mental game.
We spread out something that costs a bit more and was on the pricier side because it’s not cheap.
And when it comes to meat, we really believe this to be true.
I don’t take lightly that something died so that I could eat (and is it too dramatic to say live?).
We still believe in enjoying it, but we do so in moderation.
Extra Tip #2: Eat less-expensive meats, like chicken and turkey
Beef, especially quality beef, tends to cost quite a bit more than quality chicken or turkey. The same goes for lamb, bison, and salmon, and other pricier meat options.
These meats should be eaten less often to keep your wallet happy.
I still FULLY believe in incorporating them into your menu plan, but boy oh boy, do we eat these meats much less frequently.
Extra tip #3: Figure out how much you can spend on meat per lb and stick to that regularly
This number will fluctuate vastly depending on where you live and what’s available to you.
Because of where we live and the quality of meat we buy, my budget goal is to not exceed $3.99lb for meat. And it’s actually doable!
We are blessed to have a local butcher that has locally and humanely raised, vegetarian fed (boneless & skinless) chicken breast regularly for 3.99lb.
I can also regularly find humanely raised, vegetarian fed (boneless & skinless) chicken thighs for $2.88lb at a local grocery store.
And then the same quality ground turkey or chicken can be found for $2.99lb at another local store.
When I know my price per lb limit, I know what’s actually a good deal.
I found grass-fed local ground beef on clearance for 3.49lb because the expiration date was the following day. You betchya I snagged a bunch and froze it.
We do splurge once or twice a month on beef or salmon when it’s not on clearance, but that’s it. Otherwise it’s gotta be under that 3.99lb mark.
I’ve been pretty impressed and pleasantly surprised with how doable it really is to eat this way on a budget!
But it does mean eating more poultry since it tends to be less expensive (see extra tip#2 ;)).
Extra Tip #4: Find out when your local store puts meat on clearance
Now this tip has not worked out for me personally.
Someone mentioned doing this on a blog I read (I wish I remembered which one!) and I decided to call my grocery stores and ask which day they tend to mark down their meats. I didn’t get any clear-cut answer from any store, honestly. A couple were really confused by my question (maybe I didn’t word it right?), but most said that they do it totally randomly depending on their shipments and expiration dates.
But who knows?
You might find out some valuable information to help you save mon-Ay!
Apparently some stores in some places regularly mark down their meat items, so it’s at least worth asking!
There you go. Those are some ways we save money and keep our grocery and household bill under $450 a month.
Find out how we save even more money by heading over to the next post in this series: Saving Money on Produce
How about YOU? What are some ways that you save money on meat? Do you have any tips or tricks to share? I’d love to hear them!
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