How and Where to Buy Meat for Cheap
For many, America is still very much a “meat and potatoes” country. Meat is a great source of protein and can be a delicious part of any meal. With meat prices on the rise – due to a long list of issues including global warming and supply chain disruptions for feed, fertilizer, water, processing labor, and more – shoppers need to budget wisely in order to keep high-quality meats on weekly meal menus.
Look for deals when buying meat
Fresh meat has a very limited shelf life, so grocers do their best to balance supply and demand. When they have too much, the prices drop to make sure nothing goes to waste. Check the meat aisles of your store for clearly priced sales items, and get to know the butchers behind the counter, they can tell you where the best values are. Check the retailer’s app and websites for deals – and be sure to cross reference with Ibotta, which frequently has cash back on burgers, bacon, hot dogs, and other favorites.
If you have room in the freezer — or own a second freezer – stock up when the price is right. You can also buy in bulk from a butcher outside of the grocery store, purchasing a quarter, half, or full cow.
Don’t fear the bones
You’ll pay more for boneless cuts because it takes time for the butcher to properly remove the bones. In many cases, the bones add flavor to the meat when cooked – and after you’re done eating, you can boil the bones (with some seasoning) to make a super delicious and healthy bone broth!
Shop sales – with caution
If a fresh meat product is heavily discounted, that means it’s very close to its expiration date. No reputable retailer will intentionally sell you meat that’s gone bad, but inspect the product for yourself and check the label for the use or freeze by date. Plan on eating these products the same day, or placing them in your freezer when you get home.
Signs your meat is fresh
The best way to save money on meat is to avoid buying meat that’s spoiled, or will spoil before you can use it.
For all meats:
- Check the packages are sealed – Loose or punctured plastic will let air in and decompose the meat faster.
- Look for signs of graying – Gray isn’t a good color to see on any fresh meat. Beef should be bright red and firm to the touch – look for signs of browning on the edges, or at the center of a ground beef package, too.
- Pork, poultry and lamb should be pinkish red.
- Smell – Rotting meat is very apparent by smell, even through plastic wrap.
- Pay attention to sell by/use by/freeze by dates – Unlike canned food which has a bit of flexibility when it comes to the date, meat expiration dates should always be adhered to exactly. Be aware an expiration date isn’t the same as a sell by date!
- For most meats, fat and bones should be bright white.
- Watch for too much liquid in the package, which is a flag the meat is giving off it’s juices and becoming less moist (and juicy)!