When I began making a lifestyle switch to clean eating, I balked at buying an organic chicken at $3.99 a pound, especially when I knew I could buy his non-organic counterpart on sale for as low as 69 cents a pound. But the more I started to research and understand why organic, grass-fed, and wild caught meats and fish were an important part of a clean-eating diet, the more I started to research how I could save myself and our family the most money on our grocery bill. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but along the way, in the last couple of months I’ve started to build a small arsenal of tips and tricks that help me save a bit of money when stocking up on protein. Here’s 8 ways to save money on the cleanest, purest and most sustainable cuts of meat. Some I use on a weekly basis, and others I can’t wait to try. Cowpooling, anyone?
Eat It Less Often – The quickest and most cost effective way to cut down on your grocery bills when you begin eating clean, is to simply eat less meat, poultry, and even fish. Meat is expensive, no matter which cuts you buy, so if you can get creative and start making dishes your family will love, and hold the meat, you’ll save yourself the most money right there. Right now, we’ve gone from eating a meat dish 6 times a week at dinner, to 3-4 times a week. I make pasta dishes, meatless soups and chilis, and one pot meals with a mix of grains and legumes for a healthy dose of protein. At lunch, I personally used to add chicken to my salads or make turkey sandwiches for me and the kids. I’ve started to slowly pull back on meat items at lunch time too by making lots of wraps, packed with spinach and avocado, and making a lot more sandwiches with nut butters for the kids.
Eat Less – If you’re not ready to add more meatless dinners to the weekly rotation, try just using less meat than the recipe calls for when cooking. For instance, if you’re making a stew and the recipe calls for 3 pounds of beef, use 2 pounds instead and add in some long grain rice or a can of beans to supplement the loss of filling meat. Serve smaller cuts of steak or chicken, and load up on protein rich veggies instead.
Shop Around – I’ve started to realize that not all meats are priced equal from store to store. Just the other day a reader informed me that a popular health food grocery chain was selling grass-fed beef hot dogs for $6.99 a package, whereas I had just found them at a smaller chain store for $4.99. It definitely pays to shop around and figure out where you can save yourself the most money. Time consuming at first, but you’ll quickly start to see where you can get the most bang for your buck.
Buy In Bulk – Our local warehouse store has begun stocking a very respectable amount of organic and free-range meats and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I now buy all my organic chickens (whole roasters and pieces) there, and get the best price in town. Granted I have to buy several pounds at a time, but it’s nice to stock up my freezer with great meats at good prices. They currently only offer grass-fed ground beef, but I’ve requested they start carrying more variety in beef and they’ve been known to do a good job listening to customer requests. I look forward to their selection growing in the future.
Buy Through A Co-Op – Very similar to produce co-ops that have grown in popularity in the last few years, grass-fed beef co-ops, also called CSA’s, are now popping up all over the country. This allows you, the consumer, to buy local cuts of meat directly from the farm. You order which cuts and amounts you want, and the farm delivers them to a designated location at specific times, for you to come pick up and enjoy. You support local farms and agriculture, and you get meat that is free of antibiotics, steroids, and better for you!
Cowpool – I’ve just recently learned about cowpooling, and I have to say I am totally intrigued! The idea is very similar to a CSA, in that you buy meat directly from the source. The only difference is you buy the entire cow and usually split it up, and the costs, with another family. Benefits include a smaller carbon footprint, healthier, cleaner cuts of meat, and support of local small farms and agriculture. Only downside I see is the upfront investment, and the fact that you get every single part of the cow, including tongue. I’d definitely have to widen my meat cooking repertoire.
Shop the Fish Markets – I had never shopped at a local fish market, because believe it or not, they’re just not plentiful here in Southern California. Most people here shop at the local grocery store, so when I wanted to buy a whole red snapper, I had to visit the local Asian fish market, and I was blown away at how much more affordable it was! I saved myself several dollars per pound on several fish I bought, and the fish was fresher and tasted better. Make friends with your fish monger, and he’ll usually de-gut and de-scale your fish for free too!
Thighs Over Breasts – I’ve grown very adept at cooking with thighs instead of breasts in the last couple of months. Organic chicken thighs are on average a dollar less per pound than breasts, and I think are even more flavorful than the breasts. Even if you’re personally opposed to eating dark meat, no reason you can’t feed them to the kids, who really don’t ever notice the difference between light and dark meats.
So what are some ways you save money when buying organic, grass fed, and free range meats and poultry? Any tips you’d love to share that I may have missed?
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