How to Save Money at the Butcher's
You might be aware of the local butcher shop but hadn't given much thought to ever stopping by to check out what they have to offer. Recently, we moved into a new house that is within walking distance of the local meat shop, one which I have never shopped in before. What I found there was quite surprising. It turned out to be good for my wallet and my freezer. If you opt to buy your meats at the grocery or super store, not only are you missing out on savings, you may be missing out on quality.
Check Price by Pound
When you are price checking between regular packages and that special "family saver" larger package, make sure you are checking out the price per pound and not relying solely on the total price. In some cases, the regular packet is cheaper than the family pack. You can buy multiple packs of the smaller size for less than the supposed family saver packages.
Cut to Order
A butcher shop gives its customers so many more options for meats than just prepackaged, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. For instance, you can save up to $2 a pound on boneless pork chops by purchasing a whole boneless roast. The butcher can then slice the roast into chops suitable for your family dinner. Additionally, butchers can cut out your work time by providing other services like trimming the fat from meats, slicing or grinding meat, and then repackaging it to be freezer-ready — at no additional charge.
Ask for Substitutions
You can find additional savings in the meat shop by deferring to your butcher for recommendations on meat substitutions for your favorite dinners. Often, they can recommend a less expensive cut of meat, an alternative meat, or a new way to prepare a tired dish. For the adventurous, you can also get expert advice on less pricey cuts of meat that do not look appealing to the eye but are more than acceptable for your stomach. You may not know that some of the most flavorful meats are those that you may not normally look at twice.
Know Your Labels
When shopping for meats outside of the butcher shop, make sure you don't look just for designer labels. The only sticker you should concern yourself with besides the price is the tag from the USDA. Look for meats with "Quality Grade" stickers. You should also understand what the other labels mean to your mouth and your wallet. For example, "prime" is the best cut and the most expensive. The next cut is "choice," then "select," followed by "standard."
It is also key to remember that even if a label proclaims the meat to be 100% natural, it is likely that it has still been injected with something unnatural, such as carbon monoxide, to keep the meat from turning brown. Read the ingredients label to see what else is in your meat product.
Never go for meats based on price. Grocery stores typically will place the nearly-expired meats at the lowest prices. It is a good choice if you plan on cooking the meats immediately. But if you are looking for the freshest cuts, select the packages furthest from the front and stacked at the bottom of the pile.
A trip to the meat market can be much less expensive and much tastier than what you find in your usual grocery store. Don't be afraid to ask questions for a better idea of how to stock your freezer. Also, inquire about meat packages some butcher sell specifically for the freezer. You can select from several packages that are cut, packaged, and freezer-ready to keep your freezer stocked for all your cooking needs.