As I’ve written about before, I tend to eat a semi-vegetarian diet, cooking with meat perhaps once, maybe twice per week. My strategy for purchasing meat is usually to buy large packages of meat when they go on sale. For example, Food Basics and FreshCo have had many sales recently of bone-in chicken thighs or drumsticks for $5; each package yields about 8 pieces of meat. This is a good price, but because I may eat just one or two pieces of meat per serving, I end up eating the same dish over and over again until I’m absolutely sick of it.
In response to this, I first tried making two dishes out of one package of meat. For example, I split up a recent purchase of Italian sausages to create two dishes; one, a slow-cooker dish of Kale, Sausage and Tomatoes, the other a Stir-fry. But this still meant that I was still eating meals containing sausage all week long.
So I adjusted my strategy: Buy a large package of meat, and then repackage it and freeze in small portions – putting 4 pieces of meat in one bag. This allows me to cook 2 – 4 meals at a time.
I find that when the meat is incorporated into a larger meal including lots of vegetables and grains, one or two pieces of meat is all that is necessary, and this leads to meals that are very low on the cost-per-serving ratio. Some of the meals I’ve calculated have come out to less than $2.50 per serving. This includes: Honey-Mustard Glazed Drumsticks with Roasted Carrots & Potatoes, served with Cauliflower Soup & homemade Garlic Croutons (about $2.30 per serving including the soup) and Chicken & Basmati Rice Bake with Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes & Green Beans (about $2.60 per serving.) Another meal I made with the drumsticks was a hearty Black Bean & Chicken slow-cooker Stew. All of these meals, by the way, were delicious.
When possible and depending on the dish, I may separate the chicken from the bones and put them into a freezer bag. Once I have enough bones (coupled with vegetable scraps like onion peelings, celery leaves, broccoli stocks, etc.) I make a delicious chicken stock, which can then be used for soups or infusing rice with more flavour. Considering this eliminates the need to buy chicken stock from a store (and improves the flavour as well as the nutrition of the stock), this makes the meat purchase even more economical. It’s this “minimal waste” philosophy that lets me eat for $150 – $175 a month. For example, the Cauliflower soup I mentioned was made with a cauliflower on sale for $1.49 and homemade croutons with leftover stale french bread and my own window-box herbs.
I also repeated this same strategy when buying stewing beef to make meals like Goulash and Beef Coconut Curry. These items are easily frozen so it makes sense to make a large batch and then freeze is smaller portions.
A final tip? When buying the chicken, I pick the greatest weight, since all packages are the same cost.
If any meal I’ve mentioned especially appeals to you, let me know and I will post the recipe!
What is your favourite money saving tip for buying meat?