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How to save money when buying meat

Posted at 6:32 PM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 01:02:16-05

For the average American family, it’s the most expensive part of your food budget: Meat.

And right now, beef prices are at record highs.

So, we wanted to find out how carnivores can save cash.

“We are having ribs for dinner,” said Eva Fry, a mother of three meat lovers who knows a thing or two about bargain shopping. “When you look in my freezer, you’ll see the yellow tag on everything. I buy almost all my meat on sale.”

She is also the founder of the UGrocery Price Comparison app (for iPhones) and tracks carnivore savings in Colorado.

“People who aren’t planning their meals around the sales are spending too much money,” said Fry.

Watch the Loss Leaders

The weekly circulars may seem old-fashioned, but the meat on the front page are often sold at a loss to the store to bring shoppers in the door.

“These are always the best deal,” said Mike Rayburn, the Albertsons/Safeway Meat sales manager in Colorado. “Look on the front page and that’s what you should have for dinner that week.”

SEE THIS WEEK'S CIRCULARS

Rayburn also recommended checking out the marked-down or clearance section of the meat aisle, where items are still good but are discounted at least 30 percent.

“Long ago, we would keep those items for weeks before marking down, but it’s a different world now,” he said. “That is good meat. Just eat it that night or freeze it.”

Know Your Cuts

If clearance steaks aren’t your style, know your cuts, Rayburn said.

“In this counter, there are two steaks that I buy, and that’s the Chuck Eye steak or I’ll buy a Flat Iron,” said Rayburn.

Chew on this, if you love rib eye, it is about $4 a pound more expensive than chuck eye, for basically the same piece of meat.

“And it will eat every bit as good as this rib eye would,” said Rayburn.

It’s the same story on Filet (or Tenderloin).  For about half the price of filet mignon, look instead at Flat Iron steaks.

"It's just night and day on the meat,” said Rayburn. “This Flat Iron steak is one of the beat pieces of meat that you can actually buy."

Pound for pound, meat managers at Costco said buying big can be where the bargains are.

"Anytime you buy something in bulk, you're going to get a little bit cheaper price," said Dan Palmeter, the meat manager at the Costco in Sheridan, Colo.

We checked, Costco is especially competitive on organic beef, and Palmeter said the store has a difficult time keeping it stocked.

“I'm not surprised,” said Fry. “It's 15 percent cheaper than organic beef anywhere else."

Knowing when you have found a deal is half the battle, Fry said.

Apps like UGrocery point out stock-up prices, which is why her freezer and her slow-cooker are full of mouth-watering meat that didn’t break the bank.

Fry put together a list of “stock up prices” (ie, buy now and freeze) on some  of the most popular meats:

  • 93% Lean Ground Beef - $3.99/lb.
  • Chuck Roast - $3.99/lb.
  • Sirloin Steak, bone-in - $5.99/lb.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts - $1.69/lb.
  • Chicken drumsticks - $.69/lb.
  • Ribeye steak, bone-in - $5.99/lb.
  • Pork Ribs - $1.79/lb.
  • Assorted Pork Chops, bone-in - $1.88/lb.
  • Pork Loin Center Cut Chops, boneless - $3.99/lb.

You can find the most recent sale ads here.

And here is a chart comparing meat prices at local stores: