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Store This, Not That! > Blog > Cooking with Food Storage > Grocery 101 Tips# 14-21: Meat
January 18th, 2011

Grocery 101 Tips# 14-21: Meat


So, produce and meat are the biggest money makers for grocery stores so it’s important to be educated about the cuts of meat (they are definitely not all equal!) so you can stock up when the right stuff goes on sale.

Tip #14 : Buy meat on SALE and stock up!

Meat (especially beef) is sky rocketing right now.  And, like anything else it goes on sale-that is when you should buy it-alot of it!  It will save you at least $1 a pound and if you’re buying meat that is at least 3 pounds that saves you at least $3-which is a lot of money in terms of grocery shopping.  The easiest meat to do this with is hamburger.  I’ve got some ideas for that in my video below.

Tip #15 : Quality v. Quantity

So I realize these two tips may contradict themselves but it’s just like anything else.  Don’t get suckered into buying a meat that is really cheap (and poor quality) that you’ll hate using and wasting.  For example, for me I’ve learned I hate the ground beef sold in “chubs” (the pre-packaged tubes) because I don’t like how it tastes and it has a lot of fat.  It’s worth it to buy what you’ll actually USE even if it is a little more.

Tip #16: READ THE LABEL

This is starting to sound familiar, right?  Look and see what you’re actually paying PER pound.  I know a lot of people buy stew meat because the total cost is only a couple of dollars, however, it’s almost $4 a pound (at least where I live) a total RIP OFF!  This will also let you know fat content on items such as hamburger.  And, additionally it will let you know the “grade” of meat, where in the world your meat came from, the day it was packed and the sell by date.

Tip #17 : Know your “GRADE” of meat

The USDA has three grades (or quality levels) of meats.

  • USDA Prime Grade: In appearance, you will notice distinctive marbling throughout the cut, which enhances both the flavor and texture. Fine hotels and restaurants generally use USDA Prime; however, some USDA Prime is available to retailers.
  • USDA Choice Grade: While USDA Choice is also a very high quality of beef, it has less marbling than USDA Prime Grade Beef. Some have found some slight loss of texture and flavor in certain cuts. However, USDA Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib are still very tender, juicy, and boast of great flavor.
  • USDA Select Grade: The lack of marbling throughout a cut of USDA Select Grade Beef will still render it to be fairly tender; however, it will lack the juiciness and flavor that are predominant traits of USDA Prime and USDA Choice Grades.

Some grocery stores make up their own name, like “Rancher’s Reserve” or something like that.  Usually, that’s done to hide what the quality is and to make you think it’s higher quality than it really is (which is usually the select grade).

Tip #18: Become friends with your butcher

I actually only buy meat from grocery stores with butchers.  The meat is fresher (since they are cutting it there), you can ask them questions, and get them to do you favors!  You should know that butchers can grind, slice, chop, etc. your meat if you ask. (CAUTION: Some will charge you so make sure you ask first, most will do it for free.)  Also, if you’re friendly they will help you more with insider info on sales and better cuts of meat.

You can do things like

  1. buy pork loin on sale and then have them slice it into pork loin pork chops (usually, very expensive)
  2. buy roasts on sale and ask them to grind it for you (making your own hamburger!).  Hamburger is generally mystery meat and high in fat.  If you do this, you can get hamburger cheaper than what they are selling the regular for and it’s a better quality meat and lower in fat!  (In fact, Del, (my pie crust friend) does this when sirloin is on sale and then she has ground sirloin for cheap!
  3. some butchers will also cube your meat if you ask, although, I like my cubes smaller than they generally cut them.
  4. you can ask them to pick out a good looking piece of meat (a.k.a well marbled, tender part of the muscle, etc.)

Tip #19 : KNOW your meat.

All meat is NOT equal.  And I’m not just talking the differences between chicken, pork, and beef.  It helps to know what you’ll be using the meat for to know which cut (or portion) you should buy.  I figure the trickiest part for everyone is beef so you can click HERE to download a chart about beef from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association that will tell you some great ways to use the meat.  If you’re still confused, you can watch this clip from “Good Eats-with Alton Brown” which at least explains a little more about roasts and what the best kind to use for pot roast and another clip about which meats you can use for steaks with out paying a lot.


(Just watch the first couple minutes)

(Just watch the first couple minutes)


(watch from minutes 4:17-5:51)

Tip #20 : Cut your own Stew, Fajita, and Stir Fry Meat

Have you ever noticed that stew & stir fry meat almost seems magical…where does the stuff come from?  I’m pretty sure they want you to believe that it doesn’t come anywhere except for them and they’d like you to spend the $4-5 a pound for it.  Even if you look at those handy charts in your Betty Crocker or Better Home and Garden cookbook they never say where stew, fajita, and stir fry meat come from.  It’s clever, actually-what they really do.  They get large cuts of meat and then further subdivide the meat into roasts, steaks, etc.  In that process they get scraps…which they cube, slice, or ground (like in hamburger)….and sell to you as “stew meat” and other types of already cut meat at a VERY HIGH price.  Nice, right?  Or, I had a butcher admit to me that he actually cuts the cheap tough meat and sells it as stir fry meat for $3-4 dollars MORE a pound…another good reason to KNOW your meat.  So the best thing to do is to know the best cuts of meat for cutting your own stew meat cubes, fajita slices, and so on.  That way, when the price is right you can stock up and save a bundle!

Stew Meat
(Some people think it’s better to use a higher quality of meat to make a stew better but that is actually incorrect.  The name of the game for stew meat is TOUGH meat.  Tough because it is going to be slow cooked AND it actually has a stronger flavor which is perfect for mingling with all of the other vegetable flavors.)

  • Chuck
  • Round
  • Bottom Sirloin
  • London Broil
  • Brisket

Kabob & Stir Fry Meat
(Because this is cooked fast over high heat, tough meat isn’t the best option even though it may be cubed like stew meat.  You want good grilling meat)

  • Top Sirloin (THE BEST)
  • Cross Rib
  • London Broil (sometimes)

(Click HERE for more info on the FoodSaver I use)

Tip #21 : Buy larger pieces of meat and cut them up

So this is pretty similar to the tip above, but it’s more broad.  Think of it-you could get chicken breasts for under 69 cents a pound.  You can buy larger cuts of beef and get steaks, stew meat, etc.  It can be kind of advanced so for a great book with pictures and good explanation you can check out this book.  Cutting Up in the Kitchen: The Butcher’s Guide to Saving Money on Meat & Poultry Really, the easiest way to start this idea is with whole chickens-however, cutting up a whole chicken is definitely intimidating.  So enter, Alton Brown again (this is originally from an episode about frying chicken so you can stop watching once he is done cutting it.

Did you miss yesterday’s tip? CLICK HERE

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17 Comments

  • Cathy

    January 19, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    This was probably one of the best blog posts you have ever put out. However, you left me hanging when it comes to cooking the chicken. I don’t make good friend chicken. I was hoping you could post the second portion of Alton Brown’s cooking that fried chicken. Please.

  • Chassidy

    January 19, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Great post! I agree, one of your best! I LOVE my foodsaver. I received mine as a wedding gift 5 1/2 years ago and it still is working great. Just a tip though for those that don’t have a meat setting on their foodsavers. If you put a paper towel between the meat and the edge of the bag, the towel will soak up the extra juices so it doesn’t go into your foodsaver and contaminate it.

  • Kimberly

    January 20, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Loving all the tips!!
    Another great thing to do with bulk meats is to can them. It’s really rather easy and canned meats are great to use with a solar cooker because you are essentially just heating them up. I like canning ground meat – I just open a jar and throw it in to my sauce – no thawing necessary. It’s great for those dinners at the end of a day that just got away from you.

  • Suki

    January 20, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I don’t know if I’ve ever commented before but I just wanted to thank you for this post! My husband snacks less if I cook with meat but it’s so difficult for me to shell out the presidents for it! And, of course, I love Alton Brown and all the information he shares. A grocery trip is on the agenda for today. Maybe some whole chickens are in order…

  • jessica

    January 21, 2011 at 3:23 am

    This is great! Thank you! My husband and I were just talking the other day about how we don’t know anything about beef. One thing about buying a whole chicken, though, is that you’re buying a lot more bone (the back) than you do with other cuts of chicken.

    • Anonymous

      January 21, 2011 at 3:38 am

      Yes but you can use those bones to make awesome chicken stock (or broth)

  • Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings

    January 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Glad to see you posting AB’s videos here. I was thinking of them when I started reading the blog post, thinking they’d be perfect for illustration. Thanks for the tips!

  • Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings

    January 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Glad to see you posting AB’s videos here. I was thinking of them when I started reading the blog post, thinking they’d be perfect for illustration. Thanks for the tips!

  • Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings

    January 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Glad to see you posting AB’s videos here. I was thinking of them when I started reading the blog post, thinking they’d be perfect for illustration. Thanks for the tips!

  • Tomandhailee

    January 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love all the tips!!

  • Tomandhailee

    January 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love all the tips!!

  • Tomandhailee

    January 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love all the tips!!

  • Tomandhailee

    January 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love all the tips!!

  • Tomandhailee

    January 25, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I love all the tips!!

  • Jennifer

    January 26, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you for all of the wonderful tips!!!! It has really helped me when it comes to starting my own food storage. Thanks

  • […] your grocery bill is going to be quite high. To save money on meat, make it a personal policy to never buy meat when it’s not on sale. Most grocery stores offer a meat item at a low price each week to draw people into the store. […]

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