During my first year of marriage we spent over $500 a month to feed the two of us, the same amount I spent 15 years later to feed eight of us! Yikes!
Clearly, I've reformed my ways since then — and my freezer has played a big part in the process.
I shake my head in disbelief at 23-year old me who would buy chicken breast for $6 a pound just because she had a craving for chicken that night. While I'd always been a frugal person, not willing to spend big bucks on a car or fancy jeans, I had a weakness for groceries. Lover of a good meal that I was and am, it was so easy for me to justify paying full pop for whatever craving I had on a particular day.
What I have learned since then is that meat sales go in cycles. There are currently some cuts of meat that always go on sale every six weeks or so. Here on the West Coast, I can count on boneless skinless chicken breast, tilapia, and London Broil (aka round steak) going on sale on a regular basis. In between sales, they jack the price up.
The key to having the meat you want when you want it is to buy it at a great price and stock up.
Enjoy it once that week and buy a few extra packs to stash in the freezer for future use when the price isn't as friendly to your budget. You can stock up on chicken one week, pork the next, and fish the week after that. Eventually, you'll have developed a stockpile of a variety of proteins at great prices.
When To Stock Up on Protein
- The "loss leaders" - These are those items on the front cover of the grocery ad, usually items that are very low priced. They hope that you will come for the loss leader and then stock up on the higher priced items while you're there. Don't do that. Just buy your proteins and go home.
- Bulk packs - Check the unit price before you buy the bulk pack of chicken or beef, but usually it will be cheaper per pound than a single-serving pack. Divide them up at home so that they're easier to use.
- Regular items that you know you'll use - For us this is Trader Joe's ice-glazed chicken tenders and their all-natural ground turkey. These are high quality products that are convenient to use and help me avoid eating out. Since the price never changes, it's worth my while to stock up and have them on hand for simple, quick meals.
- Clearance butcher items - Your local grocer's meat department wants to avoid waste as much as possible. On a weekly basis, they will mark items down that they want to move quickly. Make it a habit to check the meat department each time you shop. You may find a great deal to stash in the freezer.
Keep your eyes peeled for great prices on protein and stash your freezer with what you'll use in the next few weeks. You'll save money, eat well, and be able to feed that craving next time it hits you.