Sunday, February 15, 2009

Purchasing Meat on Sale

Meat-Packing Time!

We pretty well never buy boneless, skinless chicken breast that's more than $1.99/lb. When it's on sale, if our freezer stock is low, we buy as much as will fit in the freezer. That day or the day after, we freeze the meat in 2-serving portions, in freezer bags. In trimming breasts down to one serving each, we end up with a lot of small pieces that were cut off. These pieces are chopped even smaller and frozen in 2-serving portions for stir-fry. Each bag is labeled with the date & contents and put in the freezer.

My husband and I work together. I trim the chicken to serving-size pieces (a.k.a. the icky job) & he labels the bags & brings them to me one at a time; I drop the chicken in, and he seals the bag. That way, I don't have to figure out how to keep one hand clean to hold the bags. The whole process takes about 45 minutes. Having a child label the bags is a great way to keep them involved & busy while you're trimming meat, too. Pick up a couple colored permanent markers & let them decorate the bags!

Is it worth the effort?

Cost of a kitchen scale: $49.99
There are cheaper ones, but let's see if it's worth it even for one this expensive.

Cost of freezer bags: a box of 40 is $4.99 at our local market - that's 12 cents a bag.

You'll need permanent markers to label the bags - let's add $8.50 for those.

Let's say 2 people have chicken about 5 times a week.
2 servings x 5 meals a week x 52 weeks in a year = 520 servings
At 4 oz per serving, that's 130 lb per year.
((Note, this is the same as a family of 4 having chicken 5 times in two weeks))

What's the cost of 520 servings at $1.99/lb?
130 lb @ 1.99/lb = $258.70

2 servings per freezer bag = 260 bags
260 x 0.12 = $32.44

Add in the cost of a scale and markers, and your yearly total is $349.61

What if you bought chicken each week, whether it was on sale or not?
If it were never on sale and you always paid $5.39/lb, one year of chicken would cost you $700.70
But in reality, it is on sale sometimes. Let's say it goes on sale once a month.
Now, your yearly spend on chicken is $590.20

You save $240.60 by buying it on sale and packing it in the freezer.
AND you only have to buy a scale once. So, the following year, you'd save almost $300.
In two years, I've only had to replace my scale's batteries once, too. We've had the same markers for a couple years, too.

We spend about 45 minutes once every two months to freeze chicken in portions.
4 1/2 hours a year saves $240 the first year and $300 every year thereafter.

And keep in mind, this is only chicken. We buy pork on sale the same way, $1.99/lb.
Worried about freezer room? Hey, all we have is a typical refrigerator w/ freezer - and we can make it work. You can, too!


1. Portion Control.
You can be sure you're eating correct portions of meat. I can guarantee that at each meal, we each only have one serving of meat.

2. Less Time in the Store.
When you have a well-stocked kitchen, your grocery trips take less time in the end. You'll only have to visit the meat section every couple of months - what you need for your meal plan is already in the freezer.

3. No Last-Minute Worries.
You're prepared for last-minute meal plan changes. Need to add servings b/c friends are coming over? No need to run to the store! Just pull out another packet of meat from the freezer. You will always have meat on hand. And packets of frozen chicken cut up for stir-fry defrost *very* quickly. I'll microwave defrost it just until I can break it apart, then into a hot pan it goes.

In the end, I find that taking the time to buy meat only when it's on sale & freeze it in serving-size portions is well worth investment in tools, time, and effort.

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