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"Meat"ing up with great deals
October 21, 2009 - Jenn Lucas
I recently had to rethink the way I cooked. I will now do the same with this blog. I, like many others, have recently fallen on hard times. I had to give up the two things I liked best: eating out and cooking with fine ingredients. I was forced to take this as an opportunity to make new dishes and try new things I never would – mostly because it was on sale. I have been doing a lot of research about saving money in the kitchen and I’d like to focus this blog more on helping readers do the same. Through this forum I will share what I learn and ask you to do the same in the comment section. There will still be yummy recipes too, in order to help you hopefully tackle something new.
The most expensive part of most grocery bills comes from the meat department. You can scan circulars to find great savings and then stock up, but I have also discovered another way to stock my freezer with a larger variety of meats than just what is being offered to everyone. It takes some dedication, however I reserve one morning a week (usually a Monday or Tuesday) to get up early and head to my local supermarket to grab the manager’s specials. Most supermarkets open at 7 a.m. or earlier, so if you’re really driven to sacrifice a little time you can save big. Manager’s specials are meats that have today’s date marked as its “sell by” date. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the meat, it just needs to be sold that day, so markets will offer it at half price or less. As long as you freeze it immediately when you bring it home, you can enjoy it at any time.
Mornings are so hectic most shoppers will say they don’t have time for this. Here are some strategies.
Make a special “Blitzkrieg” visit
You can wake up and ONLY hit the meat isle. The specials are usually tagged with a different color sticker and are easy to spot. Grab a hand basket and allow 10 minutes to survey the meats, pick out the deals and check out. When you know what to look for you can do this in 10 minutes -- in and out. Plus there’s never a line that early. Take the bounty home and throw them in the freezer and go about your day.
Are your parents nearby and retired? Chances are they’re usually going to he store that early anyway, so just give them some cash and ask them to pick up some meats for you. You can repay them with a tasty (and surprisingly affordable) dinner occasionally.
Take an early lunch
If you’re job is flexible enough to let you take a lunch whenever you want, take it about 10 a.m. At my grocery store (and most others I visited) there are still plenty of deals at 10 a.m., but that’s when the rush of people begin to trickle in. You can also pick up a sandwich or something else tasty for lunch to eat at your desk later. I’m lucky enough to have a big enough office fridge, since no one really stores anything in the freezer much, to stash my stuff in there the rest of the day and bring it home in a cooler. Then I just transfer it to my freezer.
Don’t think it’s worth it? Check out some of my deals:
• Two sirloin steaks for about $5 marked down from $9
• Filet of beef tail big enough for one for $1.85
• Boneless beef rib roast big enough for two for $2.83
• Whole roasting chickens for $3.10
• Two pork loin roasts for $5.35
• A national brand breakfast sausage for less than a dollar (I did, however, have an extra coupon).
Check out those supermarkets early if you want to get great deals on great foods. If you have a large family (which I don’t) you can also score big with “club” packs or “bonus” packs, which are usually cheaper to begin with anyway. I invested in a battery-operated vacuum and special bags you can remove all the air from and my meats stay free from freezer burn for months. You can buy these vacuum bag sets in the aisle where sandwich bags are sold – they’re way cheaper, and just as good as those fancy, loud machines.
Jenn Lucas is a journalist who loves to cook. She welcomes ideas from readers on how to save money at the grocery store, recipes for cooking less-expensive meats or just money-saving recipes in general. Send all feedback, comment, ideas and recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Here's what a Manger's Special looks like in my supermarket. Learn how to identify these and you'll save big bucks on meats.