Tag Archives: Family Finances

7 simple ways to save money on meat

Have you ever heard the saying: “A dish is incomplete if it doesn’t have meat”? Well, I grew up in a house where this expression was part of our daily vocabulary.  My father repeated this saying almost daily.  My poor mother had to make certain that there was always enough meat in my dad’s plate, otherwise he was not a happy guy.  I also grew up eating different types of meat from both the land and sea.  The one good thing is that at home we were not too picky with the type of meat per se, and we would eat almost everything, including internal organs such as the heart, kidney, liver and stomach.  Although I would not always like what my parents put on my plate, I have to admit that I got used to eat meat and consider myself as a meat-eater.

The problem, however, is that meat is very expensive.  In April 2014, Statistics Canada announced that retail prices for grilling steaks and ground beef were up between 11-12% in the past 12 months.  This was more than 6-times the 2% increase seen in Canada’s overall inflation rate for the same period (http://tinyurl.com/p75tfje).

Normally, I am the one at home who does the groceries shopping, and I have certainly noticed that the amount of money that we spent in meat is enormous, representing a large chunk of our budget.  I should start collecting records to quantify this precisely, but I know that our expenditures in meat are huge.  Apparently meat makes up over 22% of the at-home food (not out-to-eat or alcohol) budget of Americans (http://tinyurl.com/pfxvmba).  We can assume that the value must be similar for Canadian families.

In my effort to reduce food waste and the money that we spend in food, I have been trying to simple tips to save money on meat.  Of course, I know that the first way to do this is by buying only the meat that is on sale.  This may works sometimes, but we cannot eat chicken (or fish) every day of the week.  I need other tips.  So, are there other simple or practical ways to save money on meat?

Source: Statistics Canada

Source: Statistics Canada

After searching a little bit in the internet, I found a very useful post that included 7 simple tips to save money on meat.  Here are these tips:

  1.   Eat less meat – Obvious, but not always easy.  In our case, we are trying to implement 2 meatless meals per week and replacing the meat with beans.  It doesn’t always work well, but we figure that if we keep trying, it will eventually work.
  2.  Know your price per pound – Keep a grocery price book and write down the price per pound after every purchase.  Pretty soon, you will start seeing a trend, and won’t need to reference your price book as often.  Knowing how much are you paying for the meat will make you more aware of how much you spend on meat.
  1. Freeze as much as possible – Obvious, but we don’t always think about it.  Don’t leave meat in the fridge for more than a few days because meat (particularly bovine meat) tends to spoil fast.  Establish a rule that unless you will be using the meat that day, it goes straight into the freezer.
  2. Don’t buy speciality meat – Buy only basic meat; but, always make certain that you know how much are you paying.  Only buy speciality meat when is on sale and even then, verify the price per pound.
  3. Stretch the life of meat – Here the idea is to use the meat efficiently.  e.g., when preparing a recipe, we may want to reduce the portions requested by the recipe.  When you buy a whole chicken, make certain that you really use the entire chicken.  Freeze the extras for use in casseroles, and boil the bones for broth.
  4. Buy a portion of a cow, pig, lamb, etc – This is a great idea, particularly if you live in a farming area.  We followed this suggestion and bought half of lamb last week.  We have figured that we are saving ½ of the regular price per pound by doing this.
  5. Shop unconventional grocery stores – If available in your area, visit small international stores, sometimes they may offer lower prices for certain types of meat.

I recommend you visit http://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2014/01/17/save-meat-guest-post/ if you want to have more information about this topic and other related ones.  It’s a great blog.

Groceries and the value of food

In our house, we spent weekly about $350-400 if not more in food, representing approximately $20,000 per year.  Of course, this doesn’t include money that we spent in restaurants or little food/coffee treats that we gave ourselves from time to time.  In addition, our freezer is full of food that we “believe”, we will eat one day, or that we bought because it was on sale at the grocery store.  The issues are that, (1) we don’t really eat $20,000 of food; and (2) most of the food that we have in the freezer will end in the garbage.

Although my family may be at one extreme of the spectrum (we are really bad in terms of wasting both food and money), I know that we are not the only ones who are wasting food (or money!).  A recent (November 2012) article that appeared in the Canadian Grocer website (http://www.canadiangrocer.com/top-stories/what-a-waste-19736) indicated that the overall value of food in Canada that ends up in garbage cans or in compost bins is about $27 billion!  This is enormous when we take into consideration that the population in Canada is only ~30 million people.  Financially speaking, this means that each Canadian wastes about $900 in food per year. The David Suzuki Foundation website (http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/help-end-food-waste/) provides other stats regarding food wasted that I am copying below (visit their website if you want to read more about it):

  • Close to ½ of all food produced worldwide is wasted — discarded in processing, transport, supermarkets and kitchens.
  • As much as 30% of food, worth about $48 billion, is thrown away in the US each year. (The average household there throws out about 215 kg of food each year — around $600 worth)
  • In Toronto, single-family households discard about 275 kg of food waste each year. That means one in four food purchases still ends up in the garbage.  Toronto taxpayers spend nearly $10 million a year getting rid of food waste that’s not composted.
  • Over 30% of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers.

Financially speaking, if each Canadian family wastes about $600 in food per year, my little family (formed by 4 people) would waste about $2400 per year. That’s a lot of money! It’s clear that reducing waste food is important from the environmental point of view, but we have to admit that having an extra $2400 per year in our pockets for other things would not be a bad idea.  The question, however, is why it’s so difficult to reduce food waste when the environmental and financial reasons are so obvious.  I am certain that there are many political, economical, cultural and emotional reasons why are we wasting so much food (we can explore this on other posts), but one point that attracted my attention is the solution(s). There are many suggestions that can be used to reduce food waste, especially when we think about families or individuals. The most common answer appears to be – MEALS PLANNING!  All the books, articles and websites that discuss this issue clearly say that to reduce food waste, you need to plan your meals.  Associated with this issue or solution is grocery list.  So, the idea is that we should plan our meals and prepare a grocery list. My question is, is that simple? Really, when you work full-time and have to take your children to their various extra-curricular activities, can you really plan your weekly meals?