Eating grassfed, free-range meat on a small budget can be expensive. Here are some frugal tips I’ve learned to make it much more budget-friendly.
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.
The cheapskate in me would love to be a vegetarian. Meat is expensive. But burgers are awesome, so my inner cheapskate and carnivore learn to make peace.
Several years ago, after some good books and a revealing documentary, we made sustainably-sourced meat a priority in our small budget. In this carnivorous edition of Build Your Frugal Healthy Pantry, I want to share some of the most frugal ways to eat grass-fed, free-range meat. (Psst – if you missed the post on our Cheapest, Healthiest Grains, check it here.)
We purchase grassfed beef in 50-pound batches from a farmer for $5/lb. This is the cheapest, easiest option we’ve found, and the taste is incredible – store beef tastes like dog food now.
For the sake of simplicity and frugality I generally only buy ground beef. It’s the cheapest cut offered by this farmer, and it’s incredibly versatile. Like I said… burgers are my favorite. We save roasts or steaks for an occasional treat.
If you don’t have a local source, Trader Joes, Costco, and Aldi have grassfed ground beef at comparable prices.
If you’re passionate about sustainability, I encourage you to make friends at the farmers markets. Ask if they have deals for buying in bulk or how they recommend getting the best deal with their products. Farmers want happy, returning customers so they’re usually willing to help.
To capitalize on money and health, I buy two kinds of eggs:
- Ultra-cheap from Aldi – like $.69/dozen
- Local from chickens that run free, eat non-GMO feed, and get pedicures and massages – $5/dozen
That’s a huge pendulum swing. But there’s a method to my madness. FDA guidelines concerning how eggs are labeled “free-range” and “organic” make me question the quality of grocery store organic eggs versus cheap eggs.
If I pay good money for good eggs, I want a GOOD egg – and to support chicken pedicures. So I buy from local farms or neighbors with chickens.
That’s not a philosophy for everyone, but it works for me. I will add that Costco has organic eggs for $2.29/dozen, which is by far the best price I’ve seen for organic eggs.
Sometimes farmers will let you buy eggs in bulk for a discount. Since eggs last a really long time in the fridge, this is an easy way to save money on quality eggs.
I have a harder time buying local chicken. In my area, a locally-sourced whole chicken costs $4-5/lb. Since whole chickens are mostly bones, that makes chicken really expensive.
Here are my guidelines to balance health and cost:
- Whole birds from the farmer’s market – They are delicious, super easy to cook, and sustainable.
- Easy Crockpot Bone Broth – I dump the leftover bones and skin in my crockpot with water and a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. 6 Hours later, we have bone broth.
- If I want boneless, skinless – I usually buy thighs instead of breasts. Significantly less expensive, as versatile as breasts, and more flavorful and tender. Win.
- Sale – A sale in my world is less than $1.70/lb for breasts or less than $1/lb. for other cuts.
- Rotisserie chicken – Possibly the most brilliant thing grocery stores do outside of stationing candy around the diabetic foods aisle (GRRR). I buy these occasionally to save us from pizza delivery breakdown.
Quite often, farmers have discount packs for bulk poultry purchases. If you only want a specific cut you can usually work something out with them.
Fish is easy, fairly healthy, and since I don’t live on the coast it’s one thing I always buy from the store. We buy salmon and tilapia from Aldi’s freezer section, tuna from the canned goods. Did you know Aldi has sustainable policies on their fish?
For the most part, we stick to simple, wholesome food at home. However, we also like hot dogs and bacon.
- Hot dogs – we buy beef hot dogs (delish), and the best price I found is at Costco.
- Kielbasa – Aldi’s turkey kielbasa is delicious (although it has questionable ingredients – balance, friends, balance).
- Lunchmeat – I mostly avoid this because it’s expensive and so nutritionally blah. For $6/lb. you can buy smashed, chicken/ham sheets… or a steak. Hmmm. But if it’s summer and I want a picnic and the nostalgia of a turkey and cheese sandwich, I buy Aldi’s nitrate-free lunch meat. It’s cheaper than most name brands, and it doesn’t have some of the chemicals.
Meat We Avoid
Most other cured or processed meat and chicken-nugget type food. It’s handy in a pinch, but then I’m buying convenience – not nutrition or even taste in most cases. If I want to maximize my money and health, they don’t accomplish that.
What Should You Buy?
What you eat and how you spend your money is an individual decision. If you need to maximize cost, find an Aldi RIGHT NOW. Aldi prices are 30-50% lower than your average grocery store. They have admirable policies on quality, exchanges, and a huge organic selection. If it’s an hour’s drive from you, bring a cooler and clear space in the freezer. In my opinion, it’s worth the gas.
If you are passionate about sustainability while sustaining your budget, bulk buying is the way to go.
If you’re like me and don’t have a separate freezer, try splitting bulk purchases amongst friends. This has worked for me for nearly 10 years of bulk purchases.
My inner vegetarian wants to make quality meat a priority, and the cheapskate in me is willing to eat ground beef and whole chickens in the name of balancing the budget. It works for us, helps us eat the food we love, nourishes our bodies, and saves as much money as possible.
What You Can Do Now:
I’d love to hear what you do to save money on meat. How do you find the best deals or source quality meat?
If you found this post helpful, let us know! Leave a comment, share it on Facebook or Pinterest, and follow us on Instagram or YouTube for more!
Slash your grocery budget and feed your family real food! Get simple, frugal, real food menu plans every month for FREE in the Cheapskate Cooks’ 1-Min Email. Get your first one here.
Finding cheaper chicken is somewhat of a priority for me. I also do the grassfed ground beef in bulk, but I haven’t figured out chicken. When you buy whole chicken from the farmer’s market, how much does it typically cost? Which farms are you buying from (I am semi local to you)? Also, when you mention $1.70/lb or under $1/lb, what quality chicken is this/ Just “regular” grocery store chicken? Thankyou!
Conventional chicken is typically the $1.70 and under $1/lb. As far as local chicken, the best price I have been able to find recently on local whole chickens from family farms is $2.99/lb. Anything you can find under that is a great deal.
Right now, we buy whole organic chickens from Costco for $1.99-$2.49/lb. It’s what we can do right now!
Also, Kim, I have had great success at the local farmers markets and with https://fermentedfarmer.com/!
Thankyou! I would also love to know where you get your meat (we are semi local to you)? My go to for bulk ground beef upped their price to 5.75/lb 🙁
Bear Creek Farms is a great place (ask for their “Restaurant deal”)! It is grass-fed and grain-finished.
Also, you should do a video of how you cook and then how you cut up/chop/use a whole chicken! I always struggle with this. 🙂
Good idea! I have some video stuff in the works. More on that soon!
I just buy CAFA meat…chicken, thighs mostly. 99 cents a pound. And I make broth with it. And I save all the schmaltz. I pay $3 a lb for 80% hamburger and Italian sausage links are $2.80 a lb. Sausage chub rolls are $3. Bacon I pay alot for as we use so much bacon grease, and I want it fairly nongroddy, $7-9 lb but again, its for the fat more than anything and if you start pricing fats…
Trying to buy grassfed absolutely slays me. I buy $6 a lb hamburger lately, at a warehouse store, and choke at the register. I use all the tallow or leave it in the entreé but stilllll
Sounds like you’re doing amazing! Love using a little bacon fat from good bacon 🙂
Thank you for writing this. It’s now early 2022, and pandemic pricing has well and truly set in. I was searching the web for ways to eat cheaper while still eating cleanly–I will not sacrifice my health in order to appease Wall Street!
What is CAFA meat?