How I Stopped Wasting Money on Groceries

As a self-proclaimed bargain shopper, I am always looking for deals, more specifically easy deals that I can share with my friends and family. I hate the feeling of paying full price for anything. I usually have a trick up my sleeve to save money on everything from clothes to school supplies– and I know every coupon trick (and website) there is and every Kids Eat Free night in our great city.

I had almost given up hope–I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be paying full price for meat (specifically chicken, beef, and pork) for the rest of my life. Short of buying a cow, raising it and have it butchered (sorry for the visual there), I could not find a conceivable, legal way to save money on the thing my family loved the most–their meat.

My attitude changed when I found the Tuesday Specials at The Fresh Market: boneless, skinless, antibiotic free chicken breasts for $2.99/lb and $2.99/lb ground chuck all day, every Tuesday. But what if I forgot to go there on a Tuesday? I was happy to discover Freshfield Farms had an everyday low price on chicken breasts–ranging from $2.38/lb to $2.99/lb. But there are only one of those stores in Jax, and it is not near my home or work. I was stumped.

So one day, I was visiting my local Target, like I do most days after I drop off my kids at school. I entered the store on the grocery side, which I normally don’t do, but I was craving a cold brew coffee from Starbucks. After getting my coffee (that I really should have asked to be diluted with water–that cold brew is super strong), a $2 pineapple caught my eye, so I turned my cart to sections I had never explored at Target–the produce section and then the meats. (Cue the angels singing.)

On my very first trip to the Target meat section, I found a 16 oz. tube of ground chuck beef for $1.25. Hold on–I will spell that out–one dollar and twenty-five cents for a tube of ground beef. My head was spinning. I can make spaghetti for under $3 tonight! Wait- I’ll get another tube for tacos tomorrow! Let’s get another tube to brown up some meat for Sloppy Joes! 

It is as though I found a secret stash of meat that was there just for me. I checked the expiration date and the meat had a sell by date of the next day. That was it–I was buying Target’s cheap meat. The next day, I returned to the same Target at the same time of day (around 9am). Low and behold there it was- a Hormel Pork Loin with a $5 off red sticker, making it only $2.99. The lowest I had ever seen these pork loins were for $4.99 when they occasionally went on sale at Publix. I went crazy and bought three. What did I do with them? See below. 

Over the next few weeks, I became cheap-meat obsessed. I filled my group texts with pictures of discounted pork loins, filet, and chicken thighs. My daughter would call us “cheap meat detectives” as we would scour the Target shelves in the afternoon after school. How did no one know this?! Simple really. We are busy Moms who buy our meat from the grocery store–not the place where we escape to drink coffee and buy cute shoes. We don’t have time to walk up and down the aisles at Target–or any other store for that matter–and look for the best deals on something like meat, that is rarely discounted anyway. You’re welcome, Mom Friends.

I’ve been buying cheap meat for over a month, so I have some pointers for those of you just starting out:

  • The mornings seem to be best. I’ve fairly certain the Target people put their big red discounted stickers on their meat first thing in the morning (I’ve asked- but I’m fairly certain that the employee I asked thought I was from the FDA and wasn’t very forthcoming.) Also, I’ve seen the best selection in the AM.
  • Pay attention to the dates. The meats are discounted because they are reaching their “sell by” date very, very soon, so I do not recommend buying the meat and letting it sit in the fridge for a few days. Meat safety is not something to be taken lightly, as raw and rancid meat could make someone very, very sick. Buy the meat with the intention of using it (or freezing it) right away.
  • See something you like that isn’t on sale? Make a note of the “sell by” date. I have been eyeballing these bacon wrapped filet medallions and I noticed their sell by date was five days away. That’s too soon to be deeply discounted. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for them. Sure, someone could buy them full price between now and the time they are set to be sold by, but I like my chances that it will be discounted the day before. Sure enough, the morning of their sell by date, they had a $4 off sticker on them. Score!
  • Get creative! Don’t know what to do with a cheap whole chicken? Make chicken stock (recipe below)! Not crazy about turkey burgers but they are only $1.31 for four patties? Cook them up (without any seasoning) for your 4-legged friend. Don’t have a grill so you aren’t sure how to cook the pre-assembled steak kabobs that are only 5.99? Take the ingredients off the stick, add rice and make your own cheap stir-fry! The possibilities are endless (and very inexpensive).
  • Check out your local Supercenter–not just Target. I found that Wal-mart had discounted meat as well, but not as consistently as Target and I seem to be at Target more than Wal-mart, so I want to save both time and money. To be honest, something about a big red $2, $4 or $5 off sticker really gets me excited, and Target was the only store with those.

Below are recipes for chicken stock and pork loin. They aren’t fancy, but neither is buying cheap meat. It’s just smart.

Cheap Meat Chicken Stock

One whole chicken (roughly 3-4 lbs), dismantled into 8 sections (not sure how? Watch this)
4 1/2 celery stalks
One onion
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp salt, 1/2 tbsp pepper
Brown chicken pieces in olive oil then place in a heavy-duty pot
Add 6 cups of water. Cover and turn on low/medium heat and let simmer overnight. In the morning, drain the liquid into a container that will fit in the fridge. Allow the liquid to cool in the fridge for a few hours, until a layer of fat forms on the top. Scoop off the fat and pour the liquid into freezer-safe containers. It will hold for three months.

Cheap Meat Pork Loin

One Hormel Pork Loin
1/2 can of beef broth (or homemade chicken stock)
One onion (roughly chopped), 4 cloves of garlic
Salt & Pepper
Rub the pork loin very liberally with salt and pepper.
Add to the crock-pot. Next add the beef broth (or chicken stock), onion and garlic. Cover & cook for 6-8 hours. When finished, drain the liquid and shred the pork. Pork can be used for pulled pork sandwiches, carnitas, enchiladas- use your imagination! It was cheap! 

Here are a few places to save on meat in Jax:

Freshfield Farms: chicken tenderloins, $2.77/lb (changes daily)

The Fresh Market: $2.99 Tuesdays ($2.99 ground chuck and chicken breasts every Tuesday)

Earth Fare: $3.99/lb ground sirloin 

Winn Dixie: $2.50/lb Sanderson Farms chicken breasts

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