Get the most out of your meat and your budget! Learn the power of buying in bulk, portioning, packaging, and freezing.
Freezing and Buying Meat on a Budget
When I first moved into my apartment I was spending way more money on meat than I wanted to. Why? I never bought in bulk and rarely looked at the prices. I didn’t know the best way to portion, package, and freeze meat, so a lot of times it was wasted in my refrigerator.
If you can relate to any of these things, keep reading… I am about to blow your mind!
First Thing’s First
Before we get started you are going to want to answer these questions because it will give you a starting point and framework for staying organized.
- What is my budget? I like to spend no more than $75 every two weeks for two people.
- What space do I have in my freezer? I have one shelf dedicated to meat and can typically fit the 2 weeks’ worth there. It is empty right now. OOPS!
- How many portions will I need per meal? I need 4 portions of meat per meal which is 24 meat portions for 12 meals.
- What meat do I/we typically eat? For me it is chicken breast, bone-in chicken cuts like thighs and wings, pork loin/chops, ground beef, rope sausage, and fish. Special, less frequent meats are salmon, steak, and ground chicken.
NOTE: Keep in mind my budget and plan will not be the same as yours. Work with what you have and what is best for you and your family. I only spend $150 a month but you may spend more or less than that. The framework remains the same.
Buying Meat in Bulk and On Sale
Now that you have set and know your budget, freezer space, portions, and the cuts of meat you are looking for, you can get to planning! Unfortunately there is no magic number for a great price on meat for everyone everywhere. It takes time to familiarize yourself with prices in your area so you can determine what is a great price and what isn’t.
Before you head to the grocery store it is ESSENTIAL to …
- check your grocery store’s weekly ad
- search the prices on your grocery store’s website
This helps you have a plan prior to going to the grocery store which also reduces the likelihood of over spending.
TIP: When you are at the grocery store keep your eyes peeled for yellow or red tags. It typically means clearance meat but is still perfectly fine to freeze and eat at a later date.
Portioning and Packaging the Smart Way
Once I get home with my purchased meat I portion, package, and freeze it immediately. I do not want to leave it hanging out in my refrigerator to get closer to the “cook by,” “freeze by,” or “best buy” dates. I want it to be as fresh as possible when I throw it in the freezer.
My Pack and Freeze Method …
- Label the freezer bags. I use your typical freezer gallon or quart bags and a sharpie marker. On each bag I write down the cut of meat, number of portions, and the date I put it in the freezer.
- Divide the meat into portions. This is a must when I buy large chicken breasts, pork tenderloins, and rolled ground beef. All I do is cut the meats into properly sized portions (you can decided what a portion is). For example, a 5lb roll of ground beef gets cut into 5 one pound portions.
- Divide the portion into meals. This is when I take my portions and divide it into the amount needed for one meal. 12 chicken breast portions will give me 3 meals (4 portions each).
- Place meals into freezer bags. Strategically place the portions into your freezer bags so they will lay flat in your freezer. Make sure you squeeze all the air out of the bag prior to closing it.
- Freeze. Meat can be frozen for 4-6 months.
TIP: Place your newly packaged meats behind or under your older packaged meats. You definitely want to use the older meat first, of course!
Here is a short video showing my Pack and Freeze Method, check it out.
A Couple More Tips
- Be sure to sanitize your station, cutting board, and knife between each cut of meat and once you throw you meat in the freezer.
- Trim excess fat off of your proteins, this makes it one less step later on when you are making dinner.
- Think about how you are going to use the meat, you may want to cube, debone, filet it before you freeze it.
- Remember, not everything you buy needs to be repackaged (examples: roped sausage and vacuum sealed fish).
How to Properly Unthaw the Meat
There are only two ways to properly unthaw meat (1) in the refrigerator, and (2) in the sink submerged in cold water. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT thaw meat at room temperature. Bacteria can begin to develop in as little as an hour, gross right?
One Last Thing on Buying and Freezing Meat on a Budget
Take it one step at a time and only do what you can do! I started by buying just ground beef in bulk and it later translated into every meat I purchase. On average I save between $50 and $70 a month by doing this. Do not underestimate the power of having a plan and setting a budget for yourself. YOU GOT THIS! And if you need me, let me know.
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