Just as summer grilling moves into high gear, here comes news that the cost of supermarket beef has hit an all-time high — up at least 5 percent so far this year, and still rising.
Recently, I caught up with Teri Gault, founder of the The Grocery Game. com, to find out what’s going on. Teri and her TGG crew closely monitor national food prices on a daily basis, so they’re my go-to source for all things related to the cost of food. But more than that, Teri has great ideas for how to overcome this kind of unhappy news so we can afford to keep our grills fired up this summer.
It’s a problem of supply and the environment, reports Teri. The U.S. cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952. Cattle producers have been hard hit by drought, late freezing weather, doubling of feed costs and poor pasture conditions. Supplies are down, which drives prices up both at the grocery store and restaurants, too. But not to worry. Teri says that overcoming the high cost of beef is a matter of changing our thinking, habits and behaviors.
STOCK UP ON SALES: Review the front page of store circulars for weekly specials — often as much as 50 to 67 percent off the original price. Instead of buying a variety of meats at full price, buy multiple cuts of one or two types of meat on sale and freeze for later use.
SLOW COOK CHEAP CUTS: Slow cooking cheap cuts of beef like tri-tip, chuck and flank steak turns them as tender as T-bones, but for a lot less money. And when the cheap cuts are on sale? That’s a double-whammy that will make beef as cheap as chicken. As a bonus, using your slow cooker this summer will keep your kitchen cool.
INVEST IN A DEEP FREEZER: Store extra sale meats in a deep freezer, enabling a variety of choices, from chicken and pork to beef and ground turkey. The savings earned by purchasing meats and frozen products on sale will pay for the cost of the deep freezer within a few months or less.
SWITCH TO LOW-PRICED MEATS: Chicken and turkey are the cheapest meats available, so incorporate more of them into meals by switching out higher- priced beef or pork one to two times per week.
MEATLESS MONDAY: Dedicate at least one day per week to a meatless meal. Incorporate new sources of protein through legumes, such as beans and lentils. Look to eggs and cheese as the basis for delicious dinner entrees.
MEAT AS A SIDE DISH: There is some thought that Americans eat way too much red meat, and I suspect there’s something to that. But as an alternative to going vegetarian, consider ways to serve less meat and more vegetables. Think of meat as an accompaniment rather than the main attraction in a meal. Meat sauce over pasta is a great example, too, of how you can use meat as an ingredient.
I’ve been a member of TheGroceryGame.com for many years. I rely heavily on Teri’s List to make sure I’m spending the very least at the grocery store. I just don’t have time to do all the work myself. Trust me, it’s a lot of work to track sales, gather coupons and figure out when a sale is really a sale; when to stock up and when to wait. TGG is amazing. I’ve learned so much, not the least of which is to shop the sales!
I rarely pay full price for any grocery items. The cost of TGG membership at TheGroceryGame.com is about $1.25 per week. Check it out, then accept TGG’s kind offer of a free trial. You won’t be disappointed.
Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website. You can email her at email@example.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.