Pop quiz: Which is the better buy: Pork sirloin roast for $2.89 per pound or boneless pork chops at $3.79 per pound? If you answered the roast, you’re in good company (most of us did), but you are wrong. Price-per-pound can be misleading because all cuts of meat and poultry will not yield the same number of servings per pound.
You can feed twice as many people from boneless pork chops as from pork sirloin roast because the boneless chops have about four servings per pound, compared to two servings per pound for pork sirloin roast. What you pay for the edible portion is the important factor.
If you want to reduce your food costs and at the same time raise your grocery shopping intelligence, start thinking cost-per-serving rather than price-per-pound.
If you could use some help figuring out how much meat to buy, cost per serving and servings per pound from all types of meat cuts, go to the University of Nebraska’s Cooperative Extension. They’ve done all the math and created simple charts you can print to take with you to the supermarket. For example, a whole chicken yields 2 – 2 1/2 servings per pound, while you can count on 3 1/2 to 4 servings from one pound of boneless chicken breasts.
Reader Jacquelyn L., North Carolina, has taken the price-per serving idea further. “I’ve tried clipping coupons religiously and planning meals, but when time runs short these methods fail me.” She says she needed a new method; something that didn’t require organization skills she doesn’t possess. She now uses the one-dollar-per-person-per-meal method. The goal is to feed her family for under one dollar per person per meal.
A perfect example of Jacquelyn’s principle would be a package of ten chicken breasts on sale for $7.00, or 70 cents each. Serve each person one breast with an inexpensive but filling side dish such as rice, potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. Round out the meal with canned corn or beans to keep the total cost under one dollar.
She goes on, “I don’t deny my family an occasional steak. I simply make sure that I go well below one dollar per person for other meals that week. We don’t want to feel deprived so I make up for indulgences by serving less expensive meals later.”
Make an inexpensive meatless meal such as red beans and rice or potato soup. Or, try stretching your meat of choice. Add breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs to ground beef. Chop up ham to add to beans or soups. Add pieces of chicken to pasta or casseroles. This dramatically reduces the overall cost of the meal so that you can easily feed your family for well under one dollar per person.
Using Jacquelyn’s buck-a-meal method, you don’t have to worry so much about if you’ve found the absolute best price. You only have to ask yourself, “Can I feed each member of my family with say this chicken for less than one dollar per person?”
This isn’t an exact science. Some meals will be more than a dollar per person, others will be less. The goal is to average a buck a meal. Estimate. And don’t worry too much about the cost of seasonings or other practically negligible ingredients.