Think Cost Per Serving, Not Price Per Pound

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.

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9 replies
  1. Sherri says:

    It’s really hard to find meat like roasts, steaks, or good pork chops where I live that have bones in them!!!! Even chicken breasts are almost always boneless / skinless. Not that I ever have the money to buy steak, roast, or boneless / skinless chicken breasts (disabled retired senior on a very fixed income), but although you do get more edible meat / lb with no bones, the bones add a SIGNIFICANT amount of flavor to the meat. In fact, if I’m going to splurge on a pot roast, I’m going to make darn sure it has a bone in it!! I often buy beef shank slices with the bone & bone marrow & cook them in my slow cooker using a pot roast recipe from Paula Deen. Low & slow, all day long, those relatively inexpensive shanks come out soooooo tender & flavorful, lust like pot roast, with the most delicious broth / gravy. I also cook onion wedges, garlic cloves, baby carrots, & red or gold potatoes with the shanks, but added after the meat has cooked for several hours. This normally tough cut of meat wouldn’t be nearly so flavorful without the bones. Besides, they’re just the right size for a treat for our 2 small dogs.

  2. CoffeeGarden says:

    It appears that when calculating the cost the bone is considered a disposable waste product rather than a useable one. The cost changes if you factor in using the bone to make broth for soups or to flavor other items such as grains, potatoes, vegetables, etc. Using the whole cut of meat, including the bone, lessens the expense of purchasing stock, bouillon, canned soups.

    • crabbyoldlady says:

      I agree. All my bones become soup. It’s also true that meat with the bone in just tastes better. I would never buy a boneless pork chop.

  3. crabbyoldlady says:

    I’d love to know who you are feeding that requires only 4 ounces of meat for a meal. Even my young grandchildren eat more than that.

    • skye says:

      Doctors and the ADA recommend about 4 ounces, a serving about the size of a deck of cards, as a right sized portion of meat or fish. The rest should be vegetables and , if you eat starches at all, those should be unprocessed veggies or whole grains.

      • Toast Points says:

        Yes.. and that’s just total bull. That size would be suitable for an anorexic, not a normal kid, much less an adult.

      • Mike says:

        Not necessarily I get 5/1 burger patties (That’d be 5 patties per #, so less than 4 oz) and we all do fine with that as a cheese burger, usually with a salad and chips or fries. I do 5 oz Chicken breasts usually. And there’s 3 # of beef in my usual batch of spaghetti sauce that usually gets us at least 2 meals for 4 people which comes out at under 4 oz per person as well.

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