Which is the better buy: Pork bone-in tenderloin for $2.97 per pound or boneless pork chops at $3.47 per pound, appearing this week in my local supermarket’s weekly ad? If you answered the roast, you’re in good company (most of us would), and we’d be wrong.
Price-per-pound can be misleading because not all cuts of meat and poultry yield the same number of servings per pound.
You can feed twice as many people from boneless pork chops as from bone-in pork sirloin roast because the boneless chops have about four servings per pound, compared to two servings per pound for the 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.
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. 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 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 leg quarters on sale for $7.00, or 70 cents each. (As I write, my supermarket has chicken quarters on sale for $.99 a pound, not too far off this example). Serve each person one leg/thigh quarter with an inexpensive but filling side dish such as rice, potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. Round out the meal with canned or frozen corn or beans to keep the total cost in the dollar neighborhood.
It’s Give and Take
She goes on, “I don’t deny my family an occasional steak. I simply make sure that I go well below a 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 about a dollar per person?”
Challenging, Not Impossible
There’s no doubt that in these inflationary times we’re facing, finding buck-a-meal options out there will be challenging. But not impossible! It means finding the store’s loss leaders (items priced below cost just to get you into the store). It means shopping at the low cost grocery store or discount warehouse club. It means weighing and portioning carefully.
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 dollar per person per meal. Estimate. And don’t worry too much about the cost of seasonings or other practically negligible ingredients.
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, the University of Nebraska’s Cooperative Extension has done all the math and created two simple charts you can print to take with you to the supermarket.
Or use this free online calculator based on the information provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension (Buying Meat by the Serving).
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