You read that right. We buy meat twice a year. I have been doing this for years now and it works out really well! I would imagine that for those who live in the ‘lower 48’ it would be even easier to implement this system and save yourself some serious money in the long run. With the price of meat rising almost monthly, I thought it would be the perfect time to share with you how I have been able to handle the rising costs and still keep my freezers full!
Most grocery stores have huge meat sales and we are no different here in rural Alaska. The first one of the year is somewhere around tax time – between March and April. We take our tax refund and buy up meat while it is on sale. The second time there is a large meat sale is later in the year around September/October. In Alaska, we are paid a dividend from the state for revenue on the oil that is pumped out on the North Slope and we use that money to again buy meat. (Now, before you get all riled up about us getting ‘free money’ here in Alaska, the Permanent Fund Dividend generally isn’t enough to cover even one mortgage payment or rent payment. It is crazy expensive to live here! I pay $950 rent for a 2 bedroom apartment and that is considered cheap. Most 2 bedroom places with nothing included run $1,200-$1,500 a month.)
We make sure to buy family packs of hamburger and instead of buying beef and pork steaks, we buy roasts and tenderloins! If you think about it, many steaks started out in the butcher shop as a chunk of meat large enough to be a roast. I will never buy pork steaks or chops again because it is so much cheaper to buy a pork loin and cut the steaks myself. I get more control over how much fat (or how little) there is on each cut and how thick I want them. On top of all that, I can add some spices or herbs before I package them up.
We also do not buy canned pork, chicken, or beef anymore. It is part of the cycle! When meat gets close to the one year mark in the freezer bags, we take them out and thaw them for pressure canning. Talk about stretching your dollar! You bought the meat on sale a year before and are now going to jar it up so that it will last another year to 18 months and it is shelf-stable to boot! No refrigeration needed. Add it to some stew starter and you have a home cooked meal in no time. You know exactly how everything was processed. You have more control over how much fat, salt, etc is in your food and you saved money doing it, too. Talk about a win-win all around! That’s right Mom, put on those shades because you are a rock star!
Other than the meat purchase, there are some other investments that I had to make for this cycle to truly pay off in the long run. I needed a vacuum sealer and we ended up having to buy a smaller chest freezer, too. We already had the pressure canner and jars. I realize that these may be unrealistic purchases for some people and that is OK. It’s not like we were able to just go out and drop $300+ on equipment. I bought the vacuum sealer and the chest freezer on sale at two separate times. I have learned a lot of tips and tricks when it comes to using the vacuum sealer, too. Don’t be discouraged by the additional purchases: it is an investment and can be done over time. You can do this!
I would realistically, conservatively, say that the cost of the vacuum sealer and freezer paid themselves off within the first year. Think about how much freezer burnt stuff you end up tossing out a year. Growing up, we would toss 1 out of every 4 packages of meat away because it was too far gone and we were a small family. I couldn’t imagine how much meat would get tossed in a larger family! Food is expensive!
One other caveat I must include here is that we are lucky enough to live in a place where the salmon come back every year and we can harvest up to 6 salmon a day per person. Those are regular sport fishing regulations, too! So if we spent a few days and get our limit, we can get all of our salmon stocked up in a week or two which still leaves time for the day jobs, brining and smoking, and pressure canning it all up (or tossing it into the freezer of course!) We also are able to go hunting for deer and grouse that supplements our meat stock. Even if we weren’t able to supplement, I would still only buy meat twice a year. I know not everyone will be able to gather their own meat like that but getting into a nice annual cycle really helps you to save money, sanity, and budget much easier, too!
- Buy meat in bulk and on sale. Instead of steaks, buy roasts and cut your own steaks! Buy family packs for the savings.
- Vacuum seal into family sized portions and date them. Freeze for up to a year.
- Any meat left in the freezer for 9-12 months gets thawed and pressure canned (stop buying canned meat!).
What are some tips and tricks YOU use to save yourself money on food over the year? Give us a comment below, we LOVE hearing from the fans!
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