A lot of people starting out with Zero Carb are often worried about the costs involved. Yes, meat can be very expensive and it is true that you get what you pay for when it comes to buying meat. However, there are quite a few of us who manage to eat very well on a budget.
Here I will take a look at some of the ways you can keep the costs down when buying your meat and some useful ways of preparing budget cuts so that you don’t feel like you will be eating something as tough as shoe leather should you opt for the cheaper end of the meat market.
Check the reduced isle
First of all, if you tend to shop at a supermarket for your main shop each week, then it can pay to check in the reduced section for cut-price meat and fish. Different supermarkets reduce the price of their food at certain times of the day, but quite often a lot of meat gets reduced close to closing time, especially if the meat has a short date on the package, or you have a butchers counter where they wrap up the odds and ends to sell off cheap before the end of the shift.
Also make sure to check the special area where they put damaged goods out for sale at reduced prices. I have often found dented tins of fish and boxes of eggs where one egg in the pack has been broken. these items sell for a fraction of the original price.
Make friends with a butcher
If you are lucky enough to have a butchers shop in the place where you live, then make them your best friend! You could go in and negotiate a weekly or monthly paid deal with your butcher for a weekly fresh meat supply. You can decide on what goes into your selection or you can leave it to the butcher to decide. Quite often letting your butcher choose what they give you means you get a lot more for your money. You could get a generous amount of something they are overstocked with one week, or you could be given something at a knock-down price that someone else ordered, but didn’t collect. You could end up with a deal that works out cheaper than buying supermarket meat.
Buy at source
There are lots of meat farmers online who offer boxed meat deals directly to the public. Cutting out the middle man can save you a small fortune, especially if you have the available freezer space to accommodate a large amount of meat delivered in bulk.
There are a few places that will sell you a whole cow, pig or lamb for example. OK you will need to either have a huge empty freezer to stash your meat, or you could go in with a couple of friends to buy a share each to reduce the cost and the need for storage. Green Pasture Farms is a good example if you want to look at what you get when you buy a whole animal.
Online Butcher Bargains
There are a few good online butchers that tend to do one-off flash sales that can prove to be an absolute bargain. Again, you will need to buy in a decent enough quantity to make it worth your while because you will usually have a deliver charge to pay on top that can make the bargain buy a little less tempting. Also, be careful of any special requirements you need to meet before qualifying for a deal. Muscle Foods require a minimum basket of £25 to qualify for an order, so if you are tempted by their 99p special offer bags of minced beef steak, then you will have to spend at least £25 on site to get the deal.
The Meat Man also do wonderful flash sales of Tomahawk steaks and 28 oz rump steaks quite regularly throughout the year at very low prices. Aside from these meaty bargains, they also do a very good freezer selection deal that is available all year round where you get 3 x £20 meat packs for £40. One pack of pork, one pack of chicken and one pack of beef. You choose the pack items within each drop down selection.
Supermarket meat will always be competitively priced because of their huge buying power. Although I am sure we would all choose to buy from butchers and direct from producers where possible, sometimes our budgets don’t allow. However, meat sourced from the supermarket can be really good quality. For example Aldi carry a very good range of fresh meat that is farm assured and sourced from British and Irish farms.
Whichever supermarket you choose to shop with, there will always usually be some meat on special offer, whether that is spring lamb at half price, beef joints at Christmas at a reduced price per kilo, or pork shoulder offered on a weekly special, or a 3 for 2 deal.
Supermarket basic or own brand meats, such as Tesco Boswell Farm etc., will always be at a price that undercuts it’s main branded equivalent. For example, my main staple is minced beef and I buy enough 1 kg packs of Boswell Farm minced beef to last me the whole week. Any that don’t get used up can be frozen and thawed to use another day.
Other cheap staples to look out for are bags of frozen pork chops, 1 kg trays of chicken legs, blocks of supermarket own brand cheese and boxes of free-range eggs. If you like fish, you can look out for supermarket own brand tinned tuna, salmon and sardines. Although be careful not to buy fish tinned in vegetable oil or any that come packed in tomato sauce – certainly not ZC friendly. Quite often you can pick up tinned red salmon at reduced prices, especially near Christmas. I tend to buy up a few tins and squirrel them away to use throughout the year.
How to deal with tougher cuts of meat
Buying cheaper cuts of meat doesn’t mean they have to be tough, chewy or used to re-sole your shoes! You can tenderise your meat with a few little tips and tricks so that you will feel like you are eating prime steak all the time.
I have heard that people can tenderise meat using salt. I get the science behind how this works and can appreciate that is is a pretty simple way to transform an otherwise tough steak into something that melts in your mouth. However, I personally lack the patience for this being a ‘grab meat and cook it’ type of girl. For those who are interested in tenderising meat using salt, here is a nice video from the Cooking with Jack Show that demonstrates the technique well.
Something I have tried and do own is a handy little meat tenderiser gadget that has worked every time to produce good results. This tenderiser is also a weapon of mass destruction, so should never be left within reach of small children…..or irate teenagers…!
Oh yes, it looks innocent enough here, but be warned! It has 48 wicked-sharp blades that are made for stabbing and piercing. While it does look like a D.I.Y. acupuncture tool, it does make short work of gristle and connective tissues in tough cuts of meat, such as feather blade stake and rump steak etc.
See what I mean! Keep this well away from anyone wishing to do you harm. Having said that, this tenderiser also makes a great stress-relief tool. You can work out a lot of frustrations by stabbing lots of little holes in tough piece of meat and work all of your tensions out of your system. Especially good for when you have had you ears chewed off by a militant vegan or a well-meaning family member who does not believe you can survive without eating fruit and veg.
You can buy these meat tenderisers at a very reasonable price here from Amazon.
If you would like to share your meat tenderiser tips, or you know of a great source for buying fresh meat, or you would like to share your budget ideas, then do let me know.