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52 Different Ways to Save $100 Per Year: Eat Less Meat {Week 31}

Every week in 2013, I’ll be sharing a different way you can save $100 this year. If you do all of these things, you’ll be able to save over $5,000 this year alone! Many of these things will likely be things you’re already doing, but hopefully all of you will pick up at least a few new ideas or some inspiration from this series.

If you cut your meat consumption by $2 per week, that’s over $100 in savings per year! For most families, it wouldn’t be too hard to cut back on $2 worth of meat each week — especially if you’re willing to get a little creative.

Here are three ideas we’ve used to spend less on meat:

1. Substitute 30-50% of the Meat With Legumes

If your family isn’t keen on the idea of going completely meatless, stretching your meat with legumes is a great way to save money while still eating meat. Mexican dishes, bean soups, and chili are recipes that you can pretty easily add in extra beans to replace some of the meat without most people realizing it.

Lentils hide especially well in taco meat, too. Just add in cooked lentils to your ground beef along with your usual seasonings and there’s a good chance your family won’t even notice!

2. Go Meatless Meal Once a Week — For a Cause

Consider being intentional about skipping meat one night per week. While it can be a bit of a sacrifice, if you decide as a family to go meatless for a cause, it becomes much easier to do.

Maybe you go meatless in order to save money toward a family vacation. Or you go meatless to help pay down debt. Even if you don’t really need the extra savings for paying down debt or another savings goal, I’d still encourage you to consider going meatless in order to give the money saved to someone in need.

Making this sacrifice as a family can provide a great springboard for conversations on how richly blessed we are with abundance. It can be eye-opening and life-impacting for your whole family.

Plus, meatless doesn’t have to mean tasteless. Try making Bean & Cheese Burritos, breakfast for dinner, or even meatless lasagna. Need more ideas? Check out this list of 52 Meatless Meals that I posted earlier today. You can also read my post on How to Live on Beans & Rice for a Week.

Tip: Make a big batch of Crockpot Refried Beans for the freezer and use them to make Bean & Cheese Burritos for quick and easy lunches, dinners, and snacks.

3. Make Meat a Garnish

Stop centering your meal around meat as the main thing and instead view meat as a garnish. Use it as a topping for pizza or salads, or stir some into stir fries or soups.

The less the meal’s focal point is a big hunk of meat, the more you’ll likely save.

How do you save money on meat? I’d love to hear your ideas & tips!

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  • Martina says:

    Shred your Meat…it seems to go so much further, compared to being sliced or cubed

      • Jodi says:

        This tip works well with cheese and other items, as well. If you want to stretch the cheese, grate it on a smaller side of the grater. It will be a finer shred and will seem like more. If I want to stretch an expensive veggie such as red peppers, I will sometimes chop it more finely to better incorporate it into the dish.

        • awmeme says:

          Same with tomatoes. Whenever my mom has a tomato to she needs to strecth she hands it to me. I very finely dice it then mix it in whatever usually taco salad for tacos. One tomato stretches enough if needed be to feed a five of six people.

  • Rebecca says:

    I love meat. Really, I do. Total meatitarian. I have, however, found a type of food that doesn’t make me miss meat AT ALL: vegetarian indian dishes. There are many meatless indian dishes, from vegetable curries to kormas to aloo gobi. TONS. And oh my goodness are they good. They don’t have to be spicy, either. Many call for spices that you may have to hunt down, such as ground coriander, tumeric, or cumin seeds, but it makes one delicious meal. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything because it just has so much flavor and is so filling. I am normally not big on most good-for-you veggies like cauliflower, but in vegetable korma or aloo gobi, I’ll eat it all day long and love every bite. There are also a lot of lentil dishes in indian cooking, and lentils are dirt cheap.
    Don’t be afraid to try new cooking styles. Some ethnic foods can be so delicious and also very cheap. Here in america, many of our dishes center around meat. That is not the case in many cultures. If I ever had to go vegetarian, I couldn’t do it by sticking to american-style vegetarian meals such as regular ol salads, green beans, etc. I want some flavor. Something exciting. So think outside your usual and look up new recipes for dishes from around the world! Check out ethnic food stores, broaden your foodie horizons.

    • Heather says:

      Completely agree.
      I love meat. I’m hungry by 9 pm if I try an American-style meatless meal. But some great Indian food, on the other hand . . . . I still am surprised every time how I don’t miss the meat. Although I do make Indian chicken recipes also.
      I bought an Indian food cookbook years ago, and although it was a bit of a splurge back then, it has been worth it and more.

      • Crystal says:

        I love these suggestions!

      • Raquel Evans says:

        I have the same problem with getting hungry again, even with a normal ‘veggie protein’ meal like beans and rice. And I’ve just discovered that I love Indian spices (I’ve been putting turmeric in almost everything recently), so you might have convinced me to try going meatless… if I can talk my husband into it. 🙂

    • Smita says:

      Hi Rececca, I am originally from India and loved to read that you like Indian food so much. Yes, the meatless recipes are delicious and once you get started, you don’t have to hunt down for the spices as you will have a stockpile of spices which last for a while as you need very little each time.
      In order to lengthen the longevity and aroma of spices I put them in an air-tight container and it them in the freezer.

  • Rebecca says:

    For the past for month we have been eating a lot of meatless meals and one our our favorites is Baked Cheese and Penne …we call it the “Meatless Wonder Meal.” LOL! Here’ the recipe link:::

  • If anyone is concerned about finding vegetarian proteins, some of the best vegetarian proteins include seitan (wheat germ protein for those who want to avoid soy), tofu of course, quinoa (a grain you cook like rice), and portobello mushrooms. A little of those goes a long way, and can help your family forget that they’re not eating meat. 🙂

  • Mrs. Waste Not says:

    Homemade pizza is great for those who are resistant to meatless. Many people will eat it readily without meat, and you can always throw on a few slices of inexpensive pepperoni for those who insist. I can make a $1.99 package of it last for a month or more.

  • Ashley b says:

    Just showed the list to my husband, and he shot down every idea! Oh well.

    • Lana says:

      My husband does not care for meatless meals either but I have found that meatless to him means beans. He is fine with meat free pasta dishes. It took me years to figure that out.

    • Jennifer C. says:

      Buying a part of a cow might be a cheaper option if your husband likes meat. We shared a cow and bought 1/4 one year and 1/8 another year. It worked out to be 2.69/lb for the meat. Best steaks, ever!!!

  • Ashley Penn says:

    Hubby will NOT give up steak. So we came up with a plan. We buy a $30 sirloin roast from Sam’s Club. Hubby used to work in the meat department of a grocery store in his teen years, so he learned a thing or two about cutting meat. He cuts the sirloin roast into steaks. We usually get about 30 steaks and some bits for stew beef. That’s $1 per steak! When’s the last time you saw THAT?! We vacuum seal the steak and put it in the freezer. It will last for a good long while, especially since we don’t have steak that often. Maybe once of twice a month. So it will probably last about a year, since there’s only the two of us, plus some extra for when company comes (which, again, is not often).

    Another favorite dish is pork fried rice. Most people eat it as a side dish for other Chinese food, but hubby and I found a recipe that tastes super good all by itself! It only takes about 1/3 lb. of pork. The rest is rice, veggies, and spices. And it makes a pretty big batch. The two of us eat off of it for 3 days solid.

    Occasionally, we’ll have a meatless night. What that usually winds up meaning is “baked potato night”. We make oven baked potatoes and garnish with whatever we want: broccoli, sour cream, cheese, etc. Or we’ll have mac and cheese or some other pasta dish. Our other main “meatless” night, though, is what we call “breakfast for dinner”: waffles, pancakes, or scrambled egg sandwiches. If we’re in the mood, we will have bacon, but not always. Depends on how hungry we are.

    We do eat meat about 4-5 nights a week, but the bulk of our meat is either ground chuck or chicken, both of which are pretty cheap. Especially chicken wings. Hubby makes amazing BBQ chicken wings. And no matter what, we almost always have leftovers, so our meat usually covers 2, sometimes 3 days. I realize if you’re a family with 4 kids or something, it won’t last as long. But if it’s just 2 or 3 of you, you’ll probably be ok with leftovers for most nights.

  • Christine says:

    I’m all for saving money and finding creative ways to make less expensive meals! However, it’s really important to make sure that if you’re going to be cutting down on meat that you’re still getting enough protein. Not having enough protein in your diet can be harmful to your health – it can cause problems with blood clotting, hormonal disorders, problems with digestion, metabolism, nutrient absorption and blood sugar levels, a compromised immune system (leading to more frequent and more severe infections), muscle wasting (in children insufficient weight gain and growth), and can affect the health of your skin and hair.

    When it comes to saving money, diet is one area that we are a little less willing to compromise. First and foremost is proper nutrition for good health. It’s possible to save a few dollars now, but probable you will pay with poor health (and probably large medical bills) later.

    • Amanda says:

      I’m speaking as a vegetarian, so I’m a bit biased, but most Americans get way more protein than they really need nutritionally. So, doing one meatless meal a week won’t hurt most people. That being said, there are plenty of plant-based proteins available.

    • Guest says:

      I’m not a vegetarian 🙂 but I have to agree with the other commenter that Americans get far more protein than is actually needed. Plus, a serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards which is much smaller than most Americans eat at a meal.

      • Guest says:

        Apologies, I meant to include this link to the CDC website about protein. It talks about how most Americans get more protein than is needed and also provides an example of how little is needed for an adult male to get his daily protein requirements.

        From the article:
        1 cup of milk has 8 grams of protein
        A 3-ounce piece of meat has about 21 grams of protein
        1 cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein
        An 8-ounce container of yogurt has about 11 grams of protein

        Added together, just these four sources would meet the protein needs of an adult male (56 grams). This doesn’t count all the other foods that add smaller amounts of protein to his diet.

  • Christie says:

    I have gestational diabetes. In order to keep my sugars in control, I must eat very low carb (one small portion of carbs per meal–1/2 c. corn, 1/2 c. pasta or rice, 1 piece of bread, etc.)

    Unfortunately, I don’t care for the texture of beans. I’ve tried kidney, white, baked, black…I can’t get over the mealiness.

    Anyone have thoughts of other inexpensive protein sources? I already eat eggs and cottage cheese at least once a day. Peanut butter and nuts are good too, but still pricey.

  • We LOVE meat around here too but honestly, most of probably consume more than we need plus like you said, Crystal, by cutting back on it you can easily save.

    In addition to the things you listed, here are a couple of other things we do.
    1. Replace some ground beef with ground turkey. Ground turkey is less expensive and tastes pretty similar. We didn’t care for the taste of all ground turkey so I go half ground beef, half ground turkey when I make a dish. I still use all ground beef for things like meat loaf and hamburgers but for casseroles, soups etc. I can about promise you that you won’t think about it!

    2. Reduce the amount of meat in casseroles and soups. You can often cut back by 1/4 and not notice much, if any difference. And this is being written by a meat lover!

    3. Never pay full price. That might seem like a no-brainer but it’s an easy way to save. A number of grocery stores around here offer meat in family packs, which are packages of usually about 10 lbs. These packages are typically at least $1/lb cheaper than the smaller packs of meat and I buy them and then separate them into smaller portions and freeze.

    Oh and one of our favorite hearty meatless dishes is this Bean and Sour Cream Enchilada dish:

  • Rae Pingel says:

    At least once a week we have breakfast for dinner. Scrambled eggs with toast/muffins/banana bread and fruit or pancakes with applesauce are very popular with all our kids.

  • Great tips Crystal! Here are the ways I save money on meat:

    1) Meat Markdowns- I can get great deals on meat by checking for markdowns. The stores in my area that markdown meat are Walmart, Save-a-Lot, and Winn Dixie.

    2) Eat More Pasta- My family loves pasta and I know this is one meal I can go meatless on and they won’t mind. Serve it with a filling bread, a vegetable, and maybe a dessert. I try to make it so good that they forget about the meat!

    Hope these tips help and everyone has a wonderful Wednesday~

  • I like the comment about liking Indian meatless meals even though they didn’t normally like meatless dishes.

    We can get so set in our food culture rut that trying to alter a usual meal by removing the meat can make it not appealing to us. Sometimes trying something totally different, where you are not expecting meat at all is the way to go. We release any expectations about how a meal should taste and simply appreciate the dish for what it is.

    One of our favorite dishes here in China is fried eggs and tomatoes which they serve over rice. In America I never would have thought to serve scrambled eggs on rice, but it is a very popular dish here and we like it a lot.

    • Katie says:

      The biggest way that I have found to cut down on the cost of meat is to buy mainly chicken. I buy chicken breast when they go on sale for less than $2 lb. Chicken is so versatile and low in fat and calories. I like to grind the chicken up in my food processor and use it in place of other ground meats and it is also a lot cheaper than buying ground meat at the grocery store. I also like to precook it, that way it makes cooking dinner much quicker when I forget to take the meat out of the freezer earlier in the day.

    • Guest says:

      That sounds very tasty but possibly bland…do they put specific spices or seasonings on it? Are the tomatoes fresh (like diced)? I’d like to try it – thanks for sharing!

  • Rebecca says:

    This is a great way to save a few dollars! Crystal is suggesting to cut back, not cut out, meat. We have a family of 6. I have definitely found ways to save money in regards to our meat consumption. Buy the “cheaper” cute of meat, or those on sale, and plan meals around that. Bone-in versions of meat are significantly cheaper, and easy to debone at home. We also buy some of our meat when it gets “marked down” because it is close to the sell by date. I cook or freeze it right away. I also learned to use less meat and more veggies. I make stir fry, soups or casseroles often. My family does not even notice that I cut the meat amount in 1/2 and add extra veggies. Many times I can cut steak or pork very thinly for stirfry and no one notices. If I do buy chicken breasts I cut them in half and pound them thinner. Most of us eat meat portions that are too big. Pounding or slicing meat thin gives us the illusion that we have lots of meat, but its a more appropriate serving size.

  • J in VA says:

    We usually eat meats from animals eating grass and GMO free grains (poultry.) They tend to be pricey but these are the things we learned:

    *there is less waste that conventional meats–ie less fat and shrinkage
    *they are more filling
    *our family of 3 can use 1/2 pound in a recipe for 1 pound (unless meatloaf or burgers)
    *by eating this way we spend less money at the pharmacy and doctor’s office
    *a whole chicken is 3-5 meals depending on size
    *a large bone-in roast is 3-4 meals

  • Leah says:

    I am a beef producer – and I market natural beef to local families. Just at tip for everyone: look for local producers that sell freezer beef. Many of us have a superior product that is less expensive that purchasing retail. By purchasing direct from producers, there is less overhead. Another great option when doing this is cowpooling: going together with another family member or friend and splitting a bulk beef purchase. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I did not comment for sales purposes, just wanted to get an idea out of how to save money on meat. I have seen other producers (pork and lamb) participate in sales like this.

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