Becoming financially stable is a prudent choice regardless of the condition of the nation’s economy. Responsible budgeting does not necessarily require extreme and uncomfortable sacrifices.
A sensible lifestyle can be achieved comfortably if several important factors are considered. Avoiding debt, especially high interest credit card debt, is the first step in economic security.
Remembering to save some money from every paycheck, even if only a small amount, creates good habits and a nest egg in case of emergency. Lastly, knowing how to make the most of every dollar will help to stretch it painlessly.
Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!
Many people feel that meat is an overpriced luxury. While meat can be the most expensive part of the grocery budget, careful shopping can make this nutrient dense food more affordable. Less expensive cuts of meat are often offered by supermarkets as a loss leader items.
These grocery selections are sharply discounted in order to draw customers into the store. If your supermarket does not limit the amount that can be purchased at a time, it may be possible to get large amounts of meat for far less than for bulk packages at the same store.
Proper packaging makes a big difference
The Styrofoam trays and shrink wrap used to package meat are not designed to keep it fresh for more than a few days in the refrigerator.
To freeze safely, meat should be removed from the store packaging and wrapped in either butcher’s paper or vacuum sealed bags. A freezer kept at or below 0F will keep meat safe indefinitely, but airtight wrapping is important for maintaining quality.
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating ground meat within three to four months and whole pieces of meat or poultry in less than a year for the best flavor and texture. Don’t forget to label the contents clearly with water resistant pens.
Organ meats are an inexpensive, nutrient dense source of nutrition, especially if the animals were grown on pasture. If your family is unwilling to eat offal, consider picking up a meat grinder. Meat grinders range in style from manual inexpensive ones to more professional use for home users.
Mixing ground organ meat with beef or pork in a one to four ratio will disguise the stronger flavors easily. This mixture can be used for any dish calling for ground beef, burgers or meatloaf.
The value of primal cuts
If custom cuts of meat are not available, purchasing whole primal cuts is generally less expensive than pre-cut steaks. Using a food slicer to cut half inch-thick steaks from the best parts of a ten-pound sirloin and then grinding the rest into hamburger will cost less than purchasing the steaks and ground meat separately.
Find local sources for custom sizes and requests
Most farmers employ organic or sustainable practices. Small packages of meat are usually available for sale at the farm, local stores or farmer’s markets.
For bulk orders, arrangements for delivery are often more flexible and the meat can be cut to your personal specifications, making packaging for the freezer quick and easy. For a small additional fee, most slaughterhouses will vacuum seal and label your meat for you.
The value of bulk
Purchasing meat in bulk directly from the farmer will save money, give you the freshest meat available and help give your local economy a boost.
Remember that leftovers that are thrown away uneaten drive up the cost of the portions that were consumed, so be careful to repackage it in quantities appropriate for your family.
Learn to stretch the meat with additional ingredients
Using frozen, thawed and crumbled tofu, cooked lentils or shredded vegetables in ground beef dishes are inexpensive ways to stretch a moderate amount of meat in a dish. Other popular ways to make a small amount of meat feed a family include adding generous amounts of sautéed garlic, onions, and peppers.
These vegetables are often used for filling out pasta sauces in cheap Italian dishes. Bread or cracker crumbs can be used to make ground meat go farther for burgers and meatloaves.
In this time of financial insecurity, it is important to make sound budgeting choices. Minimizing or eliminating debt, creating an emergency savings and spending money wisely are three ways to prevent economic crises.
Ideally, budgeting carefully will involve each of these, though how much of each is a personal decision. These shopping tips are a good place to begin learning how to live comfortable below your means.