What Not to Buy at Your Grocery Store Meat Department
Every day that I work at the Lulawissie Gas and Grocery, I deal with people that want things cut up, filleted cubed, ground, chopped, etc. My company has decided that they will have us begin keeping many items in the meat case that fit that description, but at a pricey premium. Hopefully here I can enlighten and educate some of you into how to save some money when shopping from the local grocery store meat case.
There are some simple rules to follow:
1. Never buy anything that is packaged as a pre-cut item. Fajitas, stir fry, lean cubes, kabob cubes, thin sliced cutlets (beef, veal, pork or chicken), etc. are all marked up in price for the cutting convenience, sometimes as much as $3 a pound, but usually $1-$2 per pound. The Solution: Pick out a cut of meat that you want cubed, sliced or chunked and ask the meat cutter to cut it up for you. He cannot raise the price and has to sell it to you for the original price on the package. Make your stew meat from whatever meat you choose; usually a shoulder roast works the best.
Some markets offer Meatloaf Mix (a 2-1 mixture of ground beef and pork). The mix is usually quite a bit higher in price than the individually packaged ground beef and pork. The Solution: Ask for separate portions of each ingredient at the regular price.
2. Ready Made “Gourmet” Meals: A total rip off. The only thing good about these meals is the convenience, but you pay dearly for that. Let’s take a Chicken Cordon Bleu from my store for instance. It is a boneless/skinless chicken breast that is run through the cuber once, a slice of Swiss cheese and a slice of lunchmeat ham. The three ingredients are rolled up in the flattened and cubed chicken breast, sprinkled with Parmesan breading, and laid on a 3 oz. bed of fresh spinach. Sounds good, but you are paying a premium for it. The chicken breasts are about $4.29lb ($1.99lb when on sale); the lunch meat ham is $3.99 a pound, the Swiss cheese about 6.00 a pound. The spinach sells for around 2.99 for a 12 oz. bag (which makes it about 4.00 a pound).
So think about what you are getting: An 8oz chicken breast, 1 slice each of lunchmeat ham and Swiss cheese (both store brand), 3 oz. of store brand fresh spinach, a dusting of parmesan breading, also the store brand. All of this will be sold for $9.99 a pound. What a rip off!
The Solution: Make your own! For those kinds of prices, you could eat out and get the same thing in a meal that is much better in quality. You can buy a boneless/skinless breast, pound it with a tenderizing hammer, or if you don’t own one, just “butterfly” it (cut it in half laterally, but not all the way through). Get a slice of ham, a slice of Swiss cheese and lay it on the breast, roll it up and voila! Chicken Cordon Bleu! It is easy to look at the pre-prepared meals and figure out how to improvise at a fraction of the cost.
Be very careful of seasoned cuts of meat, ribs and chicken. Many times the meat cutters will pull close-dated or “off color” products from the shelf and season them heavily to cover any imperfections. Buying these items is never a good idea. Again, choose an item and ask the meat cutter to season it for you, usually at no extra charge.
Meat Loaf, Meat Balls and Salisbury Steak: All are made from the same recipe: Ground Chuck, a can of tomato sauce and a large pouch of McCormick Meat Loaf Seasoning. It’s all mixed together and plopped into a pan. Yum yum!
3. Make Your Own Kabobs: Kabobs are a popular summer grilling item. The store-prepared kabobs usually consist of 4 or 5 cubes of Top Sirloin, some onion and bell pepper pieces with a grape tomato on each end. The Sirloin usually sells for around 6.99 a pound, but for the convenience, you are paying about $8.99 a pound for a pair of kabobs. That’s also $8.99 a pound for bell peppers, onions and the little grape tomatoes….not to mention the bamboo sticks.
4. Pre-cut “grilling vegetables”: Many times during the summer, you will see pre-packaged sliced vegetables sold alongside the steaks and chops. Usually these veggies consist of yellow and green squash or large mushrooms. Again, these items are marked way up. The same thing is done with ear corn and baker potatoes. Usually the ones that are packaged and merchandized this way are the ones that are about to go bad.
Always remember to check the dates on the packages. The farther out the expiration date is, the fresher the product is. Beef and pork are usually dated for 5 days, but some chicken, especially the white meat cuts can get as much as 10 days if they are prepackaged at the factory. Your best bet for chicken is to buy a “WOG” (whole organically grown). They are pricier but are usually fresher and cleaner than name brand or store brand fryers. You can have them cut up for free also.
Ask your meat guy where the store brand chicken comes from. Many times it is supplied by a popular name brand operation, such as Tyson or Perdue. When going with name brands, my personal preference is to go with Perdue, Claxton, Sanderson Farms or whatever locally grown suppliers you have in your area. In my opinion, Tyson is too “over-produced” for my liking. They have a good product, but I prefer the other.
There is a lot going on behind the scenes in your local grocery store, and hopefully I can enlighten you as a shopper to help you save some green and enjoy a fresher product.
As always, I appreciate you stopping by to read what I have put down. Remember to enjoy life, love your family and friends and always give thanks, even for the bad stuff. Have a good evening.
© 2011 by Del Banks