Reader Q&A: 5 Ways to Save on Kosher Meat

question 150x150 Reader Q&A: 5 Ways to Save on Kosher MeatToday’s reader question comes from Rachel. She’s wondering about how to save on the cost of kosher meat.

I would love to know how you save money on kosher meat. As you know this type of meat is very expensive and I have never seen coupons for it. Since my family is not strictly vegetarian, I continue to purchase meat. However, I have tried to cook some vegetarian meals during the week to save money. I would love to hear your input.

Great question, Rachel! And the truth is – it’s hard. When I read non-kosher frugal blogs, I want to cry at the cost of their meat – hamburger meat for $.99/lb?! Boneless chicken breasts for $1.99/lb?!

Ow.

We will never be able to pay THAT little for kosher meat, but my husband and I have discovered a few strategies that allow us to keep the cost of meat from completely overtaking our budget.

#1. Eat meat on Shabbat and Yom Tov, not during the week. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but I’d say that 90% of our weekday meals (Sunday – Thursday nights) are vegetarian. If we have left-overs from Shabbat, or we’re having a Sunday night BBQ (common in the summer), we’ll have meat. But otherwise, we eat veggie. I know this wouldn’t work for everyone – but if you can cut out even two meat dinners a week, that will definitely save you at least $10 or $20 a week – if not more!

#2. Look for meat on mark-down. This doesn’t happen very often in Kansas City, but I’ve had many readers tell me that it’s quite common in larger markets. Especially at Kroger and Kroger-affiliate stores. If fresh meat or chicken is nearing it’s sell-by date, you may find savings of up to 50% or more. Stock up and stick it in your freezer! And by the way – if the meat is at its sell-by date and it’s NOT marked down, there’s no harm in asking. I once found hamburger meat at Coscto for $2.99 a pound. It hasn’t happened again, but you can bet I check every time I’m there.

#3. Comparison shop online. I know many of us miss the meat (and sales) from Golden West Glatt, but there are other online sources. For example, when I wrote about What Happened to Golden West Glatt, a lot of you commented with good suggestions for alternative online kosher butcher. You can also check out Kosher Kuts Direct, which is one of KOAB’s newest advertisers (yes, shameless plug ;-))

And finally, if you live in one of the 12 cities that the KC Kosher Coop operates in (Atlanta, Boca Raton, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, Kansas City, Raleigh, Sacramento, Savannah or St. Louis), you should definitely compare meat prices there as well. I switched over to the Coop for hotdogs, for example, after realizing that they cost me $.75 – $1.25 less per package.  As always, a good price book will help you compare prices and make the best decisions – especially if you’re buying in bulk.

#4. Use meat as a part of the meal, rather than the main focus. This is pretty standard stretch-your-budget advice, whether you keep kosher or not. A meal of chicken stir-fry with a lot of other veggies may need two breasts to feed a family of five. A meal of chicken breasts with a side salad will need five. Ground beef can be stretched with grated carrots, zucchini and even rice. Less expensive cuts of meat taste just as good – if not better – than more costly cuts once they’ve been cooked in the crockpot. And of course, we try to creatively use up our left-overs. Chicken soup becomes chicken pot pie. Roasted chicken becomes chicken fried rice.

#5. Create margin in your budget. Our final money-saving strategy is possibly the most important: We accept the fact that there isn’t much we can do to significantly reduce the cost of kosher meat and focus instead on building margin into our budget to afford that meat. I will never be able to buy ground beef for $.99 a pound. I can, however, significantly reduce the amount I spend on other items in my budget. If I spend $10 a month on toiletries rather than $100, that’s $90 of margin. If I get my cereal for $1 per box, rather than $4, that’s $6 of margin a week. I save as much as I can where I can. And then I use most of those savings to cut my overall budget, while reserving some of them to absorb the cost of kosher meat and dairy.

How do you handle the high cost of kosher meat? What money-saving strategies am I missing? Any other advice for Rachel?

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

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Comments

  1. I have to say, 2 of my favorite Shabbat dishes come from weeks that I’m really trying to be frugal! I make a big pot of creamy chicken noodle soup (which can be a meal in itself) and can be used for at least 2 – 3 Shabbats if we don’t eat it during the rest of the week, and I use the chicken from the soup in a chicken and dumpling dish in the crock pot.

  2. I buy whole chicken which is usually cheaper (I stock up when it’s $1.99) cut off the chicken breast and freeze, then use the bones, necks and wings for chicken soup. It’s more work but definitely saved me hundreds of dollars over the years.

  3. Judith from Ottawa says:

    whenever there IS a sale on a kind of meat or chicken, I try to buy extra packages and freeze. We also can buy direct from the manufacturer by the case via a wonderful local organization! Agree, though, that eating vegetarian during the week is a great way to stretch. Now, if we could only do that for fresh fish…

  4. My family loves fleishigs. We’re cholov yisroel so meat meals actually less than dairy or fish. I cook a lot for shabbos and eat leftovers the rest of the week. if there’s a lot I freeze for another shabbos or chop up chicken in a stir fry. Once a week we might eat dairy or pareve just for variety.

  5. The kosher Jewel in Chicago tends to drastically discount its meat (particularly boneless skinless chicken breasts and chicken parts) right before Rosh Hashana and Pesach. No idea why, as I’d think that would be when they’d jack the price up, but the deals are great. Now that we own a chest freezer, we’re planning to buy a LOT of chicken during those sales and stretch it as far as we can. You should check with the kosher community in your area and see if there’s any rhyme or reason to the sales on meat – and then clear out room in the freezer!

    Also, while we can’t find fresh kosher meat too many places, a large number of grocery stores here carry the Empire frozen products, and often they have better prices than the kosher grocery stores. We can sometimes score a great deal on the frozen ground turkey – one pound will make 60-65 mini meatballs, more than enough for one meal for my family with some leftovers for lunch the next day.

  6. We go all out to find the cheapest prices on meats. Some tips that have helped – we use local wholesale meat providers (we live in Cleveland). We also buy in bulk from our local butchers. We want to give our community the business and when we buy in bulk from them they can give us more savings. I do that with whole chickens, gefilte fish (which now costs a fortune and is hard to avoid on Shabbos!) and salmon. We also buy our ground meat and turkey from Costco.

    I love your suggestion about asking the supermarket butchers to mark down close-to expired meat. I do that whenever i can!!! I once got stew/cholent meat, marked regular price at $8.99/lb for $3.99/lb! I bought 10 packages!

    I also cut my chicken cutlets lengthwise to make them go farther – and when making breaded chicken cutlets, or grilling them it helps them cook faster and more evenly.

  7. There are not too many options where I live. Costco is much cheaper than the local butchers, but sometimes the local butchers have a deal. I asked one of the butchers if there were cheaper options, and he told me he planned to clean out his freezer. He offered me several items at significant discounts because they had been in the freezer a while. It all tasted fine (I would’ve just thrown it into my freezer anyway.), and I’d rather give the business to a local butcher. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.

  8. My biggest problem is that I am allergic to dairy! I have a hard time finding good, filling meals to have during the week that are either pareve or just as filling without the cheese/milk. I would love to cut the amount of chicken I eat during the week because it does get really expensive. I am just low on ideas. Anyone have any good recipes to share?

    • Miri, on my blog mikoshercocina.wordpress.com one of recipes is chickpea spinach and potato skillet. We also eat a lot of rice and beans and lentils in our house. And I’m in some recipe share groups if you’d like the information for them.

      • I will definitely look into your blog – thank you!
        Unfortunately I am actually also allergic to lentils which includes chickpeas and peas :(

  9. We make meat about twice a week, which usually means at least one night of leftovers beyond that. The rest of the week, we eat dairy or pareve meals that often feature our “best friends” tofu and/or Beefless Ground Beef (from TJ’s).

    Just as Marsha said, we also stock up on chicken (and gefilte fish!) when it’s on sale here right before Rosh Hashanah and Pesach.

    I love boneless skinless chicken breasts, but when I buy full chickens, cut-up chickens, or legs/thighs, I sure do save $$$.

    • YaelAldrich says:

      Caroline,
      Have you done a price comparison calculation about the faux ground beef vs the real thing (whether turkey, chicken, veal or beef)? I have found that the fake kinds are no cheaper than the real thing if the real thing is on sale. I only buy the soy meat when it goes on big time sale and only then a little bit to use as a treat. Also, the soy meat is not the healthiest thing either…

      • The faux ground beef is $2.99 for 12 oz. I cannot imagine making a cholent (or other dinner options) with $3 of meat. It is true that an excess of soy may not be the healthiest. As with everything, we work toward moderation.

        • YaelAldrich says:

          When I get chuck on sale for stew, it is never less than 4.99. I have used 3/4 lb at lean times to make a lima bean soup we eat for Shabbos (for 5-6 people). For spaghetti, meatballs and things like that, I can get ground meat for 3.99 (and the last time I went to 5 Towns, I got a great special of 2.99$/lb!!! I bought 10 lbs and wish I’d gotten more). Sometimes I stretch it with TVP (which is cheaper than the soy meat analogs). I weigh it carefully and stretch with lentils, TVP, quinoa.

          Moderation is the key to a sane life, right?? ;)

          • Yael, what is TVP?

          • YaelAldrich says:

            TVP is textured vegetable protein. The same as your soy crumbles but without all the additives and flavorings and such. It comes dried in big dog kibble size and crumble sized style. It is flavorless and must be re-hydrated with broth or liquid/fat of some kind You can get it cheaply at health food stores in their bulk food sections. It is made by ADM (so you will still give $$ to the MAN) and is kosher. I usually take 3/4 lb ground meat and add a couple of tablespoons to TVP to fill out the meal (it doubles in size) and sautee in the sauce…

  10. I just try to stock up when the meat is on sale. I find that corned beef goes on sale for $6.99lb and ground beef for $3.99 lb every month, so I just buy a couple packages at a time. For chicken, I think that although boneless breasts are more expensive, they go a lot farther. For a Shabbat lunch for 8 adults, I’d use 3lbs at $5.49lb (sometimes on sale for $4.99lb), but I’d use at least 2 or more cut-up chickens which is like 6 lbs at @$2.99-3.29lb).

    If only there was a better way to buy fresh fish. We eat salmon once a week and at $7.99 or more per lb, its often more expensive than meat!

  11. I just try to limit the amount of meat we eat. On Shabbos we usually stick to chicken and only buy meat for special occasions. During the week is either leftovers, dairy or fish. If we have chicken, it’s usually in a stir-fry.

  12. YaelAldrich says:

    In my humble opinion, the scale and the freezer are the keys to being able to afford kosher chicken and/or meat for the frugally minded. I buy in bulk and use my scale to accurately weigh all the meat I repackage. I use my small chest freezer (bought second-hand of course!) to store meat when it goes on sale to eat at our leisure.

    One summer when living in Chicago, the local Jewel-Osco had Empire and another brand of kosher turkeys on sale for .99/lb. I bought as many would fit in my rental apt and when my husband went down to our home to check on it, I had him take the turkeys home and put them in my large chest freezer. I repeated that about 4 times. In all, I bought 19-20 turkeys!!

    I thawed one a week, cut it into pieces (no harder to do than a chicken) and made 1-2 turkey breasts for Shabbos (we usually had 20-25 people for Friday night dinner), crockpot turkey thighs, legs and wings for another weekday meal (just spray the interior of the crock with oil, put pieces in, season with salt and spices to taste, drizzle a little more (olive) oil on top and cook on high for 6-7 hours), and made a turkey broth with the carcass and took the leftover crockpot turkey and the meat from the broth and made a turkey pot pie or turkey tetrazzini for another meal. Half the dinner meals in a week covered by the turkey for $15-16 dollars. I was able to do that for over six months! I wish I would see that sale again (but then again I don’t have the coffin sized freezer anymore…)

  13. Like Miri, I am allergic to dairy so this really limits the milchig meals that I make. Sometimes I will make a milchig baked ziti for the family and I will eat something pareve. The Frys Supermarket (Kroger affiliate) here does put their kosher meat on managers special a few days before the expiration and I try to stock up then. I have limited freezer space so I cannot buy as much as a I would like. My family will eat dark meat chicken, so I tend to buy quarters a lot when they are on special. Last week I bought a whole chicken to make soup and then used the cooked chicken to make a pot pie. I try to stick with parts (ie; wings/drumsticks) when I can find them at the local kosher market instead of buying the ridiculously expensive boneless/skinless breasts or thighs. The thighs are great, but I find myself trimming away a third of what I buy…not too economical. Sometimes they have turkey drumsticks which are (relatively) cheap and very delicious. Now I just need to convince my carnivore of a husband to eat a vegetarian meal once or twice a week for dinner!!!!

  14. We eat a LOT of fruits and vegetables, so a few ounces of meat per person is enough for a meal as far as my family is concerned. This makes it economical for us, a 4 1/2 pound lamb roast will make almost 25 servings! I bring home a cow or lamb roast and semi-freeze it, then slice it thinly and package it in medallions for the freezer, ready to cook whenever we want it. I also make a lot of recipes where the meat is an accent, not the reason for the dish- like string beans and rice- in a savory allspice tomato sauce flavored with just a bit of lamb, or a fruited vegetable stew with just a bit of meat on the bone for flavor. Delicious and still more healthy than the usual American diet of meat with a tiny accent of vegetable.

  15. We don’t eat meat a lot, but we make up for it by eating plenty of cheese. It’s as expensive pound for pound as meat. Any ideas how to fix that problem?

    • We have the same problem. I looooove cheese. I have found that freezing it in reasonable portion sizes helps. If I have a 2-lb (or 5-lb) bag of cheese in the fridge I’m likely to eat a lot more of it ;-)

  16. Hello Mara,
    I heard that Kosher Cuts Direct is going out of business – I really loved the at-you-door service. I see that they are no longer in among your advertisers. Do you know if there is a similar service?
    Thanks,
    Raquel

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