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The Best Cheap Cuts of Meat & How To Cook Them


Whole chickens, bone-in chicken thighs, pork chops, ground beef, London Broil, and pork loin are just a few of the best meats on a budget.

But how you prepare them makes all the difference in their taste for the price.

Eating healthy gets a bad rap for being expensive. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the smartest ways to slash your grocery bill is to find cheaper cuts of meat. These cuts still contain the essential nutrients you need without the fancy filet mignon price tag.

But just because you’re buying meat on a budget doesn’t mean you should sacrifice flavor or quality.

And with the help of this guide, you’ll learn how to balance this task perfectly.

Read on to discover the most affordable meat options and how to prepare them so they’re delicious every time.

10 Cuts of Meat To Buy On a Budget

One of the best ways to save money on meat is by ditching the expensive cuts your butcher has to make.

As a general rule of thumb, the less work your butcher has to do, the cheaper the meat will be. The more time the butcher spends carving, the higher the price typically becomes.

Save money by sticking to this list of budget-friendly meats:

#1: Whole Chicken or Turkey (Fresh or Frozen)

If you’re buying packages of skinless chicken breasts, as opposed to purchasing the entire chicken, it’s going to cost you more.

And that’s because your butcher has to do more work. They must break down the whole chicken, remove the skin and connective tissue, and package each part individually.

A whole chicken or turkey averages roughly $1.46 to $1.54 per pound here in the States[*]. But those pre-cut chicken breasts are almost double the price at $3.24 per pound[*].

So roasting your own whole turkeys and chickens is an easy way to save money.

Carving out the different pieces on your own gives you a wider selection of cuts to use for meals throughout the week. It also keeps that delicious skin, which gets crispy while roasting.

To keep things manageable, you don’t have to roast a giant turkey or chicken.

Start with a rotisserie-sized bird until you get the hang of it. These should take about one and a half to two hours to cook if they’re just under four pounds.

If you don’t have the time or experience to roast a whole piece of poultry, this next cut of meat is an excellent compromise.

#2: Bone-in Chicken Thighs

Your butcher doesn’t have to do much to package chicken thighs and drumsticks. And that means they’re usually more affordable.

You may find bone-in options for as little as $1.43 per pound[*].

You’ll save money as long as you don’t choose skinless or boneless options — which add more work for your butcher (and up the price).

Plus, thighs are dark meat. They’re juicier and have more flavor than chicken breasts, which can dry out pretty quickly.

So you’re basically getting double the benefits for half the price.

The next two types of meat require a bit of work for your butcher.

But since the work isn’t very tedious, and helps them sell more, it’s still quite affordable.

#3: Ground Turkey

With ground meat, your butcher takes big, tougher chunks of meat and turns them into something more usable and tender.

While it does require work on their end, it won’t cost you as much as a rib-eye steak would.

This is because the grinding process helps your butcher in two ways:

  1. It makes tough meat easier to sell.
  2. They can sell it in a number of different forms (pre-formed hamburger patties, meatballs, packages of ground meat, etc.)

As a reward, you can find ground turkey for as low as $2.66 per pound, making it an affordable meat option[*].

And if turkey isn’t your thing, ground beef is also within a tight budget.

#4: Ground Beef

Depending on the type of ground beef you choose, you may see prices ranging from $2.92 per pound to $3.77[*][*].

Of course, these prices depend on two factors — where you live and the type of ground beef you choose.

Going with leaner ground beef options could increase the price to as much as $5.52 per pound.

So stick with the higher fat content ground beef and you’ll put close to $2 per pound back in your wallet.

While grass-fed beef may be more expensive than grain-fed, the health perks are worth the slight upcharge as you’ll learn in this guide.

You can use your savings elsewhere to make grass-fed beef your standard.

Or you can splurge on this next cut of meat which is between $3 and $4 per pound.

#5: Bone-in Pork Chops

Unlike steaks, pork chops are fairly affordable even if your butcher has to do some work.

You’ll see pork chops ranging from $3.35 per pound all the way up to $3.80 for boneless options[*].

But if you’re looking for a lean, hearty cut of beef in budget, check out this next option.

#6: Top Round Steak (London Broil)

A top round steak, which is often labeled as a London Broil, is a big cut of meat that’s usually sold as a small slab.

Since it’s on the tougher side and sold as-is, it may only cost you around $3 per pound, making it very affordable[*].

It can be a bit tough so you’ll need to give it extra time and attention. Top round is partial to long marinades and slow cookers.

Low-and-slow cooking is your best choice for this next cut of budget-friendly meat as well.

#7: Beef for Stews

Meat labeled as “beef for stews” is usually sold as a giant block you’ll need to cut up into smaller chunks.

As the name implies, this type of meat is best used in slow-cookers and soups where it has time to absorb liquid and soften. This turns the meat into tender pieces that are easier to chew.

If you can find beef roast cut as-is, it could run you as low as $5.16 to $5.44 per pound[*].

This next cut of meat is slightly higher in price, but not by much.

#8: Pork Loin

Pork loins are another affordable cut of meat you’ll want to include in your rotation if you’re following keto on a budget.

Boneless options will cost around $5.79 per pound; leaner choices are slightly cheaper at $5.28 per pound[*].

You don’t have to avoid the leaner cuts just because you’re on a high-fat diet. Add fat and flavor by cooking your meat with coconut oil or ghee. Click To Tweet

The next meat option is a great choice for budget-conscious families.

#9: Ribs

Despite the bit of work you’ll need to do, untrimmed spare ribs can run just $3.50 per pound[*].

These will also require a long and slow cooking process to get right. But don’t let that discourage you; the effort is 100% worth it.

Make a rack of homemade spare ribs just once and you’ll realize how easy and amazing they are.

If you’re new to buying spare ribs, look for untrimmed options and then remove the tough membrane of connective tissue on the back.

You can find videos online before making your trip to the grocery store to see if this is something you’re up for.

The last cut of meat is another you’re probably already familiar with.

#10: Ham

Instead of buying deli meats loaded with preservatives and nitrates, you’re better off getting a big ham and baking it yourself.

At just $3.06 per pound, you’ll be able to cut your own slices for a meal or add chunks of ham to other recipes[*].

And since you’ll be cooking it yourself, you won’t have to worry about hidden carbs or sugar from a honey-baked maple glaze.

Speaking of cooking, knowing how to prepare cheaper cuts of meat is key to whether you and your family will actually enjoy them.

This next section can help.

How to Cook Less Expensive Meats

To avoid turning your cheaper cuts of meat into chewy, flavorless dinners, keep these cooking tips in mind:

#1: Tenderize Your Meat First

Know how to transform tough, inexpensive meats into tender bites that melt in your mouth?

Use a spiked meat mallet.

Pounding makes the meat tender and helps tear through the tough muscle fiber. It also helps create tiny openings for your marinade to squeeze in and absorb.

#2: Give Meat Time to Soak Up a Marinade

Salt and pepper may be enough to give a flank steak flavor, but less expensive cuts need a little extra pizazz to wow.

So after tenderizing your meat, pop it into a plastic zip-top bag or glass Tupperware. Then pour a delicious low-carb marinade all over the meat inside to coat and soak.

You can start with a simple base of coconut aminos and olive oil, like this recipe does, or try this tangy garlic sesame sauce.

Caesar salad dressing also works well as a marinade for chicken.

Let this sit overnight (ideally 24-48 hours), or for at least an hour or two if you’re short on time.

The next tip is less general and depends specifically on the cut of meat.

#3: Cook Them Low and Slow

Big chunks of meat, such as a London Broil, chuck roast, or pork loin, are best slow-cooked at a lower temperature (think: Crock Pot).

This gives the tough meat plenty of time to soften up and absorb all the flavors and juices.

However, this same advice wouldn’t work for pork chops or ground meats.

In those cases, make sure you follow this next tip.

#4: Your Cooking Temperature and Cook Time is Crucial

Sadly, it’s really easy to overcook cheap cuts of meat.

Do this and you’ll have a meal that’s too tough to chew and leaves your jaw sore the next day.

On the flipside, perfectly cooking these cheaper meats makes them taste more expensive than they actually are.

So before you cook any of the meats on this list, check your recipe’s cook time and temperature — and follow them. You’ll have a meal fit for royalty on a much cheaper budget.

Have your meat thermometer nearby so you can check your meat before the full cook time is up. You’ll be less likely to overcook anything then.

Letting your meat rest also increases the temperature by three to four degrees, so that’s something to factor in as well.

Another small but important detail with these cheaper cuts of meat is how you slice them.

#5. Cut Across the Grain

You’ll want to cut your meat across the grain, or against the muscle fiber.

Look at your piece of meat and see which direction the muscle fibers go.

If the muscle fiber is vertical as it sits on your dish, you’ll want to slice your meat directly across the center horizontally.

This simple step breaks the long muscle fibers into shorter ones, which are much easier to chew.

Now that you know the cheapest cuts of meat and how to prepare them, use the following money-saving tips to pocket even more.

5 Tips for Buying Meat on a Budget

Working with a limited grocery budget doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Use these expert tips to make healthy eating your new way of life:

#1: Buy in Bulk Whenever Possible

The more work you cut for your butcher, the lower your meat prices.

And that’s exactly what happens when you buy meat in bulk — whether at your grocery store or at discount clubs like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club.

Some meat suppliers also sell in bulk directly to consumers, which can save you even more. Check out this directory of meat suppliers to see what’s offered in your state.

If you’re not into buying the entire animal (more on this next), at least buy your meats in bulk to save extra cash.

#2: Buy the Entire Animal and Join a Meat Share

One of the best ways to save money when buying meat is to purchase the entire animal from local farmers or ranchers.

Buying a whole cow, for example, may give you up to 200 pounds of meat for a fraction of the cost at a grocery store.

The downside is that you’re basically buying a few month’s worth of meat all at once, which can come with a hefty price tag.

If you can fork it over, it’s well worth it.

And if you can’t, you can get creative.

You could split the cow with your friends and family, or join a local meat share.

Then you can take home half or even a quarter of the animal. This still yields an incredible cost-savings and stocks you up for at least a few weeks.

Start small by buying whole chickens or whole turkeys.

Once you see how easy and affordable it is to buy the entire animal, instead of cut up portions, you can graduate to larger animals.

And you should always follow the next tip.

#3: Stock Up During Sales

Get to know your grocery store’s sales flyer to find out when new sales hit the shelves.

Plan to do your grocery shopping on the first day of the sales so you have full access to discounted products before they run out.

Stocking up after holidays — on hams and turkeys, for example — will keep your freezer full for less.

Despite the extra legwork, this next tip will help you score huge savings in an unexpected way.

#4: Pick a Day to Price Shop

Plan a day to visit all your local grocery stores to compare their everyday prices for meat.

Make a list with all the cuts of meat you usually buy and the prices each store normally averages for them.

Do this every six to eight months to see how prices change over time and whether sales really discount much.

It may sound tedious at first but you’ll be surprised by what you uncover.

The final tip not only saves money but also gives you a healthier option.

#5: Make Your Own Deli Meats and Jerky

Slicing your own deli meat, grinding your meat, and making your own jerky saves money similar to buying whole chickens.

Another benefit is your yield.

When making jerky or deli meats, for example, you’ll have more than just the ten slices a typical package comes with.

This stretches your dollar further and helps you stay stocked up for a bit so you don’t have to do it too often.

You’ll also know exactly what’s in your meat snacks when you start making them yourself.

With these helpful tips in mind, you’ll finally be able to enjoy high-quality meats on a budget.

The Takeaway: You Can Eat High-Quality Meat on a Budget

You just have to know what you’re doing at the grocery store and in the kitchen.

Stick to these 10 cheaper cuts of meat and you can afford to buy the organic, grass-fed (and grass-finished) options which are better for you.

Then follow the right cooking methods to make your meat taste like a million bucks.

You’ll have no trouble eating a healthy keto diet without breaking the bank.

Save this guide now so you can refer back to it before your next grocery haul!


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