Planning A Grocery Meat List

Before heading to the supermarket, make a list of the meats you want to buy to avoid overspending and to plan weekly menus.

Shopping for meats can be prohibitive due to cost and health concerns. Does the store's chicken carry salmonella? Will the beef give you mad cow disease? And how about the price of that roast?

To avoid spending time worrying and haggling in the meat department, plan a protein menu for the week in advance so you will know what to look for when you walk in the store, thus saving time and effort.

Start by checking newspaper, radio, and Internet ads at your favorite store. See what's on sale and determine which of those meat cuts you can use for the recipes you have in mind for the next week or so. Jot down a list of planned purchases or circle the selected items in the mailer or newspaper ad. Clip coupons if necessary, or download them from the store's Web location.

Next, check your recipe collection to see what you could make from the sale items. If sausage is on sale, how about beans and sausage or home-made soup? But if boneless beef ribs, which no one in the family likes, are this week's special, you may have to forego that item and look for something more popular. Look for low-cost, low-fat entrees that use a minimal amount of meat to reduce cholesterol concerns.

Don't forget to consider the budget. If you can save twenty cents a pound on roasting chickens this week, look for meals that can feature that particular entree. But if the ground beef you're hoping for costs less per pound only when you buy five pounds or more, decide if you really want to pay the overall price for that much beef. Sure, you can freeze the extra, but how does the five-pound package jive with the weekly meat budget? Consider substituting ground turkey for part of the recipe if that item is cheaper than ground beef.

Try to get meats that everyone enjoys. While that may not be possible for all meals, choose something for each family member for one day of the week: meatloaf for your spouse on Sunday, hotdogs for little Billy on Monday, pork loin for Susie on Tuesday, and so on.

Now you're ready to go shopping. Pack your coupons or ads and head for the store at a time when it's less crowded. At the meat counter, examine the cuts you wish to purchase. Do they look lean, fresh, and sizable? Sometimes the sale items fail to live up to expectations, so check out your planned purchases carefully.

Ask about in-store specials or take advantage of free samples, especially if it's something you don't normally buy. City chicken, lamb, and veal are not as popular as other meats in the United States, so give these a try when they're available as a possibility of serving something different.

With a little forethought, you can plan a nutritious week of menus centered around or including healthy, affordable cuts of meat. Avoid buying at the last minute or you may sacrifice freshness and a budget price.

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