Here’s the thing—I want to tell you to go meet your local farmer, hit the city farmer’s market a couple of times a week, order half a cow and have it butchered, do the same for pork, and go hunting so you can bag yourself a buck and make venison sausages.
Raise chickens in the back yard and become a connoisseur of roasting wild game tracked and caught by your own hand— pheasant, squirrel, rabbit, duck, and raccoon… Actually, barbequed raccoon is unexpectedly delicious, and duck fajitas are surprisingly good. But I digress.
If you did some or all of that, you’d be saving ton of money on meat—and you’d be awesome!
But, let’s get serious.
Who actually has time to hit a couple of farmer’s markets a week to get bacon for breakfast, fresh eggs, ground beef, pork chops, and a plump pastured chicken? Are you willing to risk driving to market only to find that there’s no bacon that week?
That’s the kind of flexibility you need if you want to utilize the markets and local farms as a primary source for produce and protein. If you can do that… if you can make it a priority, that’s fantastic! Do it.
I highly recommend it for both the experience, the meat quality, and the cost.
However, when you’re juggling a job, three kids, two dogs, volunteer work, and your daily meditative run or walk while trying to cook the healthiest food possible for you and your family—you are probably happy if you can make it to the corner grocery store.
If you’re working a ten hour shift, hitting the gym, and then grabbing a bag of groceries on your way to your apartment—you might not be able to raise chickens in the back yard.
Modern life makes getting good, quality meat from these awesome local sources a difficult thing to do. So I’m not going to focus on the farmer, the farm market, learning to bow-hunt, or backyard chickens.
I’m going to get real, here. I’m going to tell you how to get the best possible quality meat from your grocery store for the least amount of money.
BUY A WHOLE CHICKEN AND USE IT ALL
Instead of buying a pack of boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts, buy the whole organic chicken. I can’t tell you exactly how much you’ll pay for organic chicken in your neck of the woods, because grocery prices vary widely by region. But I will say that you’ll likely pay less than half the cost per pound for a whole bird than you will for those breasts—and with the breasts, once they’re cooked, they’re gone.
- Roast the chicken and use carve it- eating the breasts and legs for one meal.
- Then, once the chicken has cooled, strip it of as much remaining meat as possible—toss this up with taco spices for a quick lettuce-wrap lunch.
- Now, throw the bones in a slow-cooker with a splash of vinegar, onion, celery, spices and water and simmer for six hours for soup broth or chicken stock.
- Add more water and keep simmering 24 – 48 hours for bone broth.
With organic chicken stock running about $4.00 a carton, you’ve saved a bunch of money right there! You can clearly get three meals out of a whole chicken, plus bone broth, for about what you’d pay for four boneless breasts.
IF YOU DON’T GO WHOLE, GO DARK
The dark meat of the chicken always less expensive than the white—but it’s super flavorful, tender, and nutrient-dense. Instead of buying chicken breasts for your chicken parmesan, go with thighs. Hammer them out nice and thin to create a delicious piece of meat that cooks evenly and taste great!
Also, buy the legs. Chicken legs are cheap and fantastic because you can roast up a whole bunch and pack them in lunches later—plus you can use the bones for broth when you’re done. I can get a package of six free-range, organic chicken legs for under five dollars.
EAT MORE FISH
So, most people think that eating fish is too expensive on a budget. But ounce for ounce, fish can really pack a protein punch. Go for wild caught fish—never farm raised, and here it’s fine to go frozen—especially if you’re inland.
Less expensive white fish, like wild Atlantic cod, is very nutritious and can be seasoned and cooked in a multitude of different ways. You can also get wild caught grouper for just a few dollars a pound. Because both of these fishes are mild, you can season them any way you want!
Wild salmon is expensive, but it gives you a fantastic nutritional value—so you don’t have to eat a huge portion. Buy your salmon whole and learn to filet (or have the fishmonger filet it) so you can boil the heads for fish stock.
There’s a lot of fantastic Omega-3 fatty acid (as well as a lot of meat) in a salmon head, and the fish stock can be used to make fantastic bisques and brothy soups.
GO BIG OR GO HOME
When it comes to pastured beef, you can get a lot out of a bigger, “lesser cut.” The reason you don’t want fatty meats when you buy factory-farmed beef is because the toxins are stored in the fat. When you’re buying organic, pastured beef, the saturated fats rippling through that rump roast are actually good for you—and tasty!
So skip the tenderloins and strip steaks and go for roasts—chuck, flank, and shank are going to give you a lot of meat for your money.
Also, get bone-in if you can! Organic beef broth is expensive—and you can get a lot of soup and gravy from that nice, meaty bone.
INCLUDE ORGAN MEATS
Nobody wants the organs… that’s why they’re so cheap! Including beef liver in your diet once a week or so is incredibly beneficial not only on your budget, but also for your body—brimming with vitamins A and B-12 and full of iron, this protein power-house also supports healthy metabolic function.
ONLY buy the organs of pasture-raised organic animals, otherwise you’ll be getting a mouthful of toxins.
Ask your butcher to order the organ meats for you if they’re not regularly stocked. And if you’re unsure about cooking organ meat, try grinding and adding the liver to ground beef, pork, and/or bison in a homemade meat loaf mixture or burgers.
WATCH FOR SEASONAL MEATS AND SALES
Don’t shy away from Manager’s Specials! Fresh meat has a very short “sell by” window, so it gets put on sale often. Watch for the sales—you can sometimes figure out a pattern to when the meats migrate to the orange tag section.
This meat isn’t bad. It’s not old or gross, it’s just coming up on the date by which the grocery store has to sell it. If you cook the meat or freeze it the same day you buy it, or up to a day or two after, it’s completely fine.
A lot of times you can save up to half the price by buying the Manger’s Special meats. Make room in your freezer and stock up when you can get it cheap.
You can also get great deals on meat during certain times of the year—like after the holidays! After Thanksgiving, buy a couple of turkeys on sale. Stick one in the freezer and roast one right away for salads, soup, pot pie—and then simmer up a pot of broth.
Especially if you live near the coast, look for seasonal deals on fish and seafood. Commercial fishing is regulated to prevent depletion of the fish population—so certain fish can only be harvested at certain times of the year. Seafood like soft-shell crab and lobster, is harvested at peak seasons based on the natural cycle. Prices may start out high, but then they taper off before shooting back up again post-season.
I know that switching to pastured, organic, free-range meats can be daunting… but I promise that if you’re following the Wild Diet, you’ll be saving money in the long run. No, I’m not JUST talking about the long-term health benefits, but even on your grocery bills. Think about how much money you spend on snacks, grains and pasta, bread, and beverages.
Once you switch those out for pure filtered water, fruits and vegetables (mostly veggies), you’ll see a dramatic cost savings. I once spent around $150 for ingredients for 40 plates of amazing Wild food. Maybe I’ll give you all that menu with a cost breakdown, soon.
In the meantime, happy hunting!
P.S. If you’re looking for some fantastic recipes to try out on your cheap meat, order The Wild Diet now! It is chock full of Wild feast recipes from Mustard Roasted Chicken Legs to delicious baked cod… plus desserts, sides, drinks, and more!
Matthew G. Monroe says
All great suggestions! I’d also like to add that one of the best resources out there –– for finding organic eggs, chickens, and beef –– is Craigslist. Though I happen to live in an urban area (weird and wacky Portland, Oregon), there’s no shortage of people selling eggs from their freeranging backyard chickens, and some amazingly rural areas are just a forty-five minute drive from the downtown core: rural areas with 100% organic chickens and grass-fed cattle.
This isn’t just a Portland thing. Back when I lived up North in Seattle, there were plenty of farms and backyard operations –– all of them less than a forty-five minute drive from downtown –– offering fresh eggs, chickens, and grass-fed beef for sale.
I live in Camas, WA…not far from you. Do you have some favorite places or recommendations for organic meat that is less expensive than the grocery store?
Thelma Dickinson says
Thank you so much for the great suggestions. I have found some grass fed beef, buffalo and organic chicken in my grocery that keeps me on a fairly good diet. But you had some good ideas. Thanks again.
hi – LOVE the article! Here’s a tip I learned… you do’t have to cook your bones the day you eat the chicken off them. Store them in the freezer until you build up enough, and also have the time, to throw them in the crock pot.
Logan Marshall says
Hey Abel, love this post. These are tips I’ll definitely be using in the coming weeks because, well, where I’m living right now is not what you’d call a “mecca of health consciousness.” And the sole supermarket contains about 5 items I want to buy — everything else is processed crap. So…I’ve been forced to improvise and us tactics (like those in this post) to make the most of a difficult situation. Anyways, thanks again and congrats on the book launch. I can’t wait to read it!
Fred Cannon says
Hi Abel, Great article with some really good suggestions. I live in a small town in N.E. Indiana and consider myself really fortunate in that a 15 minute drive in any direction will take me by people selling farm-fresh eggs and garden produce from little roadside stands. Many of them are unattended and work on the honor system, drop your money in a box and take your selections home with you. None of them are organically certified, but just having a friendly discussion with the people will let you find out who is practicing organic methods and who isn’t. I also buy 1/2 a beef & 1/2 a hog to put in freezer every year. Talking to these gardeners gives me lines on who is growing pastured beef and who is willing to sell. I bought my last beef from a family on 5 acres who raise 4 head every year. One they keep and 3 they sell and the kids use the money for their school books and clothes. I split one with another customer, I got a little over 400lbs of pasture raised beef for $1000. The best part is I got all the bones for bone broth and the other customer didn’t want any of the organ meats and gave me all of his for free. Life is good in fly-over country.
Abel James says
Fred, lucky you! That’s some very cheap meat – we were able to do the same thing when we lived in NH with plenty of passive organic farms just down the road. You give a GREAT example for others to follow if you live in a rural area.
Sounds like we’ll need to visit Indiana to stock up on some pasture-raised meat! 🙂
derek glassman says
I’m not sure if you’ll reply, but I thought I’d give this a shot. I’m 5’2 130 lbs and am a huge fan of crossfit. I built my own home gym working countless side hours at a medical job to pay for it. Problem is, I can’t exactly figure out how to eat appropriately to put on more muscle and improve strength on Olympic lifts. I was looking into your wild man diet and was wondering if this was a viable option, or if a higher carb option was better suited? I’ve read many articles stated that ketosis isn’t the way to go, yet I get the feeling that the wild diet may put me in nutritional ketosis…am I reading something wrong here? Any insight would be much appreciated!
Winston Sealey says
Hey Abel, hope all is well. Looking for a PDF and I also have the wild diet app. Seems like it needs to upgraded. Would like for the sample menu to actually be a menu or have “for real” suggestions that I can start with. Sort of like a kickstart. Thanks
Hi Winston, you may enjoy our 30-Day Fat Loss System. It includes a PDF of our 30-Day Meal Plan with recipes, shopping list, and step by step instructions. We actually just added a bonus 30-Day Meal Plan on there too, so you’ll have over 8 weeks of sample menus and recipes to use in addition to the quick-start guide, quick-start audio, fat loss manual, and more.
Here’s a link where you can get a discount: http://bit.ly/30dayfatlss
This was hilarious! Just goes to prove again that you shouldn’t get science advice from random blogs!