Saturday, June 26, 2010

44: cost per serving

1557171194_daa9fc1e77_b Source: Masala Cha

With maternity leave and a reduced budget on the horizon, I’ve been looking into ways to cut and slash our grocery budget; it is already a pretty moderate budget I think ($35 per week) so it’s taking some creativity to find ways to reduce.

One of the ways I discovered recently was looking at meats and meals in terms of cost per serving, instead of cost per lb or 100g’s.  I thought I was pretty savvy to be comparing items using the little writing on the tag, but it turns out there’s a whole lot more to serving size than meets the eye!


Erin at $ shops and cooks with a $5 limit in mind per meal, and this can be a fantastic perspective to take when you are shopping the store as it enables you to consider how to put together different sale items to create low cost meals once you’ve learned the cost breakdown for your pantry items and what a real ‘sale’ price is.

The downside of the $5 Dinners method is that to truly calculate your meals out, you’d need to know the cost of the tsp or Tbsp of spice or oil you’re using, which could be time consuming.  The method is great as a guideline for your shopping and cooking, however we can leave the cost breakdowns to Erin!  She has tons of great recipes on her site that you can use when you’ve picked up the ingredients at rock bottom prices (and stockpiled ahead of time!) and create meals that are at or around $5 as well.

Just this morning I opened my inbox and found another option for pricing out meats at the store.   Today’s issue of the Everyday Cheapskate newsletter  discussed using a cost per serving calculation for meats instead of a cost per pound; it gave the example of comparing boneless pork chops to a pork sirloin roast and stated that although the roast may be cheaper per pound (2.89 vs. 3.79) it works out to a higher cost per serving as you can get four servings per pound of chops but only 2 servings from the roast.

Very interesting!

The article included a link to a publication by the University of Nebraska that breaks down the number of servings (on average) per pound of various cuts of meat, and then shows the cost per serving based on a range of prices.

Buying Meat by the Serving

Here are a couple of comparisons on chicken items I purchase or consider regularly and the prices I typically see at the store:

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Servings: 3.5-4
Cost/lb: 1.97 (frozen)  3.47 (fresh)
Cost/serving: .50-.57 (frozen)  .87-1.00 (fresh)

Chicken Thighs
Servings: 2.5
Cost/lb: 2.00
Cost/serving: .80

Chicken Leg Quarter
Servings: 2
Cost/lb: 1.49
Cost/serving: .75


Typically, my limit for cost per pound for meats is $2, unless I NEED it for a recipe and cannot wait for a sale.  For this reason, I stock up on the frozen chicken breasts when they are on sale as they are within the price range, and I don’t have the work of removing skin and bones.  The frozen chicken breasts are clearly the best deal when it is broken down into cost per serving, since they get 1.5-2 more servings per pound than the other two, however I’m not very fond of the frozen chicken breasts for barbequing or oven roasting though, so if I can find fresh ones on sale for under 3.47, the cost isn’t much higher than it would be for the cheaper thigh and leg cuts!

I’m going to pull out all of the typical cuts of meat that I purchase and create a little card I can put in my wallet (and keep on my computer for when planning) with the cost per serving at various prices.  That way I can figure out which roasts and chicken breasts are actually a good deal, and which ones just seem cheap but won’t stretch very far in terms of servings.

I hope this is helpful to you too!





If you want to learn more about my shopping and menu planning plans for before and after the baby is born, check out my posts on the freezer cooking week meal list and the PlanToEat site.

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