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Dramatically cheaper meat, poultry, and fish only takes a bit of extra legwork

Fresnans want to put good quality protein on the table rather than fatty or processed foods that can leave family members feeling less satisfied, but protein from meat, fish, and poultry may seem out of reach for those of us who are struggling in this economic climate. Children need sufficient protein to grow and thrive, but some may not get much at all because of the cost.

A little bit of meat can go a long way in terms of meeting nutritional requirements. Americans often eat far more protein than is needed. (You can determine how much protein an individual requires here. There are a few factors to consider in the calculation.) Consider providing good quality meats, poultry, and fish in smaller quantities but provide more vegetables or fruits as these items can satiate hunger and provide fuel for much longer than processed foods and snacks.

Chicken breasts may be preferable to chicken drumsticks because of the reduced fat content, but the price difference between the two can be substantial. Rib steaks—delicious as they are--are quite fatty, and cheaper cuts such as tri-tip or sirloin steaks can be dry and tough. Filet mignon is comparatively low in fat and is tender and flavorful, but it’s quite expensive. Or maybe your budget is so tight that you often go without sufficient protein in your daily diet. Try this tip.

Grocery stores must sell their fresh meats by a certain date in order to comply with regulations. When it becomes clear that items won’t sell by that date, butchers will routinely attach brightly colored stickers announcing deep discounts so the meat goes to someone who can use it right away. The store gets SOME money for their goods, perfectly good food doesn’t end up in the dumpster, and the shopper gets a great deal.

Meats, fish, or poultry that already appears discolored may also smell bad and may not be viable regardless of the date on the package.  If in doubt, leave it.  And be sure to follow rules about how to measure whether the item is fully cooked before it is served.  Food thermometers and guides can be found online, but here is guide posted at the USDA website: Food Thermometers

The butchers at the Save Mart store at McKinley and Palm in Fresno, as an example, put out meat, fish, and poultry virtually every weekday between six and seven AM and sometimes even on weekend days. Shoppers can arrive at the perfect moment to have their pick of the haul.

Locations and hours for Save Mart stores in the area appear on their website store finder.

Other grocery stores do the same thing, very predictably. If a particular cut of meat has been advertised at a good sale price, a savvy shopper might get lucky and find leftovers that haven’t yet sold as the flyer week comes to a close. Most local food advertisements are released each week on Wednesday, so on Wednesday morning, sale items from the previous week can often be found at even deeper discounts.

Similarly, if you like corned beef, shop for it on March 18, and if turkeys are your game, they can often be found at reduced prices on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

It’s a great way to save money, consume foods with less fat, AND expand your culinary repertoire. Check with your favorite store to find out if and when bargains are put out in the coolers.

Do you have a local, statewide, national, or international tip that you’d like to see appear in this Examiner’s space? Are you a merchant who wants to get the word out about your amazing deals? Perhaps you have an item you need that hasn’t been well researched. I’m happy to take on any and all such tasks. Please send an email to Frugal.Leslie@gmail.com.

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