Since beginning my journey towards simplicity and sustainability almost two years ago I have rarely come across a situation in which the sustainable option is not also the most frugal option. For example, cooking food from scratch will save you money hand over fist when compared to eating out and is also a great way to live more simply and sustainably. Switching from disposable products like paper napkins or disposable diapers to a re-useable option like cloth napkins or cloth diapers drastically reduces your environmental impact but also saves you a ton of money. Even growing your own produce on your patio saves you lots of money when compared to buying the exact same items at the grocery store. In this way, sustainability and frugality are two values that mesh well together. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said when it comes to meat.
What is Quality Meat?
Quality meat is meat raised in an environment or on a diet that most closely mimics how that animal would exist in nature. Most of the meat found in typical grocery stores around the country is generally referred to as feedlot or grain fed meat. Now, I am not going to go into great detail on the logistics of how these animals are treated, the conditions they exist in or anything like that. For the purposes of this post I am only focused on what they are fed. Animals raised in feedlots are usually fed a combination of grains, GMO soy, and corn. So what? You may be asking. Well, if you are a person trying to avoid those three ingredients you will still be consuming trace amounts of them through the meat and that can cause a negative cumulative effect. Feedlot animals are also routinely given antibiotics and some are even given growth hormones, which also effect you through the meat that you eat.
Here is a short list of what quality means for different types of meat:
Chicken/Poultry: Pasture Raised
Pork: Pasture raised
Beef: Grass fed
Fish and Seafood: Wild Caught
Why Does Quality Meat Matter?
I have already touched on this briefly in describing how low quality meat can effect your ability to achieve dietary goals such as avoiding grains, GMOs, soy and corn as well as antibiotics and hormones. That being said, there are a few other reasons why quality of your meat matters responsibly sourced meat is less likely to become contaminated and cause issues similar to those we have seen in the news in recent years issues like mad cow disease or infectious outbreaks are caused when meat from multiple animals is combined or when feed becomes contaminated. This is unlikely when animals are being fed natural diets and are allowed to forage and when buying from smaller farms the meat that you purchase generally only originates from one animal. Finally, quality meat has a much higher nutritional profile than grain fed meat. Grass fed and pasture raised meat has a more balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids which is extremely important in fighting inflammation, and animals raised on a natural diet and exposed to sunlight offer much higher amounts of essential fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and E.
But What About My Budget?
Now that I have given you all of this info on how great quality meat is I am going to throw you a curve ball. I don’t buy 100% quality meat all of the time, because quite frankly I can’t afford it. Yes, I am willing to invest in my health. Yes, I want to support small responsible farmers over big agribusiness. Yes, I know that quality meat is better for my health. I also know that my grocery budget is capped at $75 a week because we are working hard to live on a grad student budget and pay off student loans and sometimes you have to find a balance between your different priorities. Buying quality meat should not be a deal breaker for anyone looking to follow a nourishing diet, It is important and it should be a goal to buy as much of your meat from responsible sources as possible but you can still have a tremendous amount of success in healing your body even if you can’t always afford the highest quality ingredients.
That being said, here are a few tips for buying quality meat on a budget:
- Start with the fats: Buying quality cooking fat is a great way to get those fat soluble nutrients and vitamins on the cheap. Buy animal fats from grass fed and pasture raised animals and plant fats such as coconut oil and palm oil that have been minimally processed. Fat is much less expensive than meat and can easily be bought in bulk without you needing a chest freezer or tons of extra space.
- Bones and Liver: Making bone broth from the bones of quality meat animals is inexpensive and will give you super nutritious broth that will last for weeks. Broth is a great way to get gelatin and healthy fat into your diet both of which are imperative for gut healing. Liver is also very inexpensive, as it is not consumed much in the US but it is one of the most nutrient dense parts of an animal and, contrary to popular belief, can actually be quite delicious.
- Farmed Fish or Canned Wild Fish: Of all the farmed meat options fish is definitely your best bet. When compared to other meat sources fish has a much better ratio of omegas regardless of whether it is farmed or wild caught. Canned wild fish is also a good option for many people, it is inexpensive, great for traveling and is an easy source of protein. (Warning: if you have BPA or histamine intolerance be careful with canned fish)
- Buy Ground Quality Meat: Ground meat tends to be significantly cheaper than other cuts of meat and if it comes from a quality source you can also feel confident buying fattier varieties which cut your cost even further.
- Buy in Bulk: If you space for a chest or stand up freezer I highly recommend getting one. They are typically extremely easy to find on sites like Craigslist and are usually very inexpensive. Doing this allows you to have space to buy meat in bulk which will save you a lot of money in the long run.
My final tool in my budget toolbox is this awesome company. For many of us the thought of having to search out sources for inexpensive quality meat is just as overwhelming as keeping out budget in tact. You may live far away from farms, not close to a reliable farmer’s market, and unable to stomach the sticker prices at your local natural foods store. US Wellness Meats delivers quality meat to your door and at a fraction of the cost you are probably expecting. It is that simple. Buy purchasing from them you are still receiving quality grass fed, pasture raised or wild caught meat, fat and bones and you are still supporting small farmers but you can save money and enjoy the convenience of ordering online. Also, if you are following the autoimmune protocol diet US Wellness Meats has an entire page dedicated to their AIP friendly options. US Wellness Meats offers free shipping on most orders, and great discounts for buying in bulk or wholesale. Check them out here!
Discount Code: For 15% off all US Wellness Meats orders under 40 lbs use the promo code cancer between now and Tuesday 2/3/15.
Note: I was not paid by US Wellness Meats to write this post. I believe in this company and want to support them. This post does contain affiliate links, however, so if you choose to order any products by using the links below you are supporting Sweet Potatoes and Social Change at no extra cost to yourself. Thank you for your support.
Great tips! Making a healthy diet work within a tight budget can be really tough but with some planning and ingenuity it can be done!
Love the tips! Question about US Wellness Meats. They are WAY more expensive than anything I have seen in the Midwest – twice as much or more. Yet I always hear about them being very cheap. Is this a regional thing, since most bloggers live on the coasts?
It must be a regional thing. They also offer 15% off coupons about every other week and they offer good bulk discounts so that brings the price down considerably for most people.
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