Buying meat can be super expensive sometimes. There are tips and tricks to finding meat that isn’t so expensive, but there’s no guarantee you’ll walk away without a crying wallet.
Of course, there are some types of meat and different cuts of meat that tend to be more affordable if you know what to look for.
Whether you prefer to buy meat in bulk or you just buy what you need on a weekly grocery trip, there are certain types of meat to look for and consider when you’re shopping on a budget.
What are the cheapest meat options out there? Chicken is one of the cheapest meats on the market and it comes in a lot of different cuts. Meat cuts like pork shoulder and ground beef are also more affordable, but you can find quite a few meat options at decent prices if you know the tricks.
In this guide, we will walk you through the cheapest meats you can buy as well as the cheapest cuts of meat. We’ll also share what meats to look for in small quantities versus meats that might be better in bulk.
You might not be able to buy fancy T-bone steaks or a leg of lamb, but you can find good meat for good prices if you know what to look for. Keep reading to learn the cheapest meats, cheapest cuts of meat, and more!
We all have our favorite options when it comes to buying meat, but sometimes those options simply are not affordable. If you’re looking to purchase meat cheaply, you’ll need to know which options have the best prices!
For the majority of this guide, when we talk about the cheapest meat, you should assume that we mean purchasing on a regular basis or on normal grocery trips.
However, there will be times we discuss buying in bulk. Sometimes buying meat in bulk improves the price, so you might be able to save some money by buying in bulk if you can afford it.
Don’t worry; we will clearly identify the details as we discuss various things.
For a quick overview, here is a quick list of the meat cuts that we have found to be the cheapest:
- Chicken (a variety of cuts)
- Pork ribs
- Ground beef
- Chuck roast
- Short ribs
- Stew meat
- Round steak
- Ground turkey
- Bone-in pork chops
- Pork butt or shoulder
- Ribeye steak
- Lamb breast
These are some of the cheapest meats out there and, of course, the cut you use will make a difference. The cheapest meat you can find is chicken — really all the different cuts of chicken.
The cheapest way to buy chicken is to buy in bulk. You can buy different cuts in bulk or even buy a whole chicken for cheap and piece it out. Chicken is cheap to buy regularly, too, so it wins in both categories!
The Cheapest Cuts of Chicken
Let’s break it down a little bit more for you. We already mentioned that just about any cut of chicken is going to be your absolute cheapest option for meat. However, some cuts of chicken will be more affordable than others.
Chicken breasts are usually the most expensive way to buy chicken. That being said, chicken breast is still relatively inexpensive, but it is the most expensive chicken form.
If you’re truly looking for the cheapest options, you’ll be better off buying chicken other ways. Let’s go through some cuts for a better indication of cost!
The prices of meat do fluctuate, so while we are going to provide you with average costs, just know that you may find chicken more expensive or even cheaper.
Some prices depend on where you are located and the prices in the market at the time of your purchase.
A whole chicken really is one of the cheapest ways to buy chicken. Of course, you might be more limited with a whole chicken as opposed to a package of legs or thighs, but this is the best option cost-wise.
You can easily cook the whole chicken or you can separate it out. Cooking the whole chicken should provide for more than one meal in most cases.
The reason that whole chicken is the cheapest is because it took the least amount of processing — no one had to cut it up, separate it, or anything like that.
On average, a whole chicken costs approximately $1.29 per pound. The chicken will come to you in one piece and will have all of the bones as well.
Chicken quarters are the very cheapest cut of chicken that you can buy. This piece is a combination of the leg and thigh together and is a fairly large piece of chicken.
You can prepare chicken quarters in a lot of different ways and even pull the meat off the bone for certain things if needed.
These cook very nicely, so you can prepare just about any recipe with this cheap meat. You can also grill it easily in the summer months!
The average price of chicken quarters is about $0.99 per pound. They do come with bones in them.
Chicken thighs are the next cheapest. Chicken thighs have become more and more popular because they are easy to work with and they are affordable.
You can roast, grill, pan-fry, and even deep-fry chicken thighs with great results.
These are cheapest when you buy them as bone-in chicken thighs, but buying them as boneless is also not expensive.
The average price of bone-in chicken thighs is about $0.99 per pound. The average price of boneless and skinless chicken thighs is about $2.79 per pound.
Drumsticks are usually pretty cheap since they’re really easy to find, so you can almost always snag these for a really great price.
You may be slightly more limited in what you can do to them compared to a chicken thigh or breast, but there are still a ton of ways to prepare them and you can change it up easily.
Currently, the average price of chicken legs (or drumsticks) is about $1.54 per pound. They tend not to have as much meat on them and they always come on the bone.
Chicken breasts are the most expensive cut of chicken when it comes to the per pound increments.
The price is still relatively affordable compared to other meats, but it is higher than these other options.
You will also find that the price may differ when you buy fresh chicken breasts as opposed to those frozen bags of chicken breasts.
You most likely will not find chicken breasts that are bone-in when buying them from a butcher or grocery store.
The average price of chicken breasts is about $3.29 per pound. You can see that this by far surpasses all of the other types of chicken as far as cost. It’s cheaper to stick to chicken quarters or bone-in thighs.
The Cheapest Cuts of Beef
When it comes to beef, the prices fluctuate just like other meats. There are some very pricy cuts of beef out there that you will want to stay away from when you’re looking for something cheap.
One of the most affordable ways to buy beef is ground beef. Even though this is processed, it still is cheaper than buying cuts like steaks, ribs, or roasts. However, you will find that some of those cuts aren’t too terrible in price as well.
Let’s look at some of the cheapest cuts of meat for beef. You will notice right away that beef is considerably more expensive than chicken as well.
Ground beef is one of the cheaper ways to buy meat. It’s pretty versatile, so you can do a lot with it.
It can be affordable whether buying in bulk or just buying what you need on your regular grocery trips.
Sometimes buying it in bulk is more affordable and then you can separate it into servings. It really depends on the distributor and just the prices at the time.
Ground beef runs approximately $4.46 per pound. These prices might vary depending on how lean the beef is as well. Beef that is less lean might be cheaper than this.
Stew meat typically comes in chunks of meat. You can use it for stews, casseroles, soups, and even kabobs.
While it is pre-cut into smaller chunks, it can still be used for a lot of different dishes.
Stew meat is an affordable cut of beef that is cheaper than a lot of other options out there. You can buy stew meat for about $6.87 per pound.
When it comes to steak, the prices climb very quickly with different options. Chuck eye steaks are the cheapest, as are round steaks. If you know how to cook them, you will have great results!
Round steaks are easier to find and pretty versatile. You can make a round steak any way that you would make a normal steak.
While chuck eye or round steaks might not be as awesome as a T-bone would be, you can certainly make it good if you pay attention to how to do so. Start with a good marinade!
Round steak costs an average of $7 per pound.
A chuck roast is another great way to buy meat.
This comes as a larger piece and you can cook it as a roast or you can use it for other things as well — it’s totally up to you.
It’s a versatile piece that you can make work for your needs.
The chuck roast costs an average of about $7 per pound.
Beef Short Ribs
Short ribs are another affordable option. Some people actually use these as a steak substitute because they are cheaper than most beef steaks.
The price for beef short ribs varies. Right now, they average about $7 per pound but they have been known to be as low as $4 per pound at times.
When it comes to other cuts of beef, you’re looking at $10+ per pound on average. Some cuts get extremely pricy because they are considered high-end or specialty cuts.
The Cheapest Cuts of Pork
Pork is affordable if you know how to buy it. The best ways to buy pork for cheap are pork ribs, pork chops with bones, or a pork butt or shoulder.
Many people think that bacon is cheap and while purchasing bacon might seem inexpensive, it actually costs more per pound than other options.
Here are your cheapest pork options!
Pork ribs are much cheaper than beef ribs. The prices may vary depending on whether or not you choose to get spare ribs or baby back ribs.
Spare ribs are cheaper per pound. Ribs are typically sold as a full rack. They also take quite a bit of time to cook, so that is something to be prepared for.
The average price of pork spare ribs is about $3.50 per pound. The average price of pork baby back ribs is about $5.99 per pound.
Beef ribs are more like $7-$9 per pound, so as you can see, pork is the more affordable option.
Bone-In Pork Chops
You can purchase pork chops with or without a bone in them. It is cheaper to buy bone-in pork chops.
You can make a lot of dishes with pork chops, regardless of whether you buy bone-in or boneless.
The average price of bone-in pork chops is about $4.25 per pound. The average price of boneless pork chops is about $4.99 per pound.
It’s not a huge difference, but every little bit counts sometimes!
Pork Butt or Shoulder
If you want a large cut of pork, buying a pork butt or shoulder cut is the way to go.
It’s pretty cheap to buy it this way most of the time as well. You could also buy a pork roast, which is pretty similar.
This is a great way to buy pork in bulk because it is cheaper than most other forms of pork and definitely cheaper than beef.
When you buy either a pork shoulder or a pork butt, the average cost is right around $2.29 per pound of meat. As with all meat, the prices will vary.
The Cheapest Meat to Buy in Bulk
Some meats are more affordable to buy in bulk. In fact, if you’re a fan of beef, buying it in bulk is actually much more affordable than buying the different cuts when you want them!
The markets do vary regularly, but it is easy to know which meats you can buy in bulk and save money on compared to others.
If you’re able to, we recommend working with a butcher shop for a side of beef or pork. This is typically more affordable than buying just a week’s worth at a time and you have some flexibility over the cuts that you get.
Here are the best meats to buy in bulk, apart from this option.
- Chicken (thighs, legs, or whole chicken)
- Ground beef
- Beef roast, chuck, or rump
- Whole turkey
- Beef shoulder or butt
- Mixed beef boxes
- Pork tenderloin