Since spring has sprung, my radar has kicked in to the smells in my neighborhood: grilling smells that is! If you're a carnivore like me, you fly through meat, which isn't always on sale when you need it to be. So here are my savvy tips for saving on meat.

1. Visit a specialty store. Think about this for just a minute. You wouldn't go to a hardware store for shoes, would you? Why would you go anywhere that doesn't have a butcher to get your meat? Good old butchers do exist, and so do quality meat markets; you just have to discover one in your area. And, believe it or not, you can get great deals on great meat at places like this.

2. Don't buy cheap meat. The old adage, you get what you pay for, really does ring true, especially when it comes to buying quality meats. If you buy better cuts of meat, you won't be paying for the extra weight in fat that many grocery stores pass on to you. A quality butcher will have hand trimmed the meat so you're not paying for fat.

3. Buy in bulk. Even though it's just my husband and I with our almost 2-year-old, I still buy my meat in bulk. The meat market I go to always has sales to take advantage of.  When they do, I buy more than I need at that moment. About every two months my meat market has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.49/pound, which is almost unheard of. I usually buy about five or more pounds at once, take it home and divide the meat into storage bags. Also, if you're doing this, you might as well save yourself time by marinating it before putting it in the freezer.

4. Find a shopping buddy. I know this sounds funny, but find yourself a partner. Earlier this year the meat market that I like had a Winter Meat Bundle, which had a variety of meats for $80. There was no way I needed $80 worth, or 30 pounds, of meat for my family. So, I asked my friend to go in on the bundle with me. You'd be amazed at the amount of quality meat we received. Sharing the cost between us was way more effective for our budgets.

5. Consider a CSA. For a while now, I have been considering purchasing a share in a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture for produce.  Did you know they have chicken and beef CSAs as well? Check out localharvest.org to find a farm near you. Not only are you getting the freshest meat available, you also have the satisfaction of knowing where it actually came from.

6. Coupons and sales do exist. Since baseball season is about to kick off, look for special buys and promotions regarding hot dogs and sausages. In fact, in recent weeks I have even seen coupons for these already.

7. Find out what day markdowns are. Often meat is marked down at grocery stores on a particular day, and if you can take advantage of a markdown for tonight's dinner, why wouldn’t you? Keep in mind, you will want to use these packages sooner than later if they are a markdown. Or put them in the freezer immediately for another day's use.

8. Cook once for two meals. Even if you are only going to use one pound of a two pound package of ground beef, make sure you cook or prepare everything and use it in two meals. Since I got such a good deal on ground round the other day, but it was only in the bigger packages, I made sure to divide what we were going to eat that night and save the rest. Half of the meat was made into hamburger patties for that night, and the other half I used for tacos for the following evening. It is a stellar week at our house this week since we rarely have red meat.

9. Buy whole chickens. But what do I need a WHOLE chicken for? Why not save money and buy a whole cut up chicken or pick of the chix (two breasts, two thighs and two legs)? I realize it takes a little more effort to prepare, but I can't tell you how proud I was of myself after I cut up a whole chicken using a tutorial on YouTube. Afterward, I stood back and admired my work and thought of the savings in my pocket.  Honestly, chicken which is still cooked on the bone seems to have more flavor and stays moist while cooking. I always roast more chicken than I need and then pick the meat off the bones and use it later in the week. I made some fantastic chicken salad and chicken quesadillas with the leftovers.

This has been a guest post by Kristi from Detroit, MI
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