WHEN DID HAMBURGER BECOME A LUXURY?

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Have you seen the price of ground beef lately? Good gravy. It seems as though almost overnight the price has doubled. What gives?

I know it’s partially due to drought and record low cattle herds. That I get. What I don’t get is how hamburger, which is made from scraps for the most part, is now the same price as some cuts of steak. Steak, once the King of Meats, now has a crazy brother with which to share the spotlight. This must have been how Jimmy Carter felt about his brother Billy.

Allow me to digress for a brief moment for a brief public service announcement of sorts:

I know that meat is a luxury for millions of people worldwide and that far too many people have far too little to eat. However, I’m not talking about world hunger. If I wanted to do that I’d throw Sally Struthers in the mix and really get this party going. I’m talking about the price of hamburger, folks. It’s not like I’m griping about the outrageous price of caviar, foie gras, truffles (the hog finding kind, not the chocolates), saffron or the crazy cat poop coffee that people pay an arm and a leg for…..that would be elitist and out of touch, right? With that said, if you happen to be in an economically fortunate position where you are able to give of your resources, kindly consider a donation to the charity of your choice. (Not sure how much of your money is really going towards your cause? Check out charitynavigator.org).

We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled program….

As I have recently joined the ranks of the unemployed through a company shut down, and as I need to put food on the table for a family of six, it was time to get creative.

This is the point where most families cut back on things like eating out and their daily grande soy chai latte. Unfortunately, neither of these were areas where we could trim the fat, so to speak. Not because we didn’t want to, but because we don’t eat out at all and we make our own coffee at home. Scratch that idea.

Then, one Sunday afternoon, hopped up on too much home-brewed coffee, adrenaline surging from an “Extreme Couponing” marathon on TV, I decided to dive head long in to the insanity that can be couponing.

It started out innocently enough. My goal was to offset the price of pantry and household items in order to compensate for the ridiculous price of meat. I didn’t expect to follow in the footsteps of the folks I saw on TV. I didn’t expect to buy $1300 worth of groceries and pay $3 after all the coupons were tallied. I am a realistic optimist, after all.

What no one tells you is that if you have even a mildly obsessive personality with potential hoarding issues, things can get way out of hand….very quickly. A visitor to our home who happened to peek inside the pantry might wonder if we are prepping for the zombie apocalypse, and if so…where is our underground bunker located?

Let’s not even talk about the territorial aggression I have over my coupon book. Don’t touch it, ever. If you do, I’ll swoop down upon you Gollum-style and keep repeating “the Precious” until you start to wonder if I should become a ward of the state.

Posters Hobbit Unexpected Journey 2012 Gollum Augmented

So anyway, armed with “the Precious” and some neurotic paranoia over people thinking that I might be part of the Duggar clan, I made my way to the grocery store.

My first haul included 20 containers of yogurt, 20 packets of kool aid, 10 boxes of pizza rolls, 10 rolls of biscuits, 9 boxes of cereal, 4 boxes of pop tarts, a jumbo pack of toilet paper, a bunch of laundry detergent and fabric softener…..I felt a little insane and a lot guilty over the mountain of items in my grocery cart. Insane over the sheer quantity of items and guilty over the actual items themselves. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not accustomed to buying a lot of prepackaged foods. I generally make most things from scratch and try to buy local when possible.

But with six people to feed and a limited budget, quantity definitely outweighs quality right now. I would love to buy all certified organic, fair trade, grass-fed, free-range, pastured, non GMO, no red dye # whatever, but it’s just not feasible right now. I feel like a bad mom for buying this stuff, but I’d feel even worse if they went to bed hungry. The almighty buck does not stretch very far in the land of organics.

It is said that the Buddha could sustain himself on one grain of rice and one drop of water a day. Y’all, that is not going to fly in my house.

I’m pretty sure everyone is getting sick of me bragging about getting boxes of fruit snacks and Hamburger Helper for 50 cents per box, but you have to admit, that is a good price. This leads me to wonder….Is this something I could put on my resume? …..“Saved the family 40% on groceries over prior year’s expenditure, increasing the bottom line and increasing cash flow”…..hmmm.

And what, pray tell of the hamburger that needs to be put in to the helper? I can’t do it. I cannot spend $5 per pound on ground beef.

I am incredibly frugal and this, coupled with my grand delusions of one day being some type of quasi-homesteader, led me to believe that I needed to invest in a meat grinder. No, not the kind you attach to your upright stand mixer, sister. The old timey kind that you have to crank by hand. The kind perhaps your grandmother had in her kitchen.

I haven’t had a chance to use it for beef yet (I say yet, because today starts a BOGO on chuck roasts!!) but I did score some boneless chicken thighs for 99 cents per pound, which beats $4 per pound for pre ground any day of the week.

Plus, there is the added advantage of the arm workout.

Of course it only works out the one arm, so if I keep this up for very long I might be able to procure employment as a side show freak in a traveling circus. I can call myself “April the Arm” and arm wrestle dudes for money….you’ve got to follow the money, people. It’s not the career path I had envisioned for myself, but when life gives you lemons, then dang it, you make lemonade….even if it ends up sour and sort of bitter (because, you know, sugar is getting kind of expensive too. Lol.)

But, as usual, I digress………

Do you have any money saving grocery tips you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Peace, Love & Blessings to All…..

April “the Arm”