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Lean Turkey Costs How Much?!

Switching your diet to a healthy, whole foods based one can be expensive! These are great tips for how to afford lean turkey and how to make Weight Watchers cheaper by using effective meal planning. As a bonus, it saves money on groceries and makes dinner prep faster!

As you may have read, my husband and I joined Weight Watchers.  They assigned each of us a certain amount of daily food points.  In an effort to conserve as many of our assigned points as possible, my husband decided to buy us some 99% lean ground turkey instead of the regular 93% lean stuff.  Do you know how much that stupid turkey cost?! $12 for 2.5 pounds!!!  Almost $5 a pound! I am sorry, but that is nuts.

After a few minutes of questioning my husband’s sanity followed by a few more minutes of just being ticked off, I asked my mother why the heck super lean ground turkey possibly costs so much.  She then explained that turkey has to be put through the meat grinders twice as often as beef since turkey has tougher “fibers”.  Plus, 99% lean means that we bought pure ground turkey breast instead of a jumble of turkey meat.  That makes me feel a teeny-tiny bit better.

Okay, that sort of makes sense…but come on!  $5 a pound?!  We can’t afford that on a regular basis.  How many people can?

A closer inspection of the final bill also made me realize that we paid $3.19 for a small package of Fat Free Shredded Cheddar.  Last week he paid $3 a pound for grapes ($8 total for 2-3 days worth of grapes…).  Not only am I scared to ever let Mr. BFS shop for us again, but I am extremely worried that I cannot afford to eat much healthier.  Regular $77 grocery bills for 3 bags of food is just not going to happen.

Here’s my current plan of attack:

  • Reduce portion sizes to ACTUAL portion sizes.
  • Leave out the higher point ingredients whenever possible.
  • Save up my 7 daily “extra” points for the weekends since I don’t want to give up potlucks.
  • Cry/whine a little about the $8 grapes and $12 turkey.
  • Convince hubby that the 93% lean ground turkey at $2.30 a pound is nearly as great…we talked and he said “okay”, but he used his pouty voice…grrr…

*Update* Jennie O’s 99% lean turkey was $6 a pound but HEB’s brand was $3.50 (hubby just didn’t look)…much more reasonable, but still a little crazy to me.  How are you coping with food prices?  Are you also avoiding some healthier options since the price is so high?



FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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29 thoughts on “Lean Turkey Costs How Much?!

  1. I could live with the turkey cost, but the grapes would kill me. Grapes where I live are $3.69 a pound. I sent my son to the store the other day and he came home with some of those and I wanted to take each grape off the vine and pelt him with them. Of course he didn’t know any better, he just knew that grapes sounded tasty.

    I have similar issues when sending anyone other than myself to the grocery store. I have to send my husband out with an exact list, and he has finally learned he doesn’t want to face my wrath when I see the receipt.

  2. Have you thought about joining a CSA? Fresh organic veggies, and you’ll start using meat more as flavoring than as the main portion of your meal, which cuts down on fat without reducing flavor. http://www.localharvest.org/ for CSA in your area. Upfront cost may be kind of high, but you’ll get 9-10 months of veggies (given that you’re in the South– in the North, CSAs are more like 4 months, and in California I think they’re year round). When we did one we got way more than we could eat in a week so we did a lot of processing and stocked our freezer full.

    We did one for two years and it was awesome. Unfortunately for us, in the South, a CSA means a lot of greens in the winter and I’m still pretty sick of greens, so it will be a little while before we rejoin. We’re hitting farmers markets instead, which is more expensive, but I don’t have to eat collards.

    Ground turkey is pretty nasty so I’d avoid it anyway! And fat free cheese is just wrong. I like shopping in season (which means grapes when grapes are reasonably priced) and making as much from scratch from whole ingredients as we can, never wasting food. Our basic grocery bill isn’t too bad… it’s the fancy imported cheeses and so on that cost us the big bucks.

  3. I just buy the healthy stuff when its on sale…if asparagus is on sale for $1.99 a pound, I buy it, but if it’s the usual $3.99, we are eating boring carrots or broccoli. 🙂

    What kills me though is that milk prices in PA are set by the state, so we pay $3.50 a gallon!! Makes me wish I could keep a cow in my backyard…

  4. Hi. I feel your pain. I am on Weight Watchers, too, and to limit my costs, I only buy fruits that are .99 a pound (right now lots of apples, pears and citrus) or less. If there isn’t much variety, I won’t pay more than 1.49 a pound. I love grapes, but we only eat those in the spring and summer when they are on sale.

    I also found that it is more reasonable to leave out some of (or use less of) the higher fat ingredients such as cheese. Just use a little bit of real cheese, rather than buying special “diet” cheese.

    Regarding the meat, I buy what is on clearance. For ground beef, turkey, etc, I cook it, drain it and then rinse it in warm water for a minute or two (in a strainer). That gets rid of most of the fat without paying the high price.

    Hope that helps!

  5. Healthy eating is not cheap! As you become more aware of your choices, you will find things that seem more sensible. We incorporate vegetarian meals into our weekly menu.

  6. Yeah, good food can be expensive. By that I mean healthy food. The thing is, it makes a big difference where one shops. I have seen blueberries, for example, go for $3.99 for a small container at one store, then go for #1.99 at another down the street. To me, that’s a good step to take to try to eat well on a budget.

    Also, in terms of specific choices, sometimes there are easy substitions. With the berry example, one can buy frozen blueberries for $3.00 a bag, lets say, which would contain the equaivalent of 3 of those smaller “fresh” containers. This can apply to vegetables as well. Still healthy and a good substitute, if not exactly as good as the fresh variety.

    Perhaps it’s a matter of substituting where we shop and what we buy, which gets us to a point where we can eat healthy meals at a reasonable price.

  7. Healthy eating killed us initially too. Now we are “sort” of settling down. We are vegetarians so that helps a lot. We do CSA boxes, which are awesome value (just not in winter, I can’t eat that much greens). Now we shop in the farmers market. The main cost sink for us is Quinoa, we eat that regularly and it costs ~$4 a lb. We spend around $50 a week now and we are happy where we are. We could still reduce but we cook a lot at home and also make fancy desserts during the weekends which is almost half the cost of the total grocery bill. Vegetarian meals all the way for cheap healthy meals 🙂

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  9. I would have gone with the 93% lean myself, but fat free cheese is the biggest waste of money. It tastes rubbery and plasticky..best to go with part skim if you want to actually enjoy the flavor of your food. Perhaps advances have been made, but Ihaven’t been able to touch the stuff since I first tried it like 10 years ago.

  10. I’m echoing what Nicole and Suba said about Community Supported Agriculture. Local Harvest is a good source for finding a CSA near you. Regrettably, we don’t have one in our area, but we do have the Oklahoma Food Coop, which is an awesome way to buy directly from producers (if not exactly cheap). Negotiating and buying in bulk at farmers markets, and then learning how to preserve the produce by freezing or canning. Another way to cut way down on meat prices is to buy a whole side directly from a farmer. We’ve done so with beef and pork, with great results. The extra cost involved is just the one-time $160 expense of buying a 7cu.ft. freezer and the yearly electricity bill for running it.

    The best way, and I may be only a little biased here, is growing your own.

  11. I buy what is on sale also. I also just eat realistically for me. I don’t buy any fat free and only some items are light. I would rather use the points on quality food & taste, than have something taste terrible and have to choke it down, lol. Good luck!

  12. That is an outrageous difference in price for the turkey. It’s in no way worth paying that much more when 93% lean is exponentially healthier than beef and pork. Do yourself a favor and stick with the 93%! We are able to get it at about $2.50 a pound, and sometimes cheaper when it’s on sale. We also buy ground chicken for $1.25 a pound. It’s frozen so I think that’s why it’s a little cheaper.

  13. @Everyday Tips, LOL on wanting to pelt him! I did too!

    @Nicole, I looked into CSA’s but my husband and I are both picky on what fruits and veggies we like, so we just decided to pay a premium to buy what we’ll actually eat…seems less wasteful for us…although I really felt like screaming on those $8 grapes…

    @Amanda, we could save way more if we didn’t cook to our cravings. If we ever do need to cut back a lot, I will be looking into the seasonal sales as well…

    @Jason, I don’t know but it tastes rubbery and fake. I tried it once and am now back on real cheese, it’s worth the points…

    @Melissa, thanks! We also have decided that 93% lean turkey is just fine and that we can simply cut back portions on the higher point foods. Good luck on Weight Watchers!!! I’m down 5 pounds now. 🙂

    @krantcents, yes, vegetarian meals do help. I enjoy pasta and salads, so it does work out well for me, lol. 🙂

    @Squirrelers, excellent point! We started making 4 point smoothies using frozen strawberries, half a banana each, one cup of whole milk, and 3 Splenda packets. YUM. And the milk is the only thing worth any points, so cutting back from whole to 2% or skim can make them even cheaper point-wise! I like whole milk though…

    @Suba, woot for cheaper vegetarian diets! My husband and I are down-home-country meat and potatoes people, but I know we could save money and calories if we were willing to give up some steak sometimes…we’ll see…

    @Jenna, yes! Great point! We made some tomato and basil soup the other night for about $7 that is streching for 5-6 meals when you pair it with some baked potato!

    @First Gen, nope, no advances have been made. It was weird. Hubby didn’t mind it, so he saves his points by using it. I’m just using less real stuff, lol. I like the taste of 100% cheese enough to justify using the extra 10 points a week on it.

    @101 Centavos, the CSA thing for veggies won’t work for us simply because we are so picky and the ones around us don’t let you pick and choose which veggies you’ll be getting. BUT, we are thinking about buying a cow direct and splitting the cost and meat with a group of our friends that also want to save a little on hamburger and steaks…

    @Bobbi, I agree mostly. I have to say that the Fat Free Zesty Italian salad dressing is really good though. The fat free cheese is crap though, lol. I think you have found a great balance between taste and cost though!!!

    @Jonathan, we will. I’ll also look into the ground chicken…I haven’t heard of that before. Thanks!

  14. @Aloysa, the 93% lean is “only” $2.50 a pound, but yeah, it’s expensive. We don’t particularly love turkey, but ground turkey tastes exactly the same as ground beef in chili and spaghetti sauce to us…

  15. Oh, haven’t you heard? According to all the “so-called experts,” healthy/organic food is affordable for everyone. @@ :-/

  16. @101 Centavos, I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 I’ll also look into growing something but our back yard is the size of a large postage stamp and has a lot of dog poo…

    @M E 2, LOL.

  17. Good for you and hubby for joining Weight Watchers! Hopefully you’ll ease into these food changes as lifestyle changes, too, and find that you start eating less prepared and packaged foods. The more “from scratch” cooking you do the better, and it’s great to try new cooking techniques, too. This also can lead to a more expansive repertoire of foods.

    For example, one of my friends started putting a lot of effort into learning to cook because she needed to make some dietary changes for health reasons. She opened herself up to trying foods she hadn’t liked for years, such as brussels sprouts. The difference was in preparation: she found she *loved* roasted brussels sprouts, and the addition of a just a touch of olive oil during roasting and a small amount of shredded parmesan at the end made them even better. (I highly recommend splurging on some really good parmesan reggiano and using just a bit on a salad, a baked potato, some pasta, etc. The flavor boost is awesome and parmesan isn’t very high in calories or cost when eaten in such small amounts.)

    Your smoothie is another great example. Don’t worry about using whole milk, but you may want to experiment with using less Splenda. Over time, it would be great to cut that down to no Splenda at all. Why? Because you’ll be retraining your palate to enjoy the sweetness of the fruit on it’s own. Once you do that, you’ll be less tempted to buy a milkshake at a fast food place, for example, since it will be so sickly sweet compared to your homemade smoothie you’ll hate it.

    So, while you may not enjoy many fruits and veggies now, you can challenge yourself to prep a veggie that you’ve usually not liked in a new way and give that a try. That will also help with the issue of the ground turkey; as you eat more veggies and fruits (and hopefully the ones that aren’t imported from so far away like grapes are now…which means much higher fuel costs…which means much higher price for you!) you’ll need less meat to fill your tummy!

  18. One of the bad things about WW – or any calorie based diet system I guess, is that they train you to try and get as much food as possible for a certain amount of points or calories. That would be like buying all of your stuff at the dollar store because your money goes further – but the stuff isn’t what you really want.

    What I like to do is have “normal” food as much as possible and just eat less of it. A couple of weeks ago, we went out to a restaurant and that bacon carbonara I ordered lasted for 4 meals. But I wanted bacon carbonara and not some kind of salad. That’s why people will lose weight but not maintain it on most diets – they are always trying to fill their faces with as much food as possible and don’t focus enough on the portion size.

  19. I’m getting really sick of rising food prices. Grapes range from $8-16 a kilo here. Blueberries, in summer, $3 for a tiny package of 125g. (You want frozen? You might get 500g for $10.) Chicken breast, when not on special, $20 a kilo, and that’s not even organic. Even canned veg are now closer to $2 a pop than $1.

  20. Everything Linda said doubled. Stop eating artificial sweeteners– they make you crave sweet too much. Instead use natural sugar and slowly cut down on it. A whole new world of deliciousness will be opened up to you. Things that didn’t taste good will be amazing… entire new worlds of wonderful dark chocolate that used to taste like chalk.

    As you try more new veggies in new ways, you will find some that you like. That’ll be something fun, healthy, new, and if you play it right, less expensive!

  21. @Linda, thank you very much for all the tips! We have been expanding our horizons a little lately and have discovered a few more veggies my husband will eat. 🙂 I’m still loving my sweet smoothies though…

    @Jacq, a whole bunch of low point foods would work, but my husband and I are more in the category of eating smaller portions of the same food we were eating before. We were just going temporarily nutty, lol. We don’t want to give up potatoes or meat, so we just eat less of it to stay under our points. 🙂 I do love how far food stretches now!

    @eemusings, OUCH! You poor thing!!!

    @Nicole, we actually haven’t used much artificial sweetner at all except for the smoothies. We still use real sugar in our sweet tea – we just cut the amount in half. I always have enjoyed dark chocolate a lot, which has been a saving grace. No worries, we have not gone Splenda crazy. 🙂

  22. @eemusings, with rising energy (e.g.: fuel) and grain prices (e.g.: corn), it makes sense that food prices are going to go up. I believe a study came out a few years ago that said most items at a supermarket traveled 1500 miles before it reached your dinner table. That’s a far commute.

    Buy local & in season!

  23. My husband is not big on veggies, so I’ve been experimenting. I’ve found that he and I both enjoy different veggies more when sauteed with a wee bit of olive oil and lots of garlic and fresh ground black pepper. No points in garlic and pepper! Plus, the more garlic you use, the less you miss the salt. He has high blood pressure so I try to use little or no added salt. When I do use it, I use sea salt which is lower in sodium than regular table salt. Less sodium usually means less retained water in your body, which can help one feel slimmer!

    Best of luck with WW.

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