Memorize These Cost-Effective Cuts for Chicken, Pork, and Beef

May 30, 2018

There are two ways to approach budget-minded cooking: as a burden or as a challenge. The latter is a lot more fun. Burdens weigh on your shoulders, squish you down. Challenges are hurdles to hop over, riddles to solve, accomplishments to feel proud about, even shout from the rooftops.

When it comes to cooking with meat—often the most costly ingredient in a meal—a few tricks can go a long way. Say, supplement the meat with less expensive ingredients, from grains to veggies. Buy in bulk. And know which cuts get you the most bang for your buck.

Below are our favorite cost-effective cuts for chicken, pork, and beef—and our favorite ways to show ’em off. Prices were based on USDA national retail reports.


A chicken is so small, you can buy the animal whole and break it down yourself. (Not as hard as you’d think!) General rule of thumb: The more the butcher does for you, the more you pay. For example, boneless, skinless breasts average at $2.39 per pound, while split, bone-in breasts hover around $1.64.

Leg Quarters

Average price: $1.01/pound.

Whole Roaster

Average price: $1.08/pound.


Bacon may reign over breakfast land, but we adore (yes, adore!) pork for dinner. Chops and belly get a lot of credit—and don’t get us wrong, love chops, love belly—but the rest of the animal deserves attention, too. By cooking large-format cuts, you can serve a crowd or, even better, have all the leftovers.

Spiral Ham

Average price: $0.99/pound

Bone-In Butt

Average price: $1.66/pound.


Beef is the priciest of the bunch. Which is why I eat it least frequently and, when I do, I find ways to cushion the cost. Meatballs want to help: Breadcrumbs, veggies, and eggs lower the price point, and improve flavor and texture. If you’re making a big roast, serve it with something hearty and filling, like polenta or pasta.

Rump Roast

Average price: $3.75/pound.

Ground Beef (80–89% Lean)

Average price: $3.18/pound.


What’s your favorite way to use one of these cuts? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


FrugalCat August 12, 2020
A lot of cuts that used to be cheap are now "trendy", therefore, more expensive. Things I remember getting very cheaply that got price jacked include chicken thighs, beef tongue, lamb ribs, oxtail, feet (chicken, pork, veal) soup bones and pig ears.
Poodlehorde January 10, 2019
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts from WalMart have been less than $2.00/lb for several years in 5lb packages. I break them down into 2 piece packages (cooking for 2) in the freezer. Leg qarters run about .59/lb in 10lb packages.
Claudia T. August 23, 2018
This is helpful for people pretty new to cooking and shopping for themselves. Thought it would be more in-depth about beef and different cuts of both chicken and beef. I grew up in a house that didn't cook pork regularly, but my spouse did. Still, I wouldn't know where to even start when it comes to pork cuts.
nancy S. August 17, 2018
There is one thing to remember... with the cheaper price for whole or bone in pieces, you are paying for gone and gristle, which may be inedible (even though possibly contributing to flavor).
Monika G. September 26, 2018
You can use bones and fat to make soup base. I always do it with turkey leftovers - I simmer the remains and make turkey pate with meat and delicious soups with the liquid.
nancy S. September 26, 2018
Yes, I agree Monika! Bones and gristle etc inedibles make great and nutritious stock (put spoonful of vinegar... won't taste it, but it will help extract calcium from ones.)
Kimberly R. May 31, 2018
What an enlightening article...not!
There's no new info here, just a big bunch of "yeah, and...?"