Don't let rising chicken prices fowl your budget

 
Published9/3/2008 12:05 AM

I have been managing a very tight grocery budget of late. We're a family of four, including two teenage sons, and we eat most of our meals at home. I want to see how low I can get our grocery bill while still having healthy and enjoyable meals and snacks. I've told my family it's journalistic research but, to be honest, I'm doing it because I think it's fun.

Over the course of my "research," I've learned that chicken is a great option for the budget-minded, health-conscious cook. Because I plan our meals around featured sale items, many of our meals include some form of chicken, in addition to less-expensive varieties of beef and fish. I've skipped high-end cuts of steak and expensive varieties of fish in the quest to spend less than $100 per week on our family's groceries. Each week, some variety of chicken is featured at our store, so I've been able to stay well within our budget.

 

We've expanded our chicken recipe repertoire. We've had grilled chicken, baked chicken, roasted chicken, chicken salad, chicken soup, chicken enchiladas and pasta with chicken. But our days of budget chicken may be over, based on what I've read in recent business reports.

Tyson Foods recently reported a decrease in revenues due to the rising costs of producing chicken, most notably the higher cost of feeding the chickens. Tyson has not been able to pass their increased costs along to shoppers because there is a relatively high supply of chicken available. Apparently, not all shoppers are following the "creative chicken preparation" plan I am and chicken demand is not increasing as it typically does during a recession. If demand for chicken increased, chicken producers would be able to raise prices.

Even if demand continues at its current level, Tyson warns consumers that the chicken industry will need to pass its costs along to them. I'm not terribly concerned about this because a 10 percent increase in the price of chicken would still be a bargain. Paying $1.99 per pound for sale-priced boneless chicken breasts rather than $8.99 per pound for rib eye steak is a bargain. Having to pay $2.20 or $2.50 per pound for chicken when it's on sale would still be economical. It's hard to find any cut of meat or fish that is less expensive and as healthy as boneless chicken breasts. By buying whole chickens or cut chickens, you could save even more. (My husband suggested that we try raising chickens ourselves but I drew the line at that idea.)

As grocery prices continue to rise, nutritionists are recommending savings strategies that help the budget and are healthier for our families. For example, Americans generally eat more protein than they need. We can stretch meat and chicken by serving it along with vegetables, rice, beans or other legumes. Meals like vegetable stir-fry, stews, soups or pasta casseroles can help balance the rising costs of meat and chicken.

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America."

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