The Best Time Of Year To Shop For Specific Meats

Usually, when someone buys meat, they just go to the store and get what they need at the moment. But what if I told you that, just by looking at the calendar, you could not only get better deals but also get better quality meat? You may not have noticed it before, but certain types of meat are best bought during certain seasons or around certain holidays. Their price and level of deliciousness are based on factors like how plentiful the animal is at that time of year, what stage they were in their life cycle, and how many people are interested in buying that type of meat around a certain date.

Luckily, meat is easily frozen, which means that you can buy it in bulk when it is cheaper (or better) and then thaw it out later. To freeze your meat, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that you can simply pop it in the freezer in its original packaging, but it will stay better longer if you wrap the package with another layer of plastic wrap. If you want your meat to stay even fresher, however, it is recommended to portion out your meat and use plastic wrap to create smaller packages you can seal tightly. It is best to freeze meat as soon as you get it home so that it is fresh and won't form ice crystals. Now that you know how to freeze your meat, let's take a look at when to buy it.

November is peak turkey season

This one shouldn't come as much of a surprise. November is turkey time, but it isn't just because no Thanksgiving spread would be complete without a big, juicy butterball. Poultry, like most meat, has certain seasons of the year when it is most abundant. This is largely based on the life cycle of the birds and when they are slaughtered. November is peak time for turkeys, as this is when there are large numbers of fresh, mature birds available.

Due in part to this high availability, turkey usually goes on sale around Thanksgiving. But the turkeys themselves aren't the only factor in this decision. Many stores also use turkeys as a loss leader, meaning that they mark them down with a deep discount and plan to make little to no profit on them because it will actually help them gain more money in the long run. The hope is that, if their turkeys are cheap enough, customers will also buy all the rest of the ingredients they need for their Thanksgiving dinner and Thanksgiving side dishes from that store as well, which inevitably results in a pretty big transaction.

Independence Day brings meat sales

Independence Day is a fantastic day to be a carnivore. Families and friends all over the U.S. gather together to celebrate America's birthday — with copious amounts of burgers and other grilled meats — while they watch the fireworks explode overhead. Understandably, this is a popular time of year for grill-able meats like hot dogs, ground beef, and sausage to go on sale, but you have to time your purchase just right. There are usually discounts on meat before the holiday, but you may find even better deals shortly after, when the surplus meat is marked down.

Keep in mind, however, that the prices of your Fourth of July ingredients are highly susceptible to changes in the market. CNN Business reported that 2023 saw lower overall prices for cookout materials (also including buns, drinks, ingredients for potato salad, and other sides). But the years previous to this saw very high prices due to inflation and a rash of avian flu that swept the poultry industry in 2022. Based on the numbers for 2023, the price of feeding one person a full meal at a cookout with 10 people equated to around $7.

Valentine's Day provides cheaper steaks

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day, Honey" like a lovingly prepared steak dinner. So, it's very serendipitous that stores just happen to discount their filet mignon, rib-eye steaks, New York strips, and T-bones around Valentine's Day. If you want to save even more money, though, you should look into buying meat that is normally used for roasts. Beef tenderloin, for instance, is typically also on sale at this time of year (and often at a lower price). With a tiny bit of extra work, you can slice this tenderloin into steaks the size you want.

Beef tenderloin is a great meat to stock up on around this time, as it is very versatile and can be used in many dishes throughout the year. Pork tenderloin is also usually on sale around Valentine's Day, and other pork products like breakfast sausage and bacon get discounted around almost every major holiday. Seafood is a big seller around this romantic holiday as well.

Summer is the best season for chicken

Okay, we know this one seems strange. You can get chicken at the store all year round! It's arguably the most ubiquitous meat there is. But, like with all meats (and with all things in general), there is a season for chicken. The best, highest quality chicken is bought in the summer because of the chickens' growth and harvesting cycle. This is when there are the most chickens available, so you will be most likely to find good prices on them.

When it comes to chicken, the general rule is the cooler the temperature, the higher the chicken prices will be. Since there are fewer chickens available to sell in winter and because this is not their natural season, prices are higher during that time of year. So, if you want to save on this kind of poultry, it is suggested to stock up in the warmer months, so you can make all the chicken soup you want in the winter.

Ham goes on sale around Easter and Christmas

What turkey is to Thanksgiving, ham is to Easter. Ham is a huge seller around this holiday (as is lamb), and thus can usually be found on sale shortly before and shortly after. Looking at the USDA historical data, it is easy to see a trend: Every year around April, boneless ham prices drop, as do prices of bone-in and all other hams (except for canned hams). Easter may come on a different date each year, but it is almost always in or around April, so this timing makes sense.

Ham prices also fall in December, which is another very popular time for ham. Even if your family has other plans for Christmas (or Easter) dinner, you can stock up on ham during these holiday seasons and keep it in the freezer so you can have sandwiches whenever you want. Be advised, though, that many frugal shoppers find that the best prices on ham can be found right after the holidays have passed because it is likely that stores will have bought more stock than they can sell before the event.

Autumn is for venison

Not everything is about the money, and this is a prime example. Yes, venison is usually cheaper in the autumn months because deer meat is more plentiful then and this is during the official deer hunting season. However, the reason that it is best to buy venison in the fall is because this is when it tastes best.

Around September and October, deer have a better taste because they are killed before their mating season. If a deer is killed during their mating season, the meat is filled with hormones, which, while not harmful to humans, can give it a stronger flavor that may be difficult for occasional venison eaters to adjust to. Venison bought during this time of year also has less tallow and fat build-up in the meat, which makes it tastier. It is firmer, too, due to the deer having better muscle tone at this time, as the bucks will have begun moving around more and scoping out territories in which they planned to find mates.

Corned beef prices drop around St. Patrick's Day

Alright, first we have to break it to you: Corned beef is not actually an Irish thing. Corned beef and cabbage may be an essential meal for St. Patrick's Day in the U.S., but it isn't something that is eaten often in Ireland. In fact, for centuries, they were not very big on beef there at all. Cows were used more as workers in the field than for meat to eat, and in Gaelic Ireland, they were even considered to be sacred.

Corned beef is more of an Irish-American tradition, which is why, in the U.S., corned beef and St. Patrick's Day go hand-in-hand, and also why you can find big discounts on it before this Irish holiday. Like with many other meats on this list, deals on this cured and boiled beef brisket may get even better right after St. Patrick's Day is over, so you may want to check out the meat department in the days following the holiday to stock up.

Bacon is cheaper in winter

If you are a bacon lover, wait for winter to fill up your freezer with this tasty, smokey meat. According to the USDA's price trend reports, bacon prices are generally cheaper in the colder months of the year, specifically November and December. These sales could potentially be due to the fact that some families enjoy having a Christmas brunch with a full spread of breakfast meats, or it could just be due to bacon being a great comfort food to help get you through the depressing, cold winter season.

Either way, it is highly recommended that you buy your bacon when it's on sale at this time and then freeze it for later. To make it easier to thaw out a bit at a time, consider layering your bacon slices on wax paper, folding the paper in such a way that each slice is separated. That way, when you want to cook with it, you can take what you need and not have to wait for a big frozen block of bacon to thaw enough to separate.