From Our Pantry: Saving Money with Clearance Meat and Sloppy Joes

Open-faced sloppy Joe on whole grain bread, sauteed asparagus, and white rice.

The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing.  I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less!  You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.

A few weeks ago I braved the rain with three kids ages three and under to go to Save Mart.  I rarely shop at any grocery store except WinCo, but that day, it was worth the trip.  They had asparagus on sale for $0.99/lb. and ground beef for $1.97/lb.  We love asparagus, but I rarely find it below my $1/lb. limit for produce.  So when I find it at such a great price, I buy it, and I buy a lot of it!  (NOTE:  Save Mart again has asparagus for $0.99/lb. through 2/21!)

So I had the boys help me pick out my six pounds of asparagus, then we headed over to the meat department.  I grabbed a chub of ground beef and was about to put it in my cart when some clearance stickers caught my eye.  There was a whole section of fresh ground beef with $2 off stickers!  I was ecstatic!  Instead of buying ground beef for $1.97/lb., I was able to buy ground chuck for quite a bit less!

Clearance meat!!

A lot of stores will use % off stickers to mark down their meat.  Even with the markdowns, I rarely find meat within my $2/lb. spending limit.  The fact that Save Mart uses $2 off is way better for us consumers if we’re savvy about it.  Keep in mind that the most savings will be found on the smallest packages.  If a package of meat starts at $3 and is $2 off, that’s a savings of 66%!  If a package starts at $5 and is $2 off, that’s only a savings of 40%.  My rough mental estimate is that I ended up paying about $1.60/lb. for ground chuck!  (Just remember to use or freeze your clearance meat right away.)

About a 56% savings for this package! Only $1.54/lb. for ground chuck!

Last week I pulled a pound out of the freezer and turned it into sloppy joe’s.  The recipe I use came from a church cookbook my mother-in-law gave me when we first got married.  It is really simple, really quick, and really tasty!  The best part?  It costs me well under $3 per batch!

Just out of curiosity, it went to Lucky to see how much canned sloppy Joe sauce and seasoning packets cost.  Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce cost $2.29 for a 15.5 oz. can.  This is enough sauce for one pound of ground beef.  The generic brand, Valu Time, was much more reasonable at $1.59 and was on sale for $1.39.  Assuming a great deal on the meat, this isn’t much more than what it cost me, but their directions don’t call for onions.

I then went to the seasoning packet aisle.  All three packets I found called for 1 pound of ground beef and a 6-oz. can of tomato paste.  McCormick’s 1.31 oz. packet was $1.39 and Lawry’s 1.5 oz. packet was $1.79.  Sunny Select was much more reasonable at $0.48 for a 1.31 oz. packet, definitely the most cost-effective.  But I’m not a seasoning packet type of cook, especially when I can easily make the sauce with ingredients I already have on hand.

An added bonus to this recipe is that you can make it in large batches and freeze it!  If you are planning on freezing it for a long time, zip-top freezer bags work better than plastic containers.  You want to avoid air contact with the meat.

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef

½ large onion, chopped

¾ c. ketchup

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. mustard

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 tsp. salt 

Brown ground beef and onion.  Drain off fat and return to pan.

Stir in remaining ingredients; simmer about 5 minutes.

While the beef is browning, I measure all sauce ingredients into my measuring cup to save time, but you can just add them directly to the pan.


Serve on hamburger buns, open faced on toasted bread, or over brown rice.


  1. Kayla says

    How well does this freeze? I make Sloppy Joes often, but have never frozen it. This is such a great idea! Once it is frozen, how easy is it to defrost?

    • Jolene says

      Me too! Remember the gourmet WHITE asparagus last year at 99 Cents Only? Sumiko, you’d find a lot of produce within $1/lb range & under. And clearanced meat, I do the same thing. Lucky & Target are good, but the best is Fresh&Easy (as much as 75% off).

  2. mary p says

    try your joes on top of a baked potato too! maybe with a little cheddar on top and some green beans on the side. that way you don’t have to run out and buy expensive hamburger buns.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *