When we’re in the grocery store, a quick look at the prices in the meat section is enough to turn a lot of us into de facto vegetarians. Sure we’d love a good rare steak for dinner, but our wallets demand that we just grab three more boxes of pasta.

What many students don’t realize is that if you’re smart about picking the right cuts, you can let your inner Ron Swanson loose without breaking the bank. We’ve got you covered with a list of some of the best cheap cuts and how to prepare them to make you feel like an omnivore again.



Photo by Kathleen Lee

Skirt Steak, $6-8 per pound

The skirt lies along the bottom of the cow’s belly, under the rib. Skirt steaks are chewier and thinner compared to plumper cuts in the rear, but don’t let that deter you. Once marinated, this meat becomes tender and is affordable enough to make steak a part of your regular rotation. Ideal for: fajitas, stir-fry or Argentinian style with chimichurri

Chuck eye, $4-8 per pound

Often referred to as the “poor man’s rib-eye,” this is a perfect substitute for those who want to have the full-on steak experience without having to dip into next month’s rent budget. Chuck eye has the deep umami flavor you love from its pricier peers, allowing you to satisfy all your decadent cravings. Ideal for: burgers, your classic steak and potatoes dishes

Brisket, $6-8 per pound

Beloved by Texas barbecue aficionados, this fatty lower breast cut makes for some seriously delicious comfort food when braised. Bring out your inner 1950s housewife and impress your roommates. Ideal for: BBQ, pot roasts



Photo by Hannah Lin

Boston Butt, $1-2 per pound

The name of this one is deceptive— this cut actually comes from the upper part of the pig’s shoulder. Throw it in the slow cooker before you leave the house, and come home to meat so tender and moist, it falls apart on your fork. Ideal for: roasts (try it with veggies and white wine), BBQ, beer-braising

Shank, $1-2 per pound

This cut is less expensive due to the bones left in it—a silly reason to pass on meat that, after some braising, makes for a melt-in-your-mouth dish so good you won’t believe shank hasn’t been your go-to pork option all along. Ideal for: braising with gravy, mushrooms, mashed potatoes

Cheeks, $3-4 per pound

With meat, it can often pay to go outside your comfort zone, and pork cheeks are a prime example. Because they’re not one of the more commonly purchased meats, the cheeks are much cheaper than many other parts and have a unique sweetness that’s sure to keep you coming back to the butcher counter. Ideal for: braising with wine or ale, ragout



Photo by Helena Lin

Whole Chicken, $1.50 per pound

The idea of buying an entire raw chicken can be daunting, especially when those trusty pre-packaged chicken breasts are waiting one shelf over. However, buying the whole bird gives you significantly more bang for your buck, whether you’re breaking it down or roasting it whole. An added bonus: you can use the backbone to make your own stock for soups and other tasty dishes. Ideal for: oven roasting with carrots, onions and celery

Thighs, $3-4 per pound

If you’re a dark meat kind of person, you already know that the thigh is often the moistest, most savory part of the chicken. What you might not know is that it’s also less expensive than its white meat alternatives, making it the perfect pick for those of us who want flavor on a budget. Ideal for: chicken noodle soup, curries, chicken cacciatore