Cheaper cuts of meat - pork shoulder

23 March 2011
We were vegetarian for quite a few years, maybe seven or eight, and went back to meat after reading Nourishing Traditions.  When I started buying meat again I was shocked at how expensive it was so I've tended to stay with the cheaper cuts or we eat fish or chicken, along with our favourite vegetarian dishes.

Purple sweet potato and onions.

I really like meat with the bone still in it.  Either as a roast, chops or in a casserole.  The meat seems sweeter and more tender, and the bone gives an added depth of taste.  One of my favourite pieces of meat is a pork shoulder.  When it's cooked well, the meat is tender and delicious, and it's cheaper than a leg or anything from the middle section.  

Sunday's roast pork shoulder.

I encourage you to buy meat from your local butcher, not the supermarket; it's usually cheaper. The butcher will know where the meat comes from, so ask him about each cut while he's wrapping it for you. When the butcher knows you're interested in your food and want to know about it, he'll probably be more careful about giving you good quality meat. You can ask the butcher to trim the fat off, to slice thin or thicker slices, or to dice up or mince a slice for you.  It's all in the service they offer you - service you'll never get from a supermarket. There was a time when every housewife knew the various cuts of meat, now it seems very few do.  I encourage you to know as much about your food as possible.  Learning which part of the animal the various cuts come from is a good start to learning about meat.  I've found some good guides to meat cuts.  Some cuts are the same in all countries, some are different.  The lists are below:


We had this shoulder of pork as a hot roast with baked purple sweet potato, onions and green peas on Sunday.  On Monday we made sandwiches with the shoulder, last night's dinner finished it off.  I stripped the bones of the good meat and the scrap meat - that with too much fat on it - and gave that to the chooks as an added treat.  Chickens are carnivores and love meat.  The good meat and some of the roasted bones went into a pot for a very nice pork and vegetable casserole. The bones gave a lot of added flavour to the dish.  The shoulder fed us well for three days.

Stripping the shoulder - one plate with good meat, the other with scrap meat for the chickens.

When you buy a shoulder - you can also buy lamb shoulders instead of legs for a delicious roast lamb meal - you can ask the butcher for it to be boned, if that is how you want it.  A boned shoulder is easier to cut and you can lay it flat and fill it with stuffing before rolling it back up again and securing it with cooking string.  If you do have the butcher bone the shoulder for you, ask him for the bones, because when you roast the meat you can roast the bones at the same time, then make stock with them - and freeze it.  But as I said, I like meat with the bone still in so that is how I buy it.  There is quite a bit of fat in pork and lamb but if you cook it slowly for a long time, much of the fat will render out, and if you eat it cold the next day, it's very easy to cut the fat out.

The dark brown pieces on these bones are where the flavour is.  Use that in your casserole for extra flavour and discard the bones before you serve up.

You can either buy the expensive cuts like T-bone steak, rump, legs of lamb, pork chops or fillet, or stay with the cheaper things like sausages, neck chops or minced steak|ground beef.  But there is a middle ground.  In between those two extremes there are the cheaper cuts that tend to take longer to cook, but have excellent flavour and give you delicious nutritious food, for much less money.  With rising costs, this is one way to keep meat on the table while staying within your budget.


  1. My husband hunts wild hog here in FL, and he recently smoked a hog shoulder--and it was delicious! I don't think I'd ever had that cut before, but it was so tender and flavorful that I will always keep it in mind for the future.

  2. One of the problems we are now having in the UK is, that because the media have been promoting cheaper cuts of meat as a way to save money, I now often find that leg or loin of pork can prove to be cheaper than shoulder or belly of pork.

    Unfortunately the British public are very gullible, they buy what they are told are cheaper cuts of meat, but they don't actually look at the price. It is a shame, but some of the tastiest cuts of meat are now beyond the reach of my purse.

  3. Unfortunately the butcher we have here is quite a bit more expensive than the supermarket. We do have three grocery stores in town however and I usually visit them all when I go. One store because they always have marked down fresh produce and cheap cuts of meat (usually pork and chicken), one store because they will have buy 1 get 1 and marked down mushrooms and bananas, and the last superstore because all the dry goods are cheaper there.
    Pork shoulders here tend to be small and don't have much meat on them. We usually find Boston Butts the best bargain for a pork roast. I like to roast or rotisserie it and like you I use it for several meals if possible.
    Lamb is not a meat found in our stores much and is usually ridiculously expensive. The last small roast of lamb I saw had $36 on it. I waited because there were three and no one bought them and they were eventually marked way down so I got one. It was quite good in the rotisserie and as soup afterwards.

  4. this is going to sound quite odd, but I have never made my own stock.
    how do you do it?

    that pork sounds delicious, I remember when I was young we use to have a leg of mutton.. or a pumped leg.

    I wish everyone could read this post.. we all need to support our local butchers and fruit shops.. otherwise they will become 'extinct' and all we will be left with are supermarkets.

  5. Morning Rhonda-Jean. :) We get our biodynamic beef and lamb direct from the farmers, and the cost of buying in bulk works out the same as buying from the butcher. Our pork and chicken comes from a local free-range butcher. They do the best smoked ham!


  6. Hi Rhonda,
    Just this weekend I saw a shoulder of pork at the grocery and wondered how to cook it. I must admit that the fat content has usually thrown me off of purchasing pork altogether, however I did once get some nice lean 'steaks' and they were delicious. What is a good herb to flavour it with?
    You mentioned bones adding flavour, so true. This is a great tradition here because of the dearness of meat in days gone by. Smoked bones are added to peas and rice, we also have cow heel soup, pig tail soup, ox-tail soup and many more dishes of like nature. We even utilise chicken feet!
    Trinidad & Tobago

  7. Yes, like Kearen Lizzie said, they have risen the price of lamb shanks and cutlets because of their popularity with celebrity chefs. I find the lamb chops cheaper than these but you can still adapt it from the same recipes.
    A timely post Rhonda. I'm off to do the groceries today and will be sure to pop into the butcher.

  8. We love kangaroo meat, good price and low in fat and cholestorol. We eat it every week.

  9. Oh I LOVE my local butcher! Like Cath, my butcher does the most delicious in-house smoked ham. It is so much better than any supermarket deli. I think I'm addicted to it (lol).

    I like to be conscious of where I spend my money - what kind of future am I investing in? Do I want to see a future with independent butchers / grocers? If so, I need to support them NOW and not let all my food dollars go to the big 2 supermarkets.

  10. Good morning Rhonda. I'm lucky to have an excellent butcher locally who really cares about his product. The pork and chicken are free range, the beef and lamb are grass fed. His prices are more expensive than the supermarket but the meat is incomparable. We have vegetarian meals several nights a week so that we can afford to eat Bruce's meat on the other nights and it's a side dish rather than the main item.

    Cheaper cuts are also perfect for the slow cooker, there is nothing nicer than coming home to the smell of a cooked dinner.

  11. Hi Rhonda, Lamb shoulder slow cooked with lemon, rosemary & garlic, is our favourite meal, the shoulder is so underrated, luckily, which means so much cheaper than other cuts! Our butcher leaves the bone in for us, but trims it down to just the right amount of fat for flavour. The smell in our home after 7 hours slow cooking is divine! Shall have to try a pork one now! Mel.

  12. One of my favorites too...I love that there is always left overs for a few additional meals. I love that in the long run it is very cost efficient for several meals. A great way to stretch the food budget.

    You lunch looks oh' so yummy Rhonda.

  13. Hello, this is my first time posting on your blog, though i've been lurking a while. While I am a vegetarian, this post brought back fond memories of my mother boiling salted pork shoulder in ginger ale before she baked it. At least I think that's what she did. Yum! Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

  14. I do not shop at the local butcher even though I would like to as his prices are just so expensive.
    We do get meat from the farm with our job so for me it is just pork and chicken for variety. Mutton has priced itself off the market for most folks and I fondly remember when growing up roast mutton every Sunday with roast vegies and homemade gravy
    I shop at one supermarket chain as for the most part they cut up and pack their meat fresh. The other supermarket chain (it was revelaed on the news on TV ) gasses their sealed meat to make it look fresh and prolong shelf life but it can be up to 16 weeks old!
    Karen - NZ

  15. I may have mentioned it before but we raise our own cattle and have it cut up by a local butcher. Nothing goes to waste and as it works out at a flat rate of about $4/kilo and only the bag of grain to 'finish off' the beast it's good value. The grain feeding is necessary because otherwise the meat tends to be too 'soft' for roasting or corning especially as the steers average out at about 15 months of age. I was a bit sorry to see the last steer go as he was my dairy cows calf and he had a quaint habit of chasing oranges you threw down the paddock and bellowing while he ran, as if he was calling out to the other cattle that it was his orange. Of course he was nicknamed 'Orange' but it's not good to become fond of something you'll have to eat.

  16. Pork shoulder is absolutely the favourite roast meat in this house. It is the cheapest meat cut I can find in our supermarkets too, which is a bonus! I always use the Jamie Oliver slow roast recipe and it comes out so soft, it falls off the bone. They tend to sell them as a large cut here so one shoulder does many meals. As you said, the slow roast renders out much of the fat and our dogs enjoy the fatty bits as a tasty extra with their kibbles. Our favourite ways to use left overs are as pulled pork in BBQ sauce and as a casserole with biscuits on top.

  17. Pork is on the table in our home quite often...with the two of us it is very budget friendly as it makes several meals...after the initial slices with vegetable kind of meal I usually make pulled pork sandwiches...mmmm good!

  18. Rhonda.. I have been without the net for a week or so, so am just catching up and was so sadened to read yesterdays post, and that you have received such comments. Keep your head up, if we were all to stop every time something happens in the world, we would all have to come to a stop. You should be very proud of your book, and yourself. Please keep up all the work you put into your blog as you are a light in a world that need one and in insperation to alot of us out here. THANKYOU!!!

  19. Cheaper cuts of meat are all the rage now because of the flavor. Shanks, hocks, yum!

    I roast leftover bones afterward, then toss them in a pot with trimmings of any veggies (brown onion skins and all.) Add water, peppercorns, garlic still in their paper wraps and a bouquet garni and voila... stock for the next stew.

    You can store stocks in heavy duty (thicker) mason jars in the freezer. Just leave extra room for the expansion of the fluid during freezing or the jars will crack.

  20. We also got our first Wild hog this winter. Our son in law trapped it. I like the pork.
    I also wanted to thank you for your continued blogging about your day to day life. It makes me aware that I'm not alone in my continued journey. My coworkers call me a hoarder for wanting stock-up. I collect the used Salsa Jars (quart canning jars) they throw away. I purchased a wheat grinder and am learning to make my own bread.
    Thank you.

  21. working in a grocery store and knowing the meat department guys is a HUGE help. I'm constantly getting cuts of meat at a discount because they can only sit on the shelf for X amount of days. :) It saves us a lot of money.
    I too like meats with the bones still in...however, DH does not. Lol He's kind of picky.

  22. I am a butchers daughter...I grew up on fresh meat, every night brought home from the shop...I look back now and think how wonderful that was .....I try and shop at my local butcher, they are so popular, the lines are long and it is staffed by many people, so good to see a swing back to the 'old fashioned shop service'...I always think Butchers are lovley people, friendly and smily...just as I remember my dad..Suzanne, South Australia...

  23. My husband and I were vegetarian and vegan for 18 years! I've been delving into meat eating for the last 4 and he jumped in with both feet 2 years ago after we got a chance to butcher our own humanely raised free-range chickens at a friends house. If we're going to eat meat we gotta know how it was raised and where it came from. Lucky for us we have lots of local sources of local grass fed meats available.

    We get our pork from here:

    They deliver to the city:)

  24. Hi Rhonda,
    Do you have a slow cooker? I swear by mine especially on those days when there are a lot of things on. I can just throw a combo of meat and veges in the pot and at the end of the day there is a beautiful meal, ready to serve! Meat with the bone still in it is divine in the slow cooker. It melts in your mouth and just falls off the bone...Just made myself REALLY hungry then. (Your pork shoulder looked very yummy I'll have to try that cut!)

  25. well timed post as today I picked up my meat pack from the butcher I ordered a half a beef and it cost me &$7.95 per kilo and that was for mince, good steak eg porterhouse or eyefillet, gravy beef and alot more such an economical way to buy I usually do this around every 8 months and I save up to buy it with the left over grocery money. The total price was $423.39 and he let me have it for $400.00.

  26. Pork shoulder is my absolute favourite roast! In the region of Germany I come from, it is called "Schaeufele" (little shovel) because of the form of the shoulder blade. I have tried to describe to my local butcher how the cut should be, but somehow it is not quite the same.

  27. Rhonda you always remind me how good it can be when you just put a little thought into what you do. I sometimes put it all in the too hard basket. But it is actually quite simple. I need people like you to keep reminding me. I don't have to spend a fortune on meat for a tasty meal.

  28. I've had a laugh just now when I started reading this post. I read the title and the words "pork shoulder" stood out and then I glanced at the picture and wondered why in the world the pork shoulder looked like some kind of purple parsnip. haha Anyway, this was a nice post, but I'm a vegetarian like you used to be. I wondered if I could request a post about some of your favorite, simple vegetarian meals? Thanks Rhonda! - Mel

  29. Love this. We do this as well. I love to roast a cheaper cut of meat and use it for many meals.

  30. I love the purple sweet potatoes!!...and the combination of the onions, peas and potatoes.

    We are purchasing a fourth of a beef cow from some friends of ours and that gets us all the ground meat, steaks and roasts for the same price per pound, a fantastic deal!

  31. I love the cheap cuts! Anything I can cook low and slow is generally a favorite in flavor. This month I made a Brazilian Feijoada recipe from Cooking Light (recipe available online for free that used pork shoulder, smoked ham hock, and beef short rib. Yum! It made us 4 good-sized meals served over some brown rice and with a side salad, and it froze great.

  32. I've never done a pork shoulder before. I'll be on the lookout for one. I agree with you about bone-in cuts. I love having the extra flavor and I always make soup after we've eaten most of the meat.

    We have one butcher shop in town and it is very expensive (3x the cost of the grocery store). I go in once in a while because I can buy meat bones for soup there.

  33. Each day I read your blog it teaches me something I didn't know before. I consider your blog a crucial block in the wall of "continuing MY education."

    Thank you for sharing you knowledge with all of us!


  34. Hi Rhonda, is there still no news about one of the little newones to come? Oohh.. how exciting!

    We now have a beautiful daughter received from God. How grateful we are!

    Above is the reason why I was absent for a while and missed your 'angry' post a couple of days ago. I know exactly what your writing about. Shame, isn't it? But I see that you have received over threehundred comments on that one, so I am not the only one who says you're right about it.

    Still wish you and your family all the best, and yes.. I still am and will be a grateful follower! ;o)

  35. I also like to use my local butcher. He stocks (stocked - past tense) some wonderful selections. The shop is currently closed as the small shopping centre in which he resided completely flooded in the Brisbane flood earlier this year. I am hopeful that this shop will eventually return. (Where else will I source my duck? :-))
    I do love pork, and there is indeed so much one can do with the leftover component.
    Tracy (Brisbane) :-)

  36. Great post Rhonda. We get so many meals out of roast shoulders and legs. Oh for the days when lamb was so inexpensive and the shank was sold attached - and giblets left inside chickens!

    When you make stock, do you save the vegies after you've strained them off?

  37. We buy a whole animal from direct from the farmer here near toowoomba, it is all cut in to the right cut, mince as well and when he delivers we split it up between our four families.
    The meat cost about $ 6.50kg


  38. Looking at those pictures made me hungry instantly. I like your blog. Thanks for posting!

  39. I'm very fortunate to have a butcher shop front to the local abattoir very close, closer than the nearest supermarket here.
    Their meat is fresh, and I can choose whatever cut of meat I like as it is an abattoir.

    How do you like the book 'Nourishing Traditions'? I've been thinking of purchasing it but was unsure of the actual contents of the book.

    I recently purchased a pressure cooker/slow cooker/sauteing pot in one, it's very handy when cooking up a lot of food at once very quickly. Granted, if i were more organised i could do without it, but the flavours of pressure cooked meat really is something to look forward to.
    Added bonus is that I have only 1 pot to clean up after dinner.

    Take care

  40. Hi Rebecca! Nourishing Traditions is an excellent book. It's got a lot of recipes but, for me, it's value was the explanation and confirmation about unprocessed food.



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