Monday, January 9, 2012

Saving Money by buying Beef in Bulk

On my weekly meal plan posts I sometimes reference my "cow" purchase especially when it comes to more expensive cuts of meat. If we are having steak for dinner you can bet it came from our cow purchase ($25 a pound for grass fed steak is a little out of my budget). For our last cow purchase we paid around $4.50lb for a cuts of meat (steaks, roasts, short ribs, ground beef). If you prefer conventional beef you can probably buy a cow for around $3lb. The key is purchasing your beef in bulk.

Here are a few simple steps to take when considering purchasing a cow:

1. How much beef do you typically consume? Generally speaking we go through about a 1lb or so a week and more on weeks where I  make a roast or steaks.  We are not big red meat eaters and I often make meat less than the main focus.

2. Determine what cuts of meat you eat: Many people stick to ground beef and rarely eat steaks or roasts.  Although many farmers  cut the beef into traditional cuts you can often buy ground beef in bulk as well.

3. Storage: A 1/4 of a cow is about 100lbs of meat (this depends on the breed/size). 100lbs can fit in a regular freezer (the kind that's over your fridge) but you won't be able to fit anything else in there. If you are anything like me you like to store other things in your freezer so you may want to consider purchasing an additional freezer. You can find a used one on Craigslist or a  new small chest freezer for about $200. Additionally you could split 1/4 with another family to avoid purchasing a freezer all together.

4. Research: Check out eatwild for farms in your state that sell pastured meats.  Ask friends or family for recommendations. Will they let you try a sample of the meat before buying in bulk (these are usually more expensive per pound cost but you can determine  if you will like the beef).  How do they sell the beef do you have to buy a whole cow, half or can  you purchase just a quarter.  Usually the more cow you buy the deeper the discount. So you may want to consider purchasing a whole cow with a few other families.  If possible I would consider visiting the farm before purchasing, pay attention to the cleanliness, how the animals are treated, etc.

5. Purchase: Contact your farmer and place an order for the beef you want. Keep in mind that you may have to put a deposit down when ordering. It may also take some time for your cow to be ready for pick up. This is not the grocery store so be sure to ask when you can expect to pick up your cow.

6. Pick up your Beef:  Bring coolers especially if you have to make a long drive to the farm. When you go to pick up your order, you'll be provided with an inventory of what you ordered. Be sure to do a rough check and make sure you got everything you ordered. As soon as you get home throw your purchase in your freezer and enjoy your beef!

Have you ever bought beef in bulk? Was it a good experience?

Linked to:  WFMWFiner Things FridayFrugal FridayWLWWRH


  1. Excellent article! Another thing to remember, is that you'll most likely be picking your beef up directly from the butcher, so definitely find out where your butcher is! We were surprised upon moving here, that the nearest USDA inspected butcher to us is almost 2 hours away!

  2. Oh wow, 2 hours is far away! We didn't pick up from a butcher but it is something to consider!

  3. It's not cheaper for us to buy in bulk because we normally wouldn't buy steaks {which would offset the cost for us}.

    However, I LOVE LOVE LOVE supporting our local rancher that we buy our beef from. We'll be buying another 1/4 in a couple of months. I always run out of ground beef long before anything else.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Johnlyn! Not sure where you live but I have been able to find a farmer that sells ground beef in bulk but it did take some research. He sells it for $4/lb if you buy at least 100lbs.

  4. Another option for purchasing ground beef in bulk is at your local Sam's Club. If you are willing to buy a box of the ground beef (I buy the "at least 90% lean", they give you a good discount off the price.

    I am very satisfied with their ground beef. I repackage it into 1 lb. portions and put into freezer zip-lock style bags that lay flat for easy storing in the freezer.

  5. Thanks so much for this blog. It was so helpful to find out how much freezer space is needed for 1/4 cow. Now I am not afraid to look into 1/4 cow as a single, and, I book marked the Eat Wild link. Thanks so much!

    1. Anon,

      So glad I could help! A 5.0 cu ft chest freezer could easily fit 1/4 cow and you would have left over room for stocking up on other goodies. A 5.0 cu ft freezer doesn't take up as much space as you think. If you have access to a Sams club, they sell them for around $160.

  6. i need to order mine soon! i saw a previous commenter commenting about steaks. if you order the front quarter of the cow it primarily will consist of just roast and ground beef. I haven't checked into it this year yet, but last year it was only $2.34/lb!

  7. I have never bought beef in bulk. However, my family and I raised two steers growing up so we had the experience of a whole "beef" in the freezer. I must say, even as a young person, I could tell the difference in the flavor. Now, though, I think it would be nice to buy a 1/4 or 1/2 of a steer. We don't have any kiddos yet, so I think when we do, we may go down that road.

    Thanks for your helpful and informative post!

  8. We've been buying beef in bulk for years. Recently we started using Home Grown Cow. It lists farmers for other meats as well, and we can order on the site rather than calling the farmer ourselves and making the arrangements. Plus, some of the farmers sell family packs so you don't need to have extra freezer space or get too much for a small family.


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