Is Buying a Side of Beef Worth It?

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If you're a big meat-eater, here's how you can save money while eating tastier meals.

The following post comes from Julia Scott at partner site Mintlife.

Buying a side of beef might seem totally crazy. How can you possibly eat 100 pounds of beef before it spoils? But before you buy mass-produced beef from the grocery store, do the math. You’ll be shocked just how cheap buying organic, grass-fed meat can be.

Let’s start by breaking down the costs of buying beef pound by pound at the grocery store and ordering an animal directly from the farmer. There are two direct costs involved, buying, and storing…

Farm-raised beef

Buying – Growers typically charge a flat price, about \$3 to \$5 a pound for grass-fed beef, which is higher quality than most store-bought beef. Some say it tastes better too. If you pool your money with four other families, you’ll be expected to pay for your portion of more than 100 pounds’ worth of meat. That adds up to 8.3 pounds of beef for each of the four families to eat every month. Your share will include a varied selection of beef, including ground beef, steaks, roasts, and stewing meat.

100 pounds x \$4 per pound, on average = \$400

Storing – Not everyone has an extra-deep freezer sitting around. A new 9 cubic foot Kenmore freezer will run you \$272 at Sears. One online energy guide estimates this freezer’s yearly running cost will be \$27.

Freezer + energy costs = \$299

Savings – Your total yearly cost for buying a side of beef from a farmer, including storage, is \$699. If you amortize the cost of the freezer over three years, your yearly cost drops to \$499.

Grocery store beef

Buying – Meat prices vary widely, depending on cut and where you buy. Let’s estimate what a typical family of four pays for regular beef in an average month. To make a fair comparison to buying beef from a farmer, we’ll stick to purchasing 8.3 pounds of beef a month:

• 1-2 pound flank steak at \$10.99 per pound = \$21.98
• 4 pounds of ground beef at \$3.99 per pound = \$15.96
• 2.3 pounds stewing meat at \$2.99 per pound = \$6.87
• Total beef outlay in one month = \$44.81
• Total yearly beef outlay is \$ x 12 = \$537.72

Storing – Good news: Storing grocery store beef is almost free! As long as you can make room in your freezer for your weekly meat buys, electricity to run a new Energy Star-rated 25 cubic foot Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator costs an estimated \$61.

Freezer + energy costs = \$61

Savings – Your total yearly cost for buying beef from the grocery store, including storage, is \$598.72.

In case you forgot, the yearly outlay for grass-fed beef was \$699, or \$499 per year over three years. Which means buying higher-quality meat from a farmer costs \$99.72 less per year than buying regular meat from the store. Plus, you’ll have a new freezer to stash other edibles like bread, soup, and veggies.

Want to dig deeper into buying a side of beef? Check out LocalHarvest.org and EatWild.com, both of which have state-by-state listings of farms where you can buy grass-fed meat.

Julia Scott blogs at the money saving site BargainBabe.com.

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