When it comes to the desire to eat healthier and live frugally, the thought often arises that we have to sacrifice one for the other – that you can’t have them both. Well, in our frugal journey, we have found ways to have both: living healthier while at the same time living frugally!
Staying in budget, while eating healthier options is possible, it is doable and it is rewarding.
However, there are challenges in each local area. Some areas are blessed to have lower prices on fresh organic produce, some areas have healthier protein options, some have even more competitive health grocery stores, etc.
But, doing what you can in your area and taking advantage of the savings that your areas offer are still going to provide some healthy affordable options. We have a lot to say and talk about in on this subject…but to keep this article precise and to not publish a book in one post, we are limiting ourselves to only talking about local grass-fed beef for less options.
If you want to find out more information on the benefits of buying grass-fed beef vs. other types, you can check out this article from Eating Well.
So let’s get on with that topic!
First, you can get these options in many grocery stores. But they are very expensive. Even in Walmart! You will pay $4-$5 minimum per pound for grass-fed ground beef – not to mention the higher price tag on the higher quality cuts. Add organic to the mix and the price soars even more!
So it seems nearly impossible for many frugal families to afford a healthier beef option – unless they are a small family or make other major sacrifices in life.
In the end, the best way to cut the costs on grass-fed or organic beef is to cut the middle man and go straight to the source. Some sources will be better priced than others. Keep that in mind as you do your price checking for your local areas.
There are some caveats when you go right to the source. You generally have to buy a large amount of beef – like a whole, half or quarter cow. But it is the concept of buying in bulk – that’s when you can yield great savings.
Before we tell you where to look for these quality of meat, let us tell you about what we have done the past 4 or so years. We’ve been buying from a local farmer in our area. We usually purchase 1/4 of the cow which lasts our family of 7 for 9+ months – but note that we don’t eat a lot of meat per meal and really make the meat stretch with other healthy additions (like brown rice) and our kids are little (10 and under). So keep those things in mind when comparing our eating to yours.
The following information is not from an official farmer or rancher – it is merely our observations as a non-cow expert family and what our experience has been. 1/4 of a cow costs us $250-$300 depending on the year. The total average weight for the cow averages around 1,000 – 1,200 lbs. So you could theoretically say that it is $2.50 – $3 per lb. – which would be AWESOME and so much cheaper than the grocery store when you are talking all of the different cuts of steak and roast and more. But note that this is all parts of the cow – much of which is not eaten. So then you have the hanging weight, which is often another several pounds lighter per quarter (approximately 60-70% of the total weight). Then, after the cuts have been made, you are reducing your actual meat weight by even more. Now you could request the organs, tongue, bones for broth and all of that extra stuff that most people don’t want (unless you know how to use it) and so if you don’t get those, your actual take-home weight is even less.
So with the cost of the cow around $250-$300 per quarter, we typically end up paying an additional $80-$100 for the work of the butcher. This meat purchase will end in the ball park of $400 for 1/4 cow – which weighed out without the bones for broth or the organs and extra things most don’t want it ends up being 100 lbs. of actual meat (your weight will depend upon cuts you choose and the fat content of those cuts as well).
Considering those averages, our local grass-fed beef (not grain finished) has been an average of $4.00 per lb. In our opinion – this is REALLY GOOD! Yes, we do get a bunch of ground beef, but we also get roasts and steaks. So when you compare the price directly from the farmer, its true that you may still be getting hamburger at $4.00/lb, but you are also getting all your other cuts at the same $4.00/lb (e.g., the rib eye, roasts, steaks, etc).
Well, that is our story on buying grass-fed beef locally for the past 4 or so years. A note that we did want to mention is that if you do not want a whole cow, only part – most local beef farmers will sell their cows as a whole. So you may need to find other parties to buy with you. That is what we have to do – find 3 other buyers in order for us to get 1/4 of a cow.
Now where to find local grass-fed beef:
- Ask around! You might be surprised about someone you know that knows a local beef farmer. Facebook, email list of local friends, local groups, etc.
- Watch for signs on the road and in the newspaper. Local farmers really don’t do much, if at all, in terms of advertising – but they will put signs out! They may even put it in the paper – but driving around and watching for signs can yield great local prices.
- If you see these local farms and farmers – just call them up! Much of the time, they already have many requests by word of mouth that they don’t do a lick of advertising. So you may just have to call and take a shot in the dark! This is how we found one that was very reasonably priced (on the lower end).
- Visit the websites where many are listed in your area (see the list below).
- Eat Wild – this site is a directory of local farmers offering meats of all types – not just beef
- Grassland Beef – this site offers cuts already made – not the whole beef option – the prices are decent considering that you can get a little or a lot, but not as good of a price as going the way we share above
- American Grassfed Association -another directory of local farms that produce beef that meet the standards of this association
- Local Harvest – this is a community co-op type of site to get all kinds of fresh food – so the beef is sold in packs like Grassland. It seems quite pricey to us, but we wanted to at least direct you to this option.
One thing that my mom and dad wanted to do when going in on part of a cow with us was wanting to see the local farm and the local conditions for the animals. This was a major bonus! They found the farm and drove around it and saw happy, free-range, healthy, grass-eating cows! The farm was well kept and this farmer only raised a handful each year, so they were well taken care of. We thought this was a very interesting thing they recommended and so we pass it on to you.