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Friday, May 29, 2015

I did it -- I bought beef

I've been going back and forth in my mind for almost 2 weeks on this issue. 80% lean ground beef patties are on sale at Cash & Carry for $2.68/lb in a 10-lb case. $2.68 a pound is the lowest I've seen any type of beef in a long while. I thought myself lucky to buy some near-expiry ground beef for $3.89/lb a couple of months ago. So, when I saw Cash & Carry's sale flyer, I was very, very torn. Good price, but it would put us over budget for the month.

We still have 1 whole turkey and 2 hams in the freezer, but that's it for meat, here. I have been longing for beef for a while now. This has been the longest stretch we've ever gone with such limited beef in our diet.

So I thought, and I thought, and I thought.

The pros -- Cash & Carry sale prices are often the very best price on a fairly basic food item that I ever find, as in their 50-lb sacks of beans, #10 cans of tomato products, and 25 to 50-lb sacks of grains. For the near future, $2.68/lb could be the lowest I will see beef for several more months. Cash & Carry's sale prices cycle about every 5-6 months. So this may also be the only sale price this low for summer cooking with beef. Other food items, on sale at Cash & Carry, I can often find elsewhere, for near the sale price. But I don't think that would be the case with beef, right now.

The cons -- going over budget and spending such a large share of the budget on one food item. I would also need to ration out my use of the case of beef, so we didn't blow through it in a month or two. I would want this beef to last the whole summer.

This has been one purchase that I really did think through. And after a lot of consideration, I did buy a 10-lb case of beef patties.

Cash & Carry sells their beef patties in sizes labeled 2/1, 3/1, 4/1, 5/1 and 6/1. This means that there are 2 patties per pound, 3 patties per pound, and on. I chose the 5 patties per pound. Each patty is 3.2 ounces, about right for a single serving of beef, if no other good source of protein is available at the meal. However, I can also just use 3 patties (9.6 ounces total), in a family meal of spaghetti sauce, with the addition of a small amount of cheese served on the pasta. The 5/1 case has 50 patties, all together.

My plan is to limit our use of these patties to 12 per month. That will give us either 2 dinners of burgers on buns, plus one less-beef meal, or 1 dinner of burgers on buns per month, plus 2-3 dinners of less-beef meals. With this plan, the beef should last through the summer. And maybe by fall or winter, we'll see some lowering beef prices.

Maybe it's okay that we went over our budget to cover this beef purchase. It's not like it was a frivolous item. And you'll see in my end of month post that I didn't buy much of anything in the way of luxury foods. We stuck to basic items. so, for all of the months that I've gone over budget, I actually feel better about this purchase putting us over, than any previous month.


  1. Wow! I thought we lived on a shoestring but yours must be tighter. Meat--whether it's beef, pork, or chicken--is always in my freezer. Whenever I go to the store I always run around the meat department looking for anything with red tags which indicates a reduced price. Depending on who was pricing the discounts that day determines if they are worthy of my purchase. Sometimes we get very good reduced prices and other times not. When I see these greatly reduced items we often pick up a lot and then divide and freeze when we get home. Sometimes I have strange cuts of meat but if the price is right we find a way to prepare them! I think I have enough meat in the freezer for the entire summer.

    I was out of ground beef about 6 weeks ago and I haven't seen any really good prices for a while so we haven't had ground beef in a while. I like mostly 85/15 ratio or higher also. Tonight we're doing burgers using a small package of ground beef mixed with ground seasoned pork. It's not my favorite but if we want burgers it has to be this way. I don't have anything but lettuce to top them with so this should be interesting. Four potatoes for French fries for five people could be challenging and I do have a can of baked beans sitting on the shelf. But it's good food so I doubt anyone will complain.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I would love to have a freezer full of meat, right now. All meat has gotten so expensive, that even at markdown prices, it seems exorbitant. A typical markdown price on ground beef, here, is $3.89/lb. Too high for us, except special occasions (for my birthday dinner and Valentine's Day, we bought some marked down ground beef for burgers).

      You have a good attitude about cuts of meat that you're not accustomed to purchasing. If the price is good, buy it, then figure out how best you might prepare it. Some of those older cookbooks have sections that tell you what cuts of meat do well with different types of cooking (braising, roasting, stewing, etc).

      Hope you enjoy your burgers tonight -- and I'm sure the family will be very pleased with what you decide to add on to the menu, beans or whatever else!

  2. Five patties per pound and ten pounds means you have fifty patties, and if you are using twelve per month that should last four months. That is good planning on your part, Lili.

    I know what you mean about having little meat on hand. Before I went shopping last week I think I was down to one roasting chicken. Beef is just so expensive right now and a real luxury to some people's budgets. I look at the price of beef and usually just walk away. I would think that people who are eating beef regularly must be spending a lot on groceries.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I know what you mean. Even the markdown bin of meat sometimes has crazy prices on beef. Many of the items in that bin are priced at about $10 per pound. Yikes!

      I think you're right, families who eat beef on a very regular basis must be spending a lot on groceries, right now. I did read an article about a month ago, mentioning that beef prices should moderate a bit by year end. Let's hope that's true, and it's more than just a "bit".

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  3. I haven't bought ground beef or steaks in such a long time. Prices for ground beef are about $5 and good steaks at least $10/lb. We hardly ever eat meat straight up, usually it is served in stir fry, soup, or other one dish meals. I'm glad we don't have the desire for beef so much, in fact, the more I incorporate beans in recipes, the more satiated I feel. Meat is becoming a quick stranger. This morning, I am having some bean pesto (on rice with cheese) and bean cupcakes, with papaya and cottage cheese. Yum!! I told my husband, without eating meat, I think I've got enough protein this morning.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Stir-fries, soups and one-dish meals are a great way to make a little meat go a long way. I made spaghetti sauce last night, using 3 beef patties (cooked, then crumbled) -- 9.6 oz of beef total for 5 adults, not quite 2 ounces per person. And in the sauce, with lots of onions and chunks of tomatoes, it seemed very "meaty".

      Your breakfast sounds yummy! Especially the papaya. What a luxury! I was pretty happy with my breakfast, too, of 1 slice of whole wheat bread (homemade, and this batch turned out good), plain and toasted, plus a small serving of fruity granola, topped with half a banana, and rice/soy milk. It was good, filling, and kept me going while I ran errands then did laundry.

    2. I'm just curious, is there a lot of fillers in the beef? Is 80% beef, 20% in other ingredients, or 80% lean beef + other ingredients? I often considered doing exactly what you did. Buy beef patties, and use as hamburger in dishes that call for ground meat. Your "meaty" spaghetti sounds delicious, makes me hungry for some beef in spaghetti too.


    3. Hi YHF,
      It's 80% lean, 20% fat. So, no other fillers, just not extra lean.

      I believe that 75/25 is considered regular ground beef, 80/20 is considered lean, 85/15, extra lean, and 90-96/4-10 is considered super lean.

      Other ingredients, such as soy protein isolates, must be disclosed in the labeling. If the patties' packaging simply says "beef patties" or "beef patty mix" then "other" ingredients can be included, but *must* be disclosed on the label. But if the package says "ground beef", "ground chuck", ground round" "chopped sirloin", "hamburger" or "pure beef", these products must be 100% beef.

      Check the label. It will tell you if there are fillers or even water added (and some beef patties sold in stores do contain fillers --really important to know if you're allergic to soy, or are gluten-free).

  4. I bought ground beef at $2.99/pound last week (holiday sale) and thought I was doing well. You've out-done me. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      We did have 1 store with ground beef advertised for $2.99/lb. I considered buying a small package of that, instead of buying the case of patties. $2.99 a lb is a pretty decent price, so I do think you did well!

  5. I know that you have been wanting beef for a while, so I'm glad you finally got some. Enjoy!

    1. Thank, you, live and learn! And yes, I have been h-u-n-g-r-y for beef for a while. I wonder if that means anything?

  6. I personally think you made a very wise decision. I never feel bad about those sorts of purchases because I know I'm saving money in the long run. Of course, I sorta suck at staying with a food budget, but that's my 2 cents! :-)

    1. Thanks, Cat.
      I think, so long as we don't just eat this all up quickly, that we will save in the long run, and it will give us some much-needed variety.

  7. We ended buying quarter of a cow for $4 per pound from a good friend. Maybe not the best deal but we did get a lot of steaks, roasts and very lean ground beef... plus bones for beef stock. That amount will last several years especially since I can the ground beef and beef stock. Plus since I know the seller, I know what went into the cow! Have a great weekend.

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Do you package the meat in any special way, so it will stay good for a few years, like vacuum sealing?

      $4/lb isn't too bad, especially since you received some cuts that are considered "better", like some roasts and steaks. By saving those "better" cuts for special occasions (like birthdays and holidays), you eliminate the need to buy other meats or go out for those special occasions. So, in the end, that $4 per pound could be saving you some money, and giving you good quality beef.

      Have a great weekend, yourself!

  8. We barely eat any red meat these days and my b12 levels are low now because of it. I just cannot bring myself to pay the outrageous beef prices.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      It's a challenge, isn't it? To get enough nutrients without breaking the bank. Beef prices have been ridiculous this past year. I'm hoping they do in fact moderate by year end. And chicken. . .oh boy. Hoping the forecast is worse than what will actually happen. Vegetarian meals will be on more and more tables, I suspect.

  9. With chicken prices set to rise, my family will be vegetarians in no time :).


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