We buy our meat in bulk. It seems expensive to shell out hundreds of dollars all in one shot, but I assure you in the long run, it is cheaper. And I’m happier because I know where the meat comes from, how it is raised, what it’s fed, and how it is prepared. Here’s how I started my research for the best meat for my family.
We regularly have half a cow, and a dozen chickens, geese, and duck plus lamb in our freezer. We also have a few sides of wild caught salmon and our homemade bacon.
First, look local. I’m fortunate that I live within a short drive to hundreds of local farms that produce a wonderful variety of products here in southern Ontario (Canada). I love farmer’s markets and ask a lot of questions.
Secondly there are lots of terrific resources on the web that can help you find local suppliers of wholesome and nutritious foods, including meats.
I was thrilled to find the Eat Wild website, that lists farms in Canada and the US that believe cows and lambs should be grass-fed. Why? Because feedlot cattle are fed grains to fatten them up for market. And since grains are not in their natural diet they don’t digest them well. Feedlot animals live a very stressful life and are often sick because of it. Many animals are given antibiotics all the time to prevent sickness, others are dosed with high “kill all” doses. Either way I don’t need their antibiotics in my dinner! Fatter cows are not happier or healthier. They provide more profit to the farm. Pasture raised animals are less stressed and don’t usually need antibiotics. And because they are not stressed their meat has less of the chemicals caused by stress passed on to my family. Everyone has heard that stress raises Cortisol in your body, same goes for the animals we eat. You are what you eat after all. Don’t be eating additional stress (and more Cortisol)!
Chickens, ducks and geese should be “pastured”. The term “free range” needs to be clarified. It can mean that there are a million birds climbing on each other in a suffocated barn. Free range just means they are not caged all day. Pastured or pasture-raised are words you want.
The EatWell website has lots more excellent information on the benefits of animals that are grassfed and pasture-raised. Check this page for tons info on why this meat is so much more nutritious for you and your family.
Once I found this website I started researching the farms. I would email back and forth with questions. I personally don’t care if they farm is “certified organic” because those certifications take lots of time and money to achieve. In my opinion, as long as the cows are grass fed AND grass finished and local and antibiotic free – I’m happy. (We don’t add hormones to cows in Ontario. Thank Goodness!)
My daughter and I visited several farms listed on the Eat Wild website to see how the animals were raised and to speak to the farmers.
That’s all good – but how does it save money you ask?
Buying directly from the farmer I eliminate the markup added by the grocery store.
Plus buying on bulk the price averages out less per pound. Yes I do get some cuts I usually wouldn’t buy in the store – but that just adds some adventure to our dinners! I love that I have to Google what the heck certain cuts are, but it’s exciting to try new things and find new recipes.
Meat is expensive. There is no denying that. But at our house we use every bit, I don’t waste a penny.
Bones included for nutritionally rich bone broths
Some farms throw in the bones for free! Some farms will even give you everyone else’s bones because bones have little value to mainstream people. To me bones are the ticket to flavour town! Amazing bone broths for all your soups all year long, added to sautés, or gravy full of healing collagen goodness. You can pressure can or freeze these bone broths until you need them. When you cook a whole bird you get more than one meal out of it, because you can always make a soup from the bones.
I save all the bones from cooked meats in zip-locked bags in my freezer. Bag for chicken bones, another for beef, and so on. I also save my veggie scraps to add to the soup broths for extra flavour.
Leftovers is not a dirty word in our house.
I use leftovers to make new exciting meals. Again I love to Google new recipes
Save the animal fats
I save all the animal fats that come off things like goose or duck or bacon and use to roast veggies for added flavour.
No I haven’t explored too many recipes to use these for my dinner – but my dog Earl sure enjoys them! Buying from the farm, you often get an assortment of organs, to which most people turn their nose. We dehydrate them to make jerky for treats to last Earl for a full year.
I do admit I save some of the liver and “hide” it in meatballs just for the nutritional value. (Don’t tell my husband!)
Visiting the farms we also have a greater variety of meats to choose from. We rarely see goose or duck in our local grocery store. Unless it’s an expensive treat for certain holidays. Touring the farms we have bought these as well as lamb at reasonable prices.
Here’s some of the wonderful farms that supply our household with healthy top quality meats:
To name names, I used Grass Roots Beef from Durham Ontario. I toured the farm. My daughter and I got to pet the animals. We will be buying from them from now on.
Visit their website to learn the many benefits of grass-fed beef.
I’ve also purchased lamb, beef and chicken from Dreamach Acres (It’s a haul to get there, but they said they can deliver for large orders so team up with a friend) My farm sidekick and I toured that farm as well and spent hours playing with the animals. (No website)
We cure and smoke our own bacon. I have yet to find a farmer that will sell just one or two bellies. I purchase those from The Healthy Butcher shop in Kitchener, and they also have a Toronto Location.
Fenwood Farms specializes in chickens, I have also used Morden’s Farm store in Dundas for odds and ends. I also love Harrington Lane Farms. I discovered them at the Waterdown Farmers Market. They will also deliver in Burlington. In farmers’ market season, I go to Waterdown Farmers Market every chance I get – it’s one of the best!
In a pinch, our local grocery store Fortino’s sells organic chicken, and they sometimes have “Manager’s Specials” where the meats are close to their “best before” dates and are half price (but check dates). As long as you prepare it quickly or freeze it there’s no problem.
When Nutrafarm came to my door one night – I will admit, I was excited. They sell bulk orders of frozen food, delivered to your home. Reading the brochure and the info on their website, people were saying that their meat was organic. But nowhere on Nutrafarms website do they claim to be organic. They throw the word natural around – but that word is meaningless in my opinion.
I asked a lot of questions and no one could tell me where the farms were actually located, so I couldn’t visit and see how the animals were raised. I asked if I could talk to the farmers and they said that wasn’t possible. They could not tell me if all my beef in an order came from the same cow. They say cows don’t have “sub therapeutic antibiotics”, but no one could tell me if they were ever given antibiotics therapeutically (meaning if they were sick). They couldn’t tell me how long the meat I would purchase had been frozen. They also didn’t answer my question when I asked if they used water to plump their meat. (The meat industry does this to make a higher weight for their product, because meat sells by the pound). I could go on! But it felt like a whole lot of smoke and mirrors to me. They did tell me they feed cows grains.
Oh, and wait – if you order you get a freezer! Nothing in life is free my friend. You are paying for that freezer one way or another. I would suggest you’re paying for that freezer with a lesser quality meat.
Could you buy lesser quality meats for less money? Yes. But if I don’t agree with how the animals are treated, I don’t buy it. I don’t support industrial farming which sells meat cheaper at the expense of the animals’ health and nutritional value of meats. And I silently protest with my grocery dollars. Let’s support our local farmers!
I love the bulk orders because I get different cuts, cuts that make me Google and experiment. We eat meat every day. But not every meal, and we value it. Meat is not the primary food on our plates, because we eat a truck load of veggies. The next blog post will talk about where to get all the best vegetables!
One thought on “Tips to save money on groceries – Buying Meat”
Awesome tips and thanks for the Eat Wild recommendation!
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