A couple of months ago, I ordered a cow. Yes, that greatly excited two of my children who thought we were getting a real live cow.
My oldest, who is actually only 4 years old, knew differently. I ordered a cow, but, as she told her siblings, it would be “all cut up to put in the freezer”.
Originally, I was just going to buy half a cow, but I bought a chest freezer for only $40 from a distant relative, so I ordered a whole cow. Since the farm I ordered from only slaughters once a year, I ordered some chicken from my food co-op to tide us over until our beef was ready.
When my co-op order came in, the chicken didn’t. I was a bit disappointed at first, but it didn’t take me more than a day or two to completely forget about it. I made due with the meat that I had.
Then, a woman from the farm called to let me know that my cow would be ready a week early. Woohoo! I was practically ecstatic as I loaded 524 pounds of organically raised grass-fed beef into my freezers. (Yes, I did need 2 freezers, my upright and a small chest freezer.) When my next co-op order came in though, the chicken that I had previously ordered arrived with it – all 12 packs of organic boneless skinless chicken thighs!
I did my best to arrange the freezers to fit the abundance of meat I now possessed. It wasn’t easy, but I got it all crammed in with barely an inch of room to spare!
So by now, you’re probably thinking about how incredibly rich I must be to be able to afford to buy an entire cow, and maybe even a small flock of chickens – or at least their thighs. Well, I’m sorry to say, but I’m not rich. My secret is this: I budget.
My cow cost $2.75 per pound, for a total cost of $1441. The chicken came out of my regular monthly food budget, but the cow I had to save up for. Since the beef is only available once a year, I’ve got 12 months to save up to afford it. I had figured on it costing about $1200, so that meant saving $100 per month to afford it. Saving $100 sounds difficult, but I actually have “cow” on the bills section of my monthly budget. I treat it just like a regular bill and set aside the money in a savings account for non-regular bills (bills due yearly, quarterly, etc.).
Saving up the first year may be difficult. The first year, I only bought a quarter of a cow. The second year I planned on buying a half. Once you’ve got some beef in your freezer, you can begin saving money that you would have spent on groceries to pay for the following year’s cow, or half or quarter.
Once you’ve got a year’s worth of meat in your freezer, you can start deducting the amount you save up to buy it from the food category of your monthly budget. Not only does it get easier to afford it, especially at the greatly discounted rate you get by buying in bulk from a farm, but it also saves time and energy not having to go grocery shopping as often. Those are of course beneficial, but you could save in another way, too. By purchasing and consuming healthy meat instead of grain-fed, hormone-injected, antibiotic-fed, factory farmed meat, you can improve your family’s health and save money on doctor bills.
For information on buying from a farm in your area, ask around, drive around, check your telephone book, or visit www.LocalHarvest.org
Article by Randi Millward