Grinding beef at home for big savings
Become a Grinder
by Steve and Annette Economides
No matter where you live, you've likely noticed a rise in beef prices in the past few years. Some credit Dr. Atkins and his low-carb diet, while others point to problems associated with mad cow disease, E. coli poisonings, and higher transportation or grain costs. Regardless of the reason, prices have risen, and in order to keep our food budget in line, we've had to be more careful and creative in our purchasing habits.
One thing we've done for many years is grinding beef. We've had friends who were butchers suggest that we rinse all beef and thoroughly cook it (150-degree internal temperature) to minimize exposure to or kill any bacteria. And they further suggested minimizing the purchase of ground beef products.
We have stopped buying the cheapest ground beef in five-pound chunks and started looking for inexpensive cuts of beef that we could grind at home.
We purchased a meat grinding attachment that was designed to fit on our heavy-duty KitchenAid® mixer and set out to learn the finer points of making ground beef. Initially, we trimmed all the fat off the meat, but we found that 99 percent fat-free meat was so lean that it burned easier, had a different taste (more "gamey"), and didn't stick together well for meatballs and meat loaf. Now we intentionally leave some fat, but our finished product looks similar to the most expensive super-lean ground beef in the grocery store.
In order to minimize the possibility that we could spread bacteria when we're handling our meat, we rinse the uncut meat under running water, then slice it on a plastic cutting mat. When we're done grinding the meat, we disassemble the grinder attachment and wash it along with the knife and cutting mat in hot soapy water with bleach added to it. Being safe takes a little extra effort, but the peace of mind is worth it.
The money savings for grinding your own beef are substantial, especially if you are able to stock up on meat when it is on sale. To do an actual cost comparison, we had to take into account the waste (fat and bone) to see if we were really saving money.
The inexpensive ground beef we previously purchased was reported to contain 20 percent fat. At the time, we were paying approximately 99 cents per pound for it. The actual cost of the meat, less the fat, would have been $1.19. These days, the lowest prices we see for the "fatty" ground beef is quite a bit more.
We've found that purchasing boneless cuts, on sale, provides the lowest cost and least waste. On the other hand, purchasing bone-in chuck provides wonderful bones for boiling and making beef broth. And once boiled, they make wonderful treats for our large dogs.
We've done several cost comparisons of our home-ground beef versus the store brand super lean, premium-priced ground beef. Whew, talk about savings. For ground beef with a fat content of 5 percent or less, we can achieve a savings of 60 to 80 percent! Unfortunately, since we never purchase such expensive meat, the savings are just on paper. However, as with so many other economizing strategies, we are enjoying a higher-quality product without the associated cost.
A couple of downsides to grinding your own beef are that it takes some extra time and it can be messy. To minimize the mess, we tape a piece of waxed paper to hang loosely over the opening where the ground beef comes out to prevent splattering on the kitchen counters.
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But for the cost savings, we think that grinding our own beef is worth the time and so do the kids. When they were younger, they used to fight over who got to operate the meat grinder on cooking day (don't worry, the attachment is kid-safe). To minimize conflict, we kept track of it on the kitchen calendar.
We hope that this concept has encouraged you to stop beefing over higher hamburger prices and start looking for udder ways to save more mooooolah.
This excerpt shares only a few of the hundreds of money saving ideas from the new book Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half with America's Cheapest Family.
Updated December 2017
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Steve and Annette Economides are New York Times best-selling authors and internationally recognized personal finance experts frequently requested on NPR and other radio programs. They have been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, ABC's 20/20, Fox TV's Your Life with Neil Cavuto, The Dr. Phil Show, and in Good Housekeeping, People, and Real Simple.
To learn more super practical ways to save tons of time and money, visit MoneySmartFamily.com.
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