Buying meat in bulk

29 January 2015
If you have a large freezer, a fairly easy way of saving money when buying meat for the family is to buy your meat in bulk from a family butcher.  We don't eat as much meat as we used to but we used to save a lot of money with a bulk meat buy every so often.  It doesn't seem to be a popular option now and I wonder why.  My guess is that most people are used to buying food on a small tray at the supermarket and the thought of a bulk buy of many kilos or pounds of meat is overwhelming for them.

The best way to go about this is to find a butcher close to where you live, go in and talk about the meat you need.  Before you go, work out if you want beef, pork or lamb and let the butcher guide you with prices, cuts and delivery. Beef is very big and instead of going for a side, you can order either a forequarter or a hind quarter. A hind quarter will weigh about 60 kg/130lbs and is made up of  T-bone, round, topside, eye fillet, rump, silverside, skirt steak, shin, mince/ground beef, sausages, bones and fat. My local price for beef now is around $8 to $9. In Woolworths, just for comparison, eye fillet is around $40 a kilo and T-bone is $22 a kilo. But what you're getting, even though it's the best end, is some of the cheaper cuts too - the shin, mince, sausages are all cheaper, but taking the hind quarter as a whole, is cheaper than buying smaller portions at a supermarket. I think the quality is better as well. So if you bought this 60kg hind quarter at $9 a kilo, you'd pay $540. Remember, these prices are only an estimate.

Of course, $540 is a lot of money to pay out for meat so it's a wise option to ask a friend or relative to go halves with you. You would each get around 30 kg/66lbs of meat for $270 and that could be made to last quite a while. It's a good idea to get back to the butcher before that beef runs out and buy a different type of meat to add variety to your diet.

Pork and lamb come in smaller portions so you can get a full side of these meats. A side of pork weighs around 30kg/66lbs and (locally) costs about $7-$8 a kilo.  So a side of pork will cost about $240. A side will give you leg roast, shoulder roast, chops and sausages. If you can add that to your freezer while you still have beef, you'll be serving up a wide variety of meals.

If lamb is your preference, that too comes in a smaller side, about 20kg, at a cost of around (locally) $9 - $10 a kilo. If you bought the same thing at Wooloworths, you'd pay well over $20 a kg for lamb steak, chops or cutlets. In a side of lamb you'll get leg roast, loin chops, shoulder chops, chump chops, the lamb flap, shank, fat and bones.  Again, if you can get one of these into your freezer while you still have a selection of the other types of meat, you'll have the equivalent of a small butcher shop in your freezer.

Maybe you can form a small buying circle and get a small selection of beef, pork or lamb divided up between all of you. Or if your group is a large one, get a side of beef and a full lamb and pork. You may be able to do a better deal with your butcher to supply that kind of order.

Please note: all the prices and weights I've written about are in my local area and will vary according to how far the meat is transported and how much rain has fallen over the pastures. When you're looking around for a suitable butcher, ask where the meat is from and was it raised in a pasture, as well as the price. In Australia, most cattle and sheep are free range but you have to ask about pork and chicken. I prefer them all to be free range.

The butcher will expect you to say how you want the meat cut, if you want sausages or mince/ground meat, and if you want to take the fat and bones. I always take the bones but not the fat but if you're a soap maker, maybe you want to experiment with rendering the fat down to make soap. The decision is your and you have to make up your mind before you place your order.  When I make a bulk order of beef, I usually say I want some roasts, silverside, steak, sausages, mince and the bones. If you're buying with others, tell the butcher that so he knows how to portion everything and when you pick up the meat, or have it delivered, the meat will be packed in plastic bags as you ordered.

Don't expect to make an order for bulk meat and go in to pick it up that day.  Generally you'll need to order about a week before you want the meat because the butcher will have to order extra meat in to cover the order.  When it arrives, it's usually hung for a while and then it has to be cut according to your requirements. It's not a fast process, so remember that and give the butcher plenty of time to give you what you ask for. So as you can see, when it's explained it's not so overwhelming or weird. It's just a different, and I think better, way of buying meat. Make friends with your local butcher, say what you want and ask the butcher to give you an estimate for that order. I'm sure you'll be surprised at the savings that can be made.

Have you bought meat in bulk? How do you do it? Are you part of a large order with a friend or do you go solo?


  1. Very helpful tips. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. What an interesting idea. I didn't even know that butchers as you describe them even existed these days - in all my nearly 50 years on the planet I can't recall ever seeing a butcher shop and I've certainly never been to one. I'll have to do some investigating and see if there are any around here. My guess is that if they do exist, they're probably serving the immigrant population (mostly Mexican immigrants here - though there are some Asian immigrants too) and they likely wouldn't speak any English - which could make the experience that much more intimidating, but we'll see...

    1. I've used "Locavore Delivery" which is wonderful!

      They buy whole animals and deal with the butcher, packaging, etc. and then deliver right to your door! I got a great deal over Christmas on a holiday special for a beef package with various cuts and marrow bones. They source only Colorado grown, pasture raised and ethically processed meat.

      I think we are relatively in the same region of the state, so just something for you to check out if you're interested!

    2. P.S. I've ordered from many an Asain market meat counter and language barriers have never been an issue, so don't be scared ;-)

    3. Hey Cat!

      You might also check out your farmer's market. We have several local farmers that sell in bulk as well as local butchers. Often they deliver to your home or to another convenient drop-off point.

      Many butcher shops here in the US are tucked away in more "industrial" areas or just outside of "regular" shopping areas. I think I noticed on your blog you're in the Denver area and I would be totally shocked if they didn't have at least a few. Take a look online or if you still get the yellow pages, look there (I find they have better listings than online sometimes). I live I the Twin-Cities metro in MN and I know we have at least three local (and old!) butcher shops as well as four ethnic butchers and that's just in my part of town. I'm betting if you look, you'll easily find something!

      Happy looking,

  3. We have bought our meat in bulk from our local butcher a couple of times, and I can't recommend it more highly. We buy a "quarter of cow" as I like to call it, the butcher actually raises his own meat, he has a farm just out of town! You can't get more local than that! It costs us about $10kg for all cuts across the board, it's a huge saving for our family of 5. It worked out to be about $230 total the last time we bought one.

    Some have argued that there is added expense in paying electricity to run a large freezer, but we are on solar power, and even with a freezer, we rarely get a bill, but even if you didn't have solar, the savings made in convenience, far outweigh the power cost, I rarely buy takeaway when I've got that meat sitting in the freezer, it's so quick and easy to whip up a meal when the meat is on hand.

    The only thing I could add is that we vary the cuts of meat we ask for from summer to winter.

    In winter it's roasts, gravy beef, silverside, diced steak etc, but in summer, I ask the butcher to put some of those cheaper cuts into more mince and sausages and steaks, as it suits the way we eat in summer.

    I would encourage everyone with the capacity to buy in bulk to do it. It's a lot of money to find initially, but if you plan to live off your staples for a fortnight, you'll find you have the money sitting there.

  4. I remember buying sides of various meats when my children were small. The meat was prepared but I had to pack it into suitable sized amounts myself. It was a big deal but I didn't go out work. Perhaps this is why people don't do this any more. Although I was busy I could arrange my time to suit myself. Everyone was doing it back in the 70s. I also used to buy day old cockerels to raise to kill. They cost 1 cent each but of course had to be fed. They were really laying stock but it still was worthwhile. A friend and I bought them together once and we had 10 acres so I could keep them.
    Talking of pork my local butcher has Pilton Valley pork. It is sustainably raised and humanely killed and not really much dearer than other pork, if at all.

  5. Rhonda this post has come at a good time for me, as my husband and I have been discussing buying some beef in bulk. Don has an ad cut out of the local paper sitting on his desk. The local beef is $7.50 a kilo with a minimum order of 40 kilos. I will ask Don to read this post when he comes home from work as it just fills in a few of the blanks for us, as we have never bought meat in bulk. Thanks!

  6. I've ordered a lamb from silver wood organics a few years ago and the meat was amazing and the best sausages I've ever tasted in my life. It was expensive up front but these days I'm not in a position to outlay that sort of money up front even though over the long term I know it's cheaper than the supermarket. You've explained the process to all those in a really easy to understand way. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane

  7. I didn't realise that buying meat in bulk wasn't very common anymore. It was just the normal thing to do when I first got married in the 1970s and we saved heaps of money buying it that way. Thankfully we still have lots of local butchers in our area and don't have to rely on the supermarkets for our meat.

  8. I don't have a freezer (other than the one in the refrigerator). It sounds like a good idea, though. I tend to buy meats on sale and freeze them. Of course these are just small amounts. But we do not eat as much meat as we used to, either. Two days a week are meatless meals.

  9. i don't buy in bulk anymore as i gave my freezer to my daughter so they could put their dog meats in a separate freezer but when i did the savings were so much better & you always had meat on hand. i would like to get myself a smaller freezer as just buying what i need from week to week is expensive! this butcher is not as cheap as our last butcher as he doesn't raise his own cattle or does he do cheap meat saturdays like the last one did, miss those. though it is a lot cheaper to raise your own & get a mobile butcher in, a few do that around here, one family only paid $599. for the whole cow & that was even cut up with everything too
    great post

  10. I have just brought a hind quarter of beef and only paid $6.66 per kilo and that was even for good quality steak. I only buy it for me but it will last me a long time. I also buy chicken and fish for my husband as he can't eat red meat.

  11. I'm lucky in that my husband works on a mixed farm so we get our meat from there. Several beasts are selected - either lamb or beef - the men kill them humanely and then the meat is cut up on farm by one of the workers who worked in his brothers butcher shop for a number of years. All the meat is divided between four families and we get a good selection from prime steak to the cheaper cuts. There isn't any sausages or mince made (I keep dropping but it's easy enough to put some meat through the grinder at home if I need some.

    I also get the men to save the lambs fat for me as I render it down and make soap with it - the last time they killed sheep I received an esky full of fat :-)))) Which has a secondary use as DH has found a small piece of lambs fat soap in a shrimp net in the river is brilliant for catching lots of shrimp which he then can use as bait when he goes fishing.

    Best of all this meat is considered an additional part of DH's wages so it helps with making the shopping budget stretch further. I look at the prices of meat in the shops and walk away shuddering. No wonder so many are reducing their meat consumption these days.

  12. We live over 30 km away from town, so we have a larg freezer for all our dry stockpile items (sugar, flour ect), our harvested veggies and our meat. Last year in January I bought 1/2 a cow and 2 lambs. I paid $5.5/kg for the beef and $7.50 for the lamb. I received the whole lot - bones, fat, organs as I have dogs this comes in really handy. the cattle is raised on a local farm which is what I like. We still have another 6month supply I'd say and we eat meat nearly every day but we're only 2 people. I find it very conveniant as I don't have to worry about additives/preservatives or meat getting old in the fridge.

  13. We don't eat enough meat to buy in bulk and we don't eat a big range of cuts but even so I can make savings with our wonderful butcher. I pay a premium for Bruce's meat because it is all free range and high quality, I'm happy to do that because it means the animals have lived well and had a humane end.

    I do buy some things such as beef and lamb mince in larger amounts, Bruce will kryvac these for me in meal size portions which means quick defrosting and a small discount on the price. Because I shop with him all the time (albeit in small amounts) he gives me bones for soup/stock and the dog. The gravy beef with fat and organs that I buy for cooking the dog food is very cheap, it gives Bill a perfect diet along with vegies and is something that the butcher is glad to sell at a reduced price.

    Even with a small family with a small meat appetite there are savings to be made.

  14. This past year we joined a CSA where we receive 20 lbs of grassfed and organic meat,( chicken, beef and pork) a month for $135.00. It's a little more than we would pay buying from grocery stores, but we have been pleased with the product and love knowing where and how our food is produced. We share with our grown children and have been pleased with the arrangement. It is a great way to support our health and our local agricultural economy.

  15. Good Morning/Evening, Rhonda!

    We are gearing up for a bulk meat purchase in the next couple of months. We've found an Amish farmer about an hour and a half from where we live, and we'll be making a day of it (we go there about twice a year and stock up on staples for the pantry, workshop, sewing room, and more; it's a wonderful, local village). We plan to get chicken and beef from him. We have to put it off for a couple of months because we've been busy paying down our debt. Last month we had some money come in unexpectedly and paid my DH's student loan off (to the tune of $28K), and tomorrow is the culmination of our scrimping and saving since last July to pay our vehicle off. We started off in July owing over $10K on that loan, and tomorrow our final payment of $3400+ is being made. It has been a long, long road, but we've done it, and we're going to feel such relief. All we'll have left is our mortgage. I tell you all of this because you were an inspiration during this process. I see my DH standing up a little straighter now, and suddenly the possibilities are laid at our feet now that we're not a slave to the lender anymore. We're a one-income family, and this is freedom I'm helping him to achieve. We always do three budgets when we work out a new budget (which is happening right now since this changes our monthly outlook drastically): one normal budget, one semi-emergency budget (what would we have to cut if his hours dropped at work or he got a decrease in pay, etc.), and one flat-out, put-the-brakes-on-Sally-because-he-has-lost-his-job bare bones budget. I find that when these crises hit, we usually don't have the presence of mind to be unemotional and cut things well; we're too emotional and panicked. When I told him that the bare bones budget is almost half of what unemployment would bring in, his relief was priceless. My feeling of security is priceless, too. We've eaten up our savings to get to this point and will be rebuilding it and our pantry in the months to come, but the feeling of only having one bill left is immensely overpowering. It still hasn't set in that we've paid the student loan off, but that's probably because we're still taking that money out of the budget and just reallocating it to the vehicle pay-off. So, thank you, Rhonda. I am re-reading your book, I scour your website, I pore over other blogs for inspiration (A Working Pantry and The Prudent Homemaker), and you all are keeping me company when I think I just can't push through one more week. No one that I know in my daily life is living like us, so the encouragement and companionship are most welcome. Thank you.
    May you have a lovely weekend; we certainly will! 32 hours until it's paid off!!! :)
    God bless you,
    Illinois, USA

    1. Such wonderful news, Shani! That's a real achievement and it will open up possibilities now that you wouldn't have had before. Well done to you both.

  16. This has been discussed at length between the mister & I. We have one butcher locally and they are high to buy from, and higher to have your own processed. Also beef is bring such a high price at market, we don't eat our own. Frankly we don't eat it hardly ever. Instead we hunt for our red meat, that started as a hobby years ago and turned into our meat of choice. This is not "free meat" as there is a lot of equipment involved (I won't even go there, lol) What we do buy is pork. When boston butt or sirloin roast goes on sale for .99 per pound, we buy between 40 and 50 pounds and process it to suit our needs. We feel we could not raise a pig as cost effective as this,, as there is a lot of waste weight... bone, skin, intestine. Ways we use this pork.... sliced off for cutlets, or cubed up for tips/stir fry---frozen. We have our own grinder and make sausage & ground pork. Frozen. I also can a bunch. This is cubed up then jarred and processed. This is a hot commodity where we live.... shelf stable for years, you can take it camping etc with no refrigeration. We do likewise buy chicken when it hits a good sale,, but it is riddled with hormones no doubt. I have processed our spent hens and spare roosters but they are heritage breeds and are scrawny, stringy, and tough, just to be honest. I will state the obvious here, if you save $20 buy buying in bulk and you squirrel the money back you will be able to save again the next time the unexpected sale comes up, but if you look at the $20 and say woohoo, let's go to the movies your outta luck when the sale comes around. We have a bad problem with this concept anymore in the USA. Folks don't practice "saving for a rainy day" like our grandparents generation did.

  17. I grow my own beef & have the mobile butcher come to the property . It works out on average $1200 per beast plus the initial cost and the taste is much better then any supermarket beef !!

  18. This is the only way we "buy" meat...we are gifted 1/3 of a beef from my parents (it would cost $4 per pound), we also buy one Berkshire hog from a friend ($3.50 per pound), 10 chickens ($3.25 per pound), a lamb ($7.50 per pound), and process it all as it is butchered...render lard, cut and wrap meat, make sausage, cure and smoke bacon/ham, slice and freeze organ meat, roast and boil bones for stock, etc. It's a lot of work, but the end result is so much better than store-bought. All these meats are naturally raised, free-range. This lasts us well over a year, and we "shop" from our freezer to make from-scratch meals every day. We are a family of 4, and live in Canada

    1. What a great way of putting meat on the table for the family. All the best to you, dear.

  19. Hi Rhonda

    An important tip for those first discovering this economical way to purchase meat you need to be prepared to rotate your freezer daily until all your meat is completely frozen. If you buy half a cattle beast and throw it all in and leave it you will find it compacts and the meat in the centre will not freeze fast enough and you can end up with rancid meat that has gone off before it has frozen safely. We rotate our meat for 3 or 4 days and then remove it all, clean any blood from the freezer (the blood is forced out of the meat as it freezes) and then stack and make a mud map of the contents of the freezer. This effort is necessary to safely freeze your meat and to avoid that 'lucky dip' as you try to read labels on hundreds of bags of meat!
    I hope this helps some readers
    Nelson New Zealand

  20. Hi Rhonda,
    we also buy our beef in bulk or raise our own. All our lamb is raised by us and most of it sold to locals as meat as well as a supply for us. One thing to be aware of when buying meat it bulk is that it is sold on the hook weight, this is about 1/3 more than you actually recieve when it is cut and packed. This is not always made clear or is in the fine print, still well worth it but when you are told it is 60 kgs this is not the amount you will actually get.

  21. Hi Rhonda, I've been buying meat from the local butcher, not as a 1/2 beast or anything, but just a bulk mixed order. I think it isn't really any cheaper, but the cuts of meat are far superior in quality. I like buying from a small business, but the real reason I started was because they paper wrap everything for me - no more meat trays. I repackage it when I get home into clean food grade plastic bags recycled from cereal or bread, or when I'm out of those, glass jars. It's worth doing.

  22. Hi Rhonda,
    I"m back reading your blog, i stopped reading lots of blogs for a while and was consumed with other places, but now i've started working since my youngest has started school, I feel a need to get more frugal. So happy to be back here. I have previously gone halvies with my sister in whole Salmon from a fish market. It's a great and cheap way to get your fish. The salmon is cheaper, it was costing around $17 - $19/ kilo and it was fresh and whole. So we could get them to cut it into fillets or we could do it ourselves, my sister would keep the head and they would make fish stock with it (her husband is Thai chef, so great for their cooking!) So glad to be back on your blog and learning the simple life again!

  23. One of the best things I ever invested in was a freezer. We do buy a quarter of a beef from a local farmer and it lasts us almost a year, but I use my freezer for everything. I put a lot of our garden's produce in the freezer and when stores have good sales, it often goes in the freezer. I store cheese, butter, bread, casseroles and soups I make extra of, homemade cookie dough and chocolate and other things. It's nice to be able to shop from a well-stocked freezer as well as a well-stocked pantry.

  24. We started buying beef in bulk this year and love it! We order a mixed quarter from the farmer and then pick it up from our local butcher when it is ready. We are eating cuts of meat we haven't been able to afford before and the taste is soooo much better than supermarket meat. I am hoping to source some local (free range) pork and sheep this year. With a family of 7 bulk buying is very handy :)


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