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Friday, February 25, 2011

Which Ground Beef is 'The One' to Buy???

Have you ever wondered which package of ground beef is the best value.  I mean there are all those different lean percentages and every price is off by just a few cents.  Well my oldest son C and I had a discussion about that last week and I sent him a chart that I learned how to make from the frugal zen master Amy Dacyczyn author of The Tightwad Gazette (I get no amazon kickbacks, just givin ya the link). 

Essentially when you buy ground beef a portion of it will be cooked out to fat and moisture content.  Since nearly everyone drains their meat after they cook it, you are essentially purchasing something that you then throw away.  Unless you are on a super strict diet of very low/no fat, I’m guessing you have some flexibility in which package you pick up when you are at the store.  Yes, lower fat is better, but is it the best value for your dollar?

Let’s take a quick look at this handy dandy chart. 


I did a price check at HEB last Friday when I was at the store.  I wrote down (in my phone) all of the different % and price per pound options and plugged them into the chart above.  Yes, I did notice that the 75% was more per pound; who understands EVERYTHING???—not me. What the chart shows is that you can multiply the lean percentage times 16 ounces (per pound) and how many usable ounces is the result.  So 80% lean meat yields 12.8 oz of actual meat, the remaining 3.2oz is fat that gets poured off and throw away. 

You can see that the leaner the meat, the more usable meat that sticks around after the cooking is done.  Of course there is flavor in that fat, which is what makes it so good, but you gotta find that right balance in health and taste.  J  ok back to our lesson... 

Then you take the price per pound on the meat and divide that by the usable ounces and then you can have an apples to apples comparison on which meat is the best buy.  In this example, the 80% comes in at 21 cents per oz. and the best buy.  You could spend more per ounce on 73% or 75% and actually do worse for yourself even though the price per pound is less than on the 80%. 

Now I am sure you want to ask me, this is great and all, but I can't do all this math in the store.  Exactly.  But you can watch the sales flyers and you can write down the prices one time and then watch what happens.  This is getting a baseline for your idea of what a 'best price' or 'great deal' is.  What if the 85% meat goes on sale for 1.99?  then in the comparison chart it drops like a rock to .15/oz and you should stock up! When you stock up you don't have to constantly watch the price of beef every week.  Oh I can hear some of you saying, but I dont have freezer space... hang on.   

One more item related to ground beef… you can buy 5-10 lbs when it’s really on sale for a great price and then COOK most of it.  Have you noticed that HEB is selling cooked ground crumbles?  It weighs almost nothing and takes up even less space.  What is the first step in cooking nearly every meal with ground beef?   Yes, brown ground meat.  Then add your other ingredients.  If you’ve already done that step, then you are saving yourself 15-20 minutes of dinner prep time.  This is another post in the making (I can feel it), but cook it today, and then put it in old sour cream containers, Ziploc bags etc. in two cup increments or whatever your family needs to eat a meal. 

Save money today!  well, next time you go to the store to buy ground beef anyway. 
% LeanUsable Meat/lb  (oz) $/lb  Cost per usable oz 
73%11.68$2.58$0.22
75%12.00$2.88$0.24
80%12.80$2.67$0.21
85%13.60$3.19$0.23
90%14.40$3.18$0.22
93%14.88$3.58$0.24
96%15.36$3.67$0.24
16 oz x % Lean Price/Usable oz 

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nana said you were "Einstein-ian!"

Will you please analyze ground turkey? It is an inexpensive and tasty alternative. I think HEB sells three different levels of fatness and believe the one I buy is $1.49 lb. Jennie-O and Butterball sell their ground turkey for much more!

Karen (Cooking with Gas)

Andrea said...

I love special requests! you bet! Also look for a post on how to choose the 'best' eggs based on price/type.