The Best Way to Meal Prep in Montana: Buy Half a Cow
File this under weird Montana things that I never learned about: buying half a cow. More realistically, it’s just half the meat from it, and you never actually come face to face with the cow. We knew where the meat was coming from, a friend’s farm, but not the impact it would have on our lives.
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather on the weeknight my dad arrived two hours away from his home at my college apartment in Bozeman with a cooler full of meat. I knew he was coming, I just didn’t realize he had 1/4 of the cow in tow. Turns out, he and my sister took inventory of the hundreds of pounds of beef they had and realized a true carnivore needed to step in.
The only issue we faced was having enough freezer space. With three other roommates and a skinny freezer, I had to share my gift. 220 pounds of beef is so much more than it sounds like, and it’s all different cuts and forms. Lots of ground beef and also, an annoying amount of sausages. All delicious, however.
Honestly though, despite not being able to be selfish with the meat, I was still thrilled. This eliminated me having to spend my own money on protein, and I still didn’t have to go to the grocery store. Win-win.
If I wanted to add some sausage to my Mac n cheese, no problem. After all, I had dozens, courtesy of the half cow my father bought. But this half-cow became more than just convenience. It gave me back family dinners that college took away. Soon, I was cooking with my friends, having steak dinners with my roommates, and of course, burgers on warm Sunday afternoons.
Of course, it also upped the amount of time we spent trying new recipes and eating at home, part in thanks to the pandemic, of course. Visits home were no longer restaurants and frozen burritos, but rather leftover ribs, tacos, steaks, etc. We cooked together, we ate together, so we got to spend extra time together. Hard days became steak nights. Pro tip: next time you’re sad, just slather some butter and garlic on a steak and watch your sorrows go down in the flames cooking your meal.
After all the ribeyes were gone, we were forced to try new cuts of meat. My habitual side and frugal side were at odds: “If you deviate from the cuts you know, you could get a bad one and hate meat all together” versus “Don’t let it go to waste!” Frugality won. I wouldn’t dream of letting a perfectly good steak go to waste because I was too scared to try a new cut. I’m glad that I did too because in that cow I didn’t run into a bad piece of meat.
We finished the cow in late August. I guess we put our request in too late as my dad said we had to wait for their next go-round of meat. I was bummed but understood that next time we need to eat the meat more quickly or give more away. To my surprise, my dad had saved three T-bone steaks in the freezer and on Christmas we had our final, and perhaps most delicious meal from the haul. It had been a great run, and I can’t wait for our next.
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