Meatloaf Economics

I got a comment on Facebook after I posted The Gyro Meatloaf Recipe about scaling down the recipe. The recipe is for a 3-pound meatloaf. My short answer was of course you can scale it down, but why would you?

It takes less than one hour to make a one-pound meatloaf. That is heating the oven, mixing everything together, and cooking time. A two-pound meatloaf still takes one hour. As does a three-pound meatloaf. So I make my meatloaf using 3 pounds of meat because my baking tray isn’t suited to cook 4 pounds of meat.

Meatloaf is perfect for leftovers and for freezing. If you could interview my refrigerator, it would tell you that over 90% of the days in the last year I’ve had a meatloaf chilling inside her. *Are refrigerators feminine?

Cost and Time

Because I live in the Pacific Northwest, I can get grass pastured ground beef for about $6/lb. Add in a little onion, garlic, and spices and a three-pound meatloaf comes in at about $20 in material costs. If you use conventional beef, it will cost half that. For this example, let us say that the average portion is 1/3 of a pound or 5.33 ounces. That is 35 healthy grams of protein for just $2.22 (grass pastured) or $1.11 (conventional).

What is the cooking time per meal, assuming a portion size of 1/3 pound? Since each meatloaf takes an hour, a one-pound meatloaf takes 20 minutes per portion. A two-pound meatloaf takes 10 minutes per portion. A three-pound meatloaf takes just 6.7 minutes per portion. Time economics dictate that you should cook the larger-sized meatloaf.

Eating healthy on a consistent basis is not just picking the right food, it is also about balancing time and money. The meatloaf is a slam dunk winner on time, money, and nutrition. And meatloaf is also portable. I often will wrap a few pieces in foil and take them with me in a little cooler.

Now I am thinking that I need to buy another Pyrex tray. Two 3 pound meatloaves knock my time per meal down to 3.3 minutes. 🙂


Add yours

  1. i pretty much think all meals should be made in huge quantities with the intention of having left overs. when the weather cooperates, sunday is often our day to slow grill meats over a wood fire. you cannot beat the flavor and the fact that we now have a bunch of pre cooked versatile meat to use in meals throughout the week. as you have also pointed out, freezing is a great way to extend the use of a large, delicious meal.

    people who say they don’t have time to cook are not using their cooking time wisely. either that or they don’t connect home cooked food with health.

  2. @Chuck – I think connecting time and cost is the essential next step to spreading a healthy diet. I’ve tired of debating nutrition. My thinking is that most people, including the unhealthy are mostly weight stable. To get the average person closer to their optimal weight, it only takes correcting a few meals each and every week.

    In upcoming posts, I plan to do more on the economics of eating healthy. I’ll leave the nutritional debates to the PubMed warriors.

  3. @mas

    not sure where you are going to take the economics of things. i look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    when one considers loss of productivity and healthcare costs, being sick costs a lot of people a lot of money. unfortunately, there are all sorts of support systems in place allowing to people to skate by while not getting truelly healthy. although i do think the paradigm is starting to shift, today there isn’t much incentive for the individual to spend more on high quality food to help themselves become healthier.

  4. Chuck,
    I agree about the support systems and allowing people to skate by. I just spent this morning at Columbia Presbyterian hospital in NYC, an epicenter of high-end heart care (e.g., Bill Clinton, Larry King, etc.). My dad had his third stent put in to open an artery. We drove in in the morning, the procedure was done in a few hours (he was awake the whole time), and I’m picking him up tomorrow morning. He feels great, the staff was friendly and attentive, and his insurance paid for it all. He’ll probably want to stop by Burger King on the way home tomorrow. 🙂

  5. @jim

    it is heart wrenching when it is a loved one. i know from experience. my parents pay $30,000 a year in healthcare. of course they can write a lot of that off. i cannot write off my garden expenses or the expenditures to farmers for their high quality animal food products.

    then again, had my parents eaten like i do now for the last 30 years, they very likely would not have to pay what they do on healthcare. time will tell how things work out for me and my wife. so far so good.

  6. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a plant from The National Meatloaf Associaton..;-) Seriously, good post.

  7. Hmmm … 6.7 minutes per portion, 35 grams of protein for $2.22.

    I like these numbers better than how much one can deadlift, squat or bench. And better than BMI, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides and particle size. I think you’re onto something.

  8. @Mark – Thanks. I’m working on another meatloaf recipe. replacing gyro meat was just the start.

    @Aaron – Agreed.

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