Real Food on a Budget: Stockpiling Fats

by lydia on January 31, 2013

Since I am currently working on rebuilding my own stockpile, I thought I’d share how I plan to do it. I’ve spent several years learning where to get good sources of fat and what are the best prices I can personally come by locally. I also resort to online sources when I can’t get the best deal locally. I’ve had a time or two where I almost ran out of every source of fat I had on hand before the next shopping trip and I really don’t want to repeat that. After all, what good is eating without fat? Number one, it’s a flavor booster, everything tastes better with healthy fat. Number two, nutrients aren’t absorbed properly without fat, satiation is harder as well. Without adequate good fats in the diet, the budget will be harder to stretch. It’s critical to consume good fats with every meal in order to keep everyone’s bellies happy and full. I find I can live on very little food quantity wise, so long as I eat enough fat with each meal.

I do believe that working to buy meat in bulk is the first step towards getting your budget more manageable. Having high quality meat at lower price per pound can take your budget a long way. Second to that, I believe that sourcing quality fats, and buying in bulk when possible will help to keep your budget low. Everyone will have to find what kind of savings works for them. It’s hard for me to buy in bulk often, so I sometimes do smaller bulk purchases when I can. Let’s talk about what fats you will want to have in your pantry first.

Gorgeous golden ghee Gorgeous golden ghee

Animal Fats

The animal fats should be from organically raised, grass-fed pastured animals. I like to have a few options on hand at all times. Variety is key, you will get different benefits from each type, not to mention unique flavors.

Lard – I use lard for just about all my pan frying/sauteeing. So I go through quite a bit. I get lard from my local farmer’s market for $4 per quart. One quart might last me 3-4 weeks if I am using it as my sole fat for cooking. I usually buy 2 and freeze one for later use. If you can’t get rendered, pastured lard locally, you can purchase it online at US Wellness meats for a very reasonable price. Pastured lard is a good source of vitamin D.

Bacon Fat – This is by far one of my favorite fats to use. I love it for sauteeing and frying. I especially love my homemade Sweet Potato Chips done in it. The kids love their eggs cooked in bacon fat, they don’t complain; ‘Eggs, AGAIN???”, when I make them in the bacon fat. Simply save your bacon fat after cooking your bacon. I can get bacon ends from my farmer for pretty cheap, though pastured bacon leaves a little less fat than store bought bacon. When I can’t get bacon ends from my farmer, I pick up the bacon ends from Trader Joe’s for $2.99. Bacon fat is stable on the counter in a container for a couple weeks. For longer storage place in the refrigerator or freezer.

Ghee – the most affordable way is to make your own. Ghee is excellent to cook with and can be used even for those with dairy intolerances. However, you can also purchase it already made (ghee is simply clarified butter removing all the milk solids). It’s not cheap. Look for grass fed ghee, such as Purity Farm Organic Ghee & Pure Indian Foods 100% Organic Grass Fed Ghee. You can join both of their mailing lists for information on special sales/discounts. If you are trying to consume high vitamin butter oil, ghee might be the cheaper way to go! It’s also shelf stable, so it can be stored a long time. I have both purchased it and made my own. I have found it in a local health food store on sale before. So, keep your eyes peeled!

Beef, Bison & Lamb Tallow –
Rendering your own tallow is likely the most affordable way to go, namely if you have purchased a side of beef or lamb. You will get the fat with any bulk beef/lamb purchase (make sure you do) and you can cut it up and render it, just like I do in my crockpot. It’s also possible to buy beef suet from your farmer, as well as through Tropical Traditions or US Wellness Meats. You can also buy lamb suet or tallow or bison fat from US Wellness Meats. Lamb tallow is such a taste treat, I highly recommend adding some to your larder if possible. Lamb tallow may be used as an alternative for shortening, lard or beef tallow. Add it to meat and vegetable dishes for added flavor with all the health benefits grass-fed fat offers. Lamb tallow has a high smoking point and is wonderful for high heat cooking and frying, as with beef tallow.


Chicken, Duck & Goose Fat – I don’t use these as often as the others. However, I will save my chicken or duck drippings after roasting, strain them and use in cooking, soups etc….I have found a company called Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Duck Products that carries a 1 gallon bucket of rendered duck fat that you can order on Amazon. Duck fat can also be purchased through US Wellness Meats. I think having duck fat on hand is a delectable treat more than a necessity. However, don’t we all deserve a treat now and then? You can also look for duck fat from your local farmer’s market or duck farmer. My farmer just started offering duck for purchase, I’ll be sure to ask him if he’ll sell the fat as well. In the meantime, I’ll be trying out a pail of the Hudson Valley Duck fat. Goose fat is a little harder to come by. I have yet to find it, other than in small amounts online that are kinda pricey. If I ever buy a goose, I’ll be sure to save the fat when I cook it.

Butter –

Organic grass fed and/or cultured butter is what I prefer to buy. I buy Kerry Gold and Trader Joe’s Organic butter. Whenever I buy a pound of butter, I put one stick away into a freezer bag in my downstairs freezer. That’s how I build my butter stockpile. Every now and again when the budget gets tight and I need to cut things from my shopping list, having butter on hand helps. I just pull from it until the next trip, or even the next trip after that. I’ve also found good quality organic butter at regular stores and sometimes it goes on sale. I know people with Costco memberships can find Kerry Gold for a great price as well. So, be sure to look around and find where you can get the best deal near you. To get raw butter I pay quite a lot. So I usually do not buy raw butter, only once in a blue moon and use it like a supplement in my diet. You could also make your own butter if you are able to get cream at an affordable price. I can get raw cream for about $9 per quart – so it’s not really affordable for me to make my own.  Tropical Traditions also carries grass fed butter. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s an option in case you can’t find butter local to you. They also have lots of sales and free shipping on and off, so consider stocking up when you see them have a sale!

Coconut Oil –

I use a lot of coconut oil in my diet, and have been for years because there are so many health benefits of coconut oil. Several tablespoons per day usually. I don’t cook with it as often since it’s not as cheap as animal fats for cooking. I do use it in my daily tea, smoothies, baked goods and sometimes for sauteeing or adding to a meal that would warrant a coconut flavor. I have tried just about every brand of coconut oil under the sun. I now buy either Trader Joe’s coconut oil for $5.99 or I order from Tropical Traditions when they are having a sale. I used to buy Nutiva in bulk online on Amazon, but now find I can get better prices through Tropical Traditions. Nutiva is currently a great price on Amazon, get 2 54 ounce containers for $54.71with free shipping. My goal is to save for a 5 gallon bucket – that should last me at least a year, and help me save some on my overall coconut oil purchasing. I hate to run out of coconut oil and have the budget be tight and not be able to get some. So, my plan is to stockpile in larger amounts as I can, especially when I find sales and/or free shipping. If you belong to Costco you may be able to get Nutiva for a good price, or possible another brand. I don’t recommend buying at health food stores, that is likely where it will cost the most. Tropical Traditions is having a sale right now on their Gold Label -2 quarts (buy one get one), gallon buckets of their virgin coconut oil and more!
Virgin Coconut Oil, Green Label – 1 gallon

Palm Oil or Palm Shortening

In its natural state, palm oil is a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, with most of the unsaturated fat being monounsaturated fat. Palm shortening is palm oil that has some of its unsaturated fats removed, giving it a very firm texture, and high melting point. The melting point of our Organic Palm Shortening is 97 degrees F., making it very shelf stable. It is NOT hydrogenated, and contains NO trans fats! It is great for deep-fat frying and baking, and is not prone to rancidity. Since it has been separated from some of the unsaturated portion of the oil, it is colorless and odorless, and will not affect the taste of foods like Virgin Palm Oil does. I buy either Spectrum Palm shortening at Whole Foods, or I purchase it through Tropical Traditions when they are having a sale (which they are currently and do frequently).
1 Gallon Organic Palm Shortening – 112 oz.
Although scarcely used in the US, palm oil is the most heavily consumed dietary oil in the world after soybean oil. If one were to exclude the U.S. where most of the world’s soybean oil is consumed, palm oil would be the most popular dietary oil in the world. Palm oil traditionally has been used for baking, shortenings, margarines and deep fat frying, as it is shelf stable with a high melting point and does NOT require hydrogenation. Therefore, it contains no trans fatty acids. Palm oil is an excellent source of vitamin E, something most Americans are deficient in these days. Palm oil can be ordered through Tropical Traditions, as well as other places online. It’s not an oil I see frequently in most any store.

Olive Oil

Unfiltered Olive Oil is best. It should be golden yellow/green in color and cloudy. Be sure to purchase olive oil kept in dark glass bottles or containers. Avoid buying any from a clear bottle, it’s likely not the real deal. Olive oil should be reserved for eating uncooked, however it is safe for baking/sauteeing at lower temperatures. I use olive oil mainly for salad dressings in my home, however I occasionally marinate meats with it as well. I also use olive oil in skin care products. Currently, I buy the California Estate or Organic Olive Oil from Trader Joe’s for $5.99 a bottle. Mainly because I have not yet found the money to invest in a bulk purchase of olive oil.  If I run out of olive oil in the winter, I don’t worry about buying more right away, I’d rather have other fats take precedence. I don’t have a Costco membership, but know people who do and are able to get good quality olive oil in larger quantities for a good price there. Tropical Traditons carries 3 liter cans and 17 ounce bottles of BioNaturae. In my Amazon Store, I also have several quality brands of olive oil listed, make sure to check all of those out as well. I’d really like to get in on a bulk purchase with my local WAPF group for some olive oil from Chaffin Family Orchards.

Sesame Oil

Sesame oil should be extracted via expeller pressing. Sesame oil falls right between a MUFA and a PUFA (42% MUFA, 43% PUFA), but it has high levels of antioxidants for protection against oxidation, so sesame oil may be used for low-heat stir-frying or a quick sauté on a very limited basis. Combining sesame oil with olive oil and/or other stable saturated animal fats will help protect sesame oil when cooking. I use Sesame Oil very sparingly in my kitchen because it’s a bit expensive. I do like to use it for oil pulling too, though I can’t always afford to. I love it in this oil blend for salad dressings.  I do not prefer the toasted sesame oil plus I’m not sure if it is as healthful in that form. Make sure to purchase sesame oil in dark glass bottles. You can purchase high quality sesame oil online at Tropical Traditions or on Amazon, such as Flora Organic Sesame oil.

Avocado Oil/Macadamia Nut Oil

Avocado oil is not extracted from the pit, rather it is extracted from the fatty pulp, which is high in MUFA’s. It is similar to olive oil, so the same cooking rules apply. This oil is not likely a staple in a kitchen with a tight budget. However, I wanted to mention it anyway. Be sure to look for avocado oil that comes in a dark glass or metal container (no clear glass). I do not purchase avocado oil, but it’s something I’d like to try! You can buy good quality Organic Avocado Oil on Amazon.

Macadamia Nut Oil is very close to the fatty acid profile of olive oil, so the same cooking rules apply. Macademia oil has a distinctive, nutty flavor and is delicious in salad dressings. Look for expeller-pressed, organic UNBLENDED versions of this oil. It stores in the refrigerator for up to one year. Again, dark glass bottles.

How To Stockpile

Now that you are aware of all the good fats you can use in your cooking and food preparation, let’s talk about how to work towards stockpiling. First off, determine what fats are the ones you know your family will use the most. Start with 3. For me, it’s lard, butter and coconut oil. My goal is to stockpile at least a one month’s supply as back up. If I can get more I will. For example, I may start to save towards a 5 gallon pail of coconut oil so that I can bring down my monthly cost of coconut oil sooner than later. If I go to the farmer’s market for meat, I’ll buy 2 quarts of lard instead of one and put one in the freezer. And, you know my gameplan for butter is to save one stick of butter every time I buy a pound of butter. Right now I’m only buying 1 pound and 1 half pound of Kerry Gold per week. Note – I use bacon fat and lard interchangeably. Saving my bacon fat helps to stretch my cooking fat even further since we do eat bacon weekly. I usually have a cermic mug of bacon fat in the freezer at all times as well.

Once I have at least a month’s supply of those 3 fats, I may find a way to stock up on the other fats. I’ll picked one more saturated fat and another salad oil, usually sesame. So, say I pick palm oil and sesame oil. I would look for a sale at Tropical Traditions on their palm oil or palm shortening and maybe even wait for the free shipping to come around. Then I’d buy at least a gallon if I could swing it. That gallon will last me likely a year. I don’t use a ton of Palm Oil, but will for some baking and it’s my go-to oil for greasing muffin tins. If I run out of another fat and the budget is too tight to replace it immediately, I’ll use palm oil to cook with. Additionally, I’ll try to get a larger bottle of sesame oil if I can. The idea is to budget the same amount each week or month for fats and cycle your purchases so you can build a stockpile that has variety. Setting aside some savings for larger purchases like a case of olive oil or 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil may be additionally necessary. Once you buy it in bulk you save so much and find more room in your budget to stock up on other fats. Make sense?

Right now, I currently have 1 gallon of palm shortening(unopened), 2 extra sticks of butter (since I used up my stockpile over the holidays), 2 pints of coconut oil, 1 quart of beef tallow (rendered myself), half container of sesame oil and 1 small container of bacon fat. Plus the lard and butter in my fridge. This way, I have a good variety of fats to work with and enjoy. That is also enough fat for me to get by on for a month should my budget tighten up and I needed to spend my money on meat, vegetables and fruit.

How Much To Stockpile

First, figure out your goals in stocking up. Do you want to have a certain time frame worth of fats on hand? Do you just want to have a month’s worth? Or a year? Do you want to buy in bulk to get the best deals? In Kerry Ann of Cooking Traditional Foods eBook; ‘Real Food Storage: How to’s & Recipes‘ she recommends the following. Consider storing 14-16 quarts (3 1/2 – 4 gallons) per year per adult (some may need more, namely if you are on a Paleo/GAPS type diet). For my family we have the equivalent of 4 adults so I would need to stockpile 56-64 quarts of fat for a year, or 14-16 gallons. Now, I don’t necessarily have to build my stockpile to reflect a year’s worth. This number, however, can help me as I figure out my budget and calculate how much I need monthly. Then I can figure out how to go about getting that amount. Do I want to buy in bulk to save long term? Or, do I want to buy smaller quantities as I go along? Whatever the case may be this is useful information to help you configure your budget and your stockpile plan.

What about you? What fats do you work to stock up on in your home? Do you know of good bargains on any fats that I haven’t mentioned? Share in the comments…..



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Wendy January 31, 2013 at 5:13 pm

This is a new concept to me, and I never considered saving my bacon fat for later use. It leads me to ask is it the same for ground beef? I always get rid of my ground beef fat, is that something I could be using later or is that not as healthy as these other fats you are mentioning?

lydia December 2, 2013 at 3:19 pm


I always leave the fat in when I cook ground beef. Since I buy lean grass fed beef there is not as much fat left anyway. It lends a lot more flavor to ground beef dishes that way!

charity dasenbrock February 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm

so much information! Nutiva has a sale every Tuesday sometimes with amazing discounts. I recommend getting on their mailing list.

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