Whether you go with hamburgers, lasagna, meatballs, or meatloaf, ground beef recipes are a great way to feed a crowd. However, if you need a large quantity or grocery prices rise, the cost of meat can really add up. Fillers like breadcrumbs, rice, and beans are a simple, low-cost solution to stretch a pound of ground beef and your grocery budget. Depending on the ingredients you add, the filler will also enhance the flavor and reduce fat in your recipe. There's even a chance that you'll have extra leftovers that save even more money on another meal.
Ground Meat Fillers
Several fillers work perfectly with ground beef, and you can use them in ground pork, chicken, or turkey recipes. Pick the filler that best complements your recipe: add beans or rice to taco meat or oatmeal or breadcrumbs to hamburgers, meatloaf, or meatballs. Chopped veggies work in nearly any dish. To balance flavor and texture, go with a combination of fillers. For instance, mixing a vegetable, a starch, and an egg is an excellent option for many recipes.
Stretch your ground beef with any of these cheap fillers:
- Cooked or uncooked oatmeal, or rolled oats
- Cooked barley or bulgar wheat
- Quinoa or couscous
- TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
- Grated or finely chopped vegetables like carrots, celery, garlic, onions, sweet or hot peppers, potatoes, squash, or zucchini
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Cooked beans of any type
- Cooked rice
- Cooked lentils
How to Add Beef Fillers
A good rule of thumb is to add one cup of filler per pound of meat. If you're worried your family will notice the difference, start with less filler and work your way up in future meals. In recipes that use crumbled meat (e.,g., tacos, spaghetti, and lasagna), you can use equal parts of filler and beef and stretch the meat even more.
When packing meat into a ball, loaf, or patty, you need to be cautious because it's a delicate formula. Eggs bind the meat and filler so the mixture holds its shape and cooks to an ideal texture and moisture. If you use too much filler, meatloaf and meatballs will be mushy, and your burgers may fall apart. A good balance for most of these dishes is one egg and no more than one cup of filler per pound of meat. If it's too thick, add another egg.
How you prepare the filler ingredients depends on the dish:
- Finely chopped or grated veggies work well for casseroles and dishes that brown meat in a skillet.
- Use very finely chopped or puréed vegetables for loaves and patties.
- Most fillers should be precooked because the dish's cooking time is based on the meat. It's essential for dry ingredients like rice, lentils, and barley and helpful for most veggies.
- It often works best to purée a combination of fillers in a food processor to create a uniform texture before adding it to the meat.
Once prepared, simply mix your filler into the meat and proceed with the recipe. There should be no need to adjust the cooking time or temperature.
How Far Will Fillers Stretch Ground Beef?
While it varies slightly based on the meat's fat content, a pound of ground beef cooks down to about two cups. Adding a cup of filler will give you roughly 50 percent more "meat" to use. If you typically serve 1/4 pound of meat per person, you can transform a meal that normally feeds four into one that serves six.
No matter which you use, the fillers are generally much cheaper than the meat. You may spend no more than a dollar per cup of filler and can even split a pound of meat between multiple meals. When you carry the savings out over a bunch of dinners, it can make a significant difference in your grocery budget.