8 Ways to Stretch Ground Beef

Raw meatballs
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Using ground beef in a recipe, whether it be meatloaf, lasagna, hamburgers, or meatballs is a great way to feed a crowd. But a large quantity of ground beef can get costly and really add up, so using an ingredient to stretch the amount is a great money saver. Adding filler to the meat will also increase the nutrient content of your meal, adding extra vitamins, fiber, and in some cases, protein. It will also reduce the amount of fat per serving.

Fillers such as oatmeal and breadcrumbs serve as a binding agent in meatballs and meatloaves, so they hold together better. There's even a chance that by making more food, you'll have more leftovers which could save you the cost of spending on another meal.

Fillers to Add to Ground Beef

Stretch ground beef, and your grocery budget, by mixing one of these cheap fillers in with your meat before you cook it:

  1. Oatmeal
  2. Breadcrumbs
  3. TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
  4. Cream of Wheat
  5. Grated vegetables (try potatoes or carrots)
  6. Cooked beans
  7. Cooked rice
  8. Cooked lentils

A cup of filler per pound of meat is a good rule of thumb, but if you're worried your family will notice the difference, start with less and work your way up. Once your filler is well incorporated with the meat, just prepare your recipe as usual. There's no need to adjust the cooking time or temperature.

How Much Will This Stretch Ground Beef?

A pound of ground beef cooks down to about two cups (it varies a bit depending on the fat content in the meat), so adding a cup of filler, will give you roughly 50% more "meat" to work with. If you typically serve 1/4 pound of meat per person, that's the difference between a meal that will serve four people and one that will serve six.

How Much Money Will This Save?

Let's say you catch a really good sale on ground beef, and pay $4 a pound. Since there are roughly two cups of meat in a pound of ground beef, that means you're paying $2 a cup. A cup of oatmeal (one of the recommended fillers) costs around $.47 a cup (less if you catch it on sale). So, if you're making a meatloaf that calls for a pound and a half of meat, you can either spend $6 for that pound and a half of beef, or $4.47 for a pound of ground beef, plus one cup of oatmeal. That's a difference of $1.53. Carry those savings out over a bunch of meals, and you can easily see what a difference it could make to your grocery budget.

Pick the Right Filler

Pick the filler that best complements your recipe. Add beans, rice, or veggies to taco meat. Go with bread crumbs, oatmeal, or grated vegetables when you're making meatloaf or meatballs. Add oatmeal or bread crumbs to hamburger patties.

Whichever filler you choose, if you use any one of these suitable options the filler will take on the taste and texture of the ground beef; so your recipe looks and tastes the same, but costs less.