How to Stretch Ground Meat

Ground beef with lentils 
With the cost of groceries skyrocketing these days everyone is trying to find ways to stretch their grocery budget. Learning the different ways that you can stretch a pound of ground meat is worthy of your playing around with in order to save money.  

There are different  ingredients you can add to ground beef and you may find your self using different methods for different recipes.  Stretching ground meat that is going into sauces such as spaghetti sauce, or tacos, may be different than ways to stretch it for hamburger patties, meatloaf, etc.  

You may be thinking your family will never go for it. But I assure you, they either won't notice at all in most cases, or will adjust very easily in others.  The ingredients here, usually take on the taste and even the texture of the ground beef, chicken, turkey or pork, so they blend in or complement your ground meat well. 

How much you add to your ground meat is up to you. If you are just starting out then, just substitute 1/2 or a 1/4 of my suggestions and see what you think. I bet you'll find yourself quickly increasing your filler as you find it doubling your ground meat in a lot of recipes.

To stretch your ground meat BEFORE cooking: 
Patties, meatloaf, meatballs...
I like to use about one cup of one of the following ingredients to each pound of hamburger. If I'm making meatballs, meatloaf or hamburgers I will sometimes need to add an egg or water to the dry ingredients.
Hand mix them right into the raw hamburger before cooking. Can use for any recipe from patties, to crumbled hamburger.
Meatloaf mixed with cooked rice & oats.

cooked rice (great for using left overs) (Like your grandmothers porcupine meatball recipe!)
cooked quick cooking barley
uncooked oatmeal
crumbled bran cereal
bread crumbs
cracker crumbs
*grated vegies: zuchinni, carrots, squash, (may want to add a bit of dry ingredients above to help absorb water)

To stretch cooked, crumbled ground meat:
for italian sauces, casseroles, taco's etc...
The following  ingredients will blend right in to your recipes and be barely noticeable, and even boost the nutrition also.  In a sauce like spaghetti sauce your family  won't really even notice, In the case of Mexican, like taco night, over time my  family got very used to pinto beans, tvp, or corn (or all three) being mixed right into the meat.
beef and pinto beans

Add one of the following to your ground meat:

Cooked beans: pintos or black bleans
Cooked lentils* ( I prefer red over the green 'cause they blend in better color wise)
TVP*: (textured vegetable/soy protein) they are dehydrated crumbles. that look and taste like ground meat.
          1 cup tvp  = approx. 1 lb. hamburger.

*Jan's Tips: 

Lentils are quick cooking and easy to freeze also. They take on the taste of your dish. I love to cook a bunch and divide them into 1 cup baggies in the freezer, then just thaw and toss into my cooking as needed. OR add them to your Master Hamburger Mix and freeze the meat with the filler already mixed in!  Here's a great guide on cooking lentils. Easy Peazy.
Here is one my favorite links to a master mix using zuchinni to stretch hamburger: www.justapinch.com

Here is a great tutorial on how to cook with tvp if you'd like to learn. How to use TVP This was posted at: Tip Junkie handmade projects
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