Ways to Stretch Ground Beef

Ground Beef
Ground Beef. Ray Kachatorian/Blend Images/Getty Images

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

  • Oatmeal
  • Bread crumbs
  • TVP
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Grated vegetables (try potatoes or carrots)
  • Cooked beans
  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked lentils

A cup of filler per pound 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 that savings out over a bunch of meals, and you can easily see what a difference it could make to you grocery budget.

Which Filler Should I Use?

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 meat loaf or meatballs.

Add oatmeal or bread crumbs to hamburger patties.

Why This Works

The filler takes on the taste and texture of the ground beef; so your recipe looks and tastes the same, but costs less.

More Benefits of Stretching Ground Beef

  • It increases the nutrient content of your meal, adding extra vitamins, fiber, and in some cases, protein.
  • It reduces the amount of fat per serving.
  • Oatmeal and bread crumbs serve as a binding agent in meatballs and meat loafs, so they hold together better.
  • More food means more chance of having leftovers to enjoy the next day. And if that means not having to buy lunch meat or other lunch supplies, that could further reduce your grocery bill.

More to Learn About Meat