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How to Stretch Ground Meat with Frugal Fillers

How to Stretch Your Ground Meat by Cutting With Frugal Fillers

Meat is expensive and if yours is like most frugal families, it takes up a significant portion of your grocery budget. While ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork and ground turkey are many times cheaper than full cuts of meat, they are still one of your pricier ingredients.

A cooked pound of ground meat does not actually make very much meat once prepared; it usually only yields 1 to 1 1/2 cups depending on how lean the meat is. How can you stretch a pound of ground meat farther and stretch your hard earned dollars while not giving up healthy food for your family?

How to Cut Ground Meat With Inexpensive Ingredients

One of my favorite secrets for spending less on meat is to do more with the meat I cook. There are inexpensive and healthy ingredients you can mix into ground meat both before and during cooking. (Trust me, your family will NEVER know the difference!)

Before cooking, mix your raw ground meat in a bowl with any combination of fillers. Make sure that you mix them well until thoroughly blended and any large pieces (such as bran flakes) are broken into smaller pieces. If you cut the meat with a lot of dry ingredients, you may need to add some water or raw egg to make it a bit stickier, especially if you’re making meatballs.

Try these ingredients before cooking:

  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked barley
  • Uncooked oats (any variety)
  • Bran cereal
  • Cracker crumbs
  • Bread crumbs
  • Crushed croutons

During cooking: Cook your meat as you normally would. Once browned, reduce heat to medium-low and mix in any combination of cooked fillers. Keep the temperature high enough to warm the new ingredients but low enough not to overcook (and dry out) the meat. Add whatever sauces or seasonings your recipe calls for and prepare your meal normally with your new ground meat mixture.

Try these fillers during cooking:

  • Cooked beans (any variety). Stir to mix well or mash for creamier texture. Especially works well for tacos, quesadillas, and nachos.
  • TVP/TSP. Textured soy or vegetable protein is my favorite cutting ingredient. You can buy it in the health food or bulk section at your grocery store. It comes in dry granules; to prepare just add warm water and let it absorb. Mix with your ground meat and heat. The texture and look blends into the meat so perfectly that you can’t tell it’s there, and like tofu, it will absorb whatever flavor it cooks with. It’s so cheap and high in protein that you can’t go wrong!

Homemaker Barbi Says: Experiment to discover which ingredients work the best for you. I normally stretch one pound of meat into the equivalent of 2 to 3 pounds using oats, rice and TSP. My family loves the meals and no one is the wiser!

25 Comments

  1. Jenn @ Frugal Upstate
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 17:28:00

    I like using TVP too! I will reconstitute it with beef bullion (from a cube) to give it more flavor. I’ll mix it with raw hamburger about 1/2 and 1/2 and then form hamburgers and meatballs. Great way to stretch the meat as well as cut the calories/fat.

    Reply

  2. Jen
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 19:32:00

    What a great idea! I’ll have to give it a try.

    Reply

  3. Michele
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 21:35:00

    I stretched some ground turkey for a meatloaf the other day by adding in some black beans that were leftover in the fridge. (I mashed them before adding.) I’ve used lentils before to. It worked really well.

    Great post! Thanks! :)
    Blessings,
    Michele
    http://www.frugalgranola.blogspot.com

    Reply

  4. Lea Ann
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 18:00:18

    Well, this is a new one on me. I’m gonna go look for that textured soy stuff! Thanks for the idea.

    Reply

  5. Rochelle
    Mar 07, 2009 @ 17:04:03

    potatoes are a great filler and can make it a whole new meal; my grandmother used potatoes with her hamurger meat for tacos because she had to feed 14 people! you can add a new seasoning or different herbs and you’ve got a different meal each time!

    Reply

  6. Niki
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 17:52:15

    great tips. I use coleslaw packets fried with my sloppy joes. great way to stretch it and also to sneak in some veggies

    Reply

  7. Nicole
    Apr 06, 2009 @ 14:36:44

    My grandmother has been doing this for years with her meatballs. She passed the recipe on to my mom who passed to me. Two eggs, uncooked oatmeal or cereal, add spices and mix! This used to be a way of life fr many and I guess with six kids it helped my grandmother stetch her dollars. We still use this method today and I highely recommend it.

    Reply

  8. Liz
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 03:29:50

    I really try to streatch mince by adding heaps of veggies. If i’m making a shephard’s pie or bolognese, I will add in heaps of carrot, tomatoes, broccoli, beans, peas, sweet potato or whatever else I can find in the back of the fridge or freezer.

    Chop them up small if your family doesn’t like chunky, or even cook the veggies first and blend them baby food style and add the mush. It stretches the mince out a lot and of course extra veggies are always a good thing!

    Thanks for the hints.

    Reply

  9. Cee Tindall
    Apr 23, 2009 @ 00:48:29

    I’ve never heard of stretching ground meat before. This is such a great idea. Thanks for telling us!

    Reply

  10. Danielle
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 06:44:33

    Thanks for this great post. We have been using potato gems or potato pearls. I am not a huge fan because I can taste it. We will have to try some of these options!

    Reply

  11. Michelle
    Mar 21, 2010 @ 21:50:47

    In my house, we use strongly flavored ground meat as a flavoring for other dishes, rather than having it make up the bulk of our meal. Look up ‘minchee’ on Google — it is a great all around ground meat dish (usually pork but sometimes turkey) that I’ve found makes a great topping for rice as well as an addition to stir fries.

    Reply

  12. Gail
    Apr 06, 2010 @ 17:46:09

    Sweet! I was wondering if anyone has ever added lentils AND veggies AND oats to stretch meat? I heard about that and I’m wondering if it actually works?

    Reply

    • Danelle Ice - Home Ever After
      Apr 08, 2010 @ 07:14:41

      @Gail: I have added lentils and oats before. I skip the lentils owadays because I thought they made the meat too mushy. But in a pinch, they will work to stretch your ground meat!

      Danelle

      Reply

  13. ditzymudgirl
    Apr 20, 2010 @ 09:08:27

    While I understand the purpose, I’d be concerned about cutting the meat with extra carbs. The kids need the protien in the meat, so cutting it with beans or tofu would be my choice.

    Reply

  14. Meg
    Jul 26, 2010 @ 12:16:12

    I have also used quinoa for this . . . I always seem to cook too much and have it left over! It has more protein than other grains too.

    Reply

  15. Kristi
    Sep 06, 2010 @ 04:57:24

    LOL @ Nicole……..You mean making meatloaf with eggs and rice/oats ISN’T the norm?? I really thought everyone did it that way!!!

    I was raised by my grandparents, my grandmother coming from a family of 14 during the depression so alot of how I cook will feed a small Army!!! I’m one who saves chicken carcasses after the meat has been cut off (NEVER when the chicken is “gnawed off the bone” by my lil heathens!!) to make soup!! Just made chicken and dumplings the other day with the chicken carcass and my daughter says “Mom! You’re feeding us bones?!?” After I boiled them and removed the meat, I called her back in to show her how much meat was left…..2 carcasses yielded 2 cups of shredded chicken, which is a PERFECT amount for chicken and dumplings!!! That’s my little frugal tip of the day! :)

    Reply

  16. Tweets that mention How to Stretch Ground Meat with Frugal Fillers - Home Ever After -- Topsy.com
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 07:14:09

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Karen McLaughlin, Danelle Ice. Danelle Ice said: How to Stretch Ground Meat with Frugal Fillers http://www.homeeverafter.com/how-to-stretch-ground-meat-frugal-fillers/ [...]

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  17. mary
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 05:48:59

    I am making spaghetti and meatballs and although I am aware of the many fillers you can use, I am trying something a little different and a little nervous because I haven’t done it before and I am a little afraid it will come out wrong. It is going to be a lot of meatballs. I want to freeze some for a quick meal too. So, here goes. I bought organic ground sirloin, which is expensive in and of itself, so I really want to make it stretch. I added, bulgar (eye balling it, but think I need more), oats, and an in between mixture of chopped/pureed (it filled up the food processor container) of carrots, celery, chicken broth(homemade), garlic, and onion. I let it sit in a large bowl after mixing it overnight. It is a massive amount. Now here is my question, do I want to add breadcrumbs too, add more bulgar, or oats? Not sure. Do I roll the meatballs in the breadcrumbs first then bake or just mix it all in? Well, Hopefully, I can get an answer by tonight when I take on this endeavor. Thanks

    Reply

    • Danelle Ice - Home Ever After
      Jan 09, 2011 @ 11:04:52

      @Mary: It’s up to you if you want to stretch it further. It sounds like you already have a large amount of mixture, so it would probably be alright to cook them as is. If you do add more fillers, I’d opt for the oats. Good luck!

      Danelle

      Reply

  18. Haleigh
    Jul 22, 2013 @ 11:13:19

    You might want to stay away from TSP or not use it much. It is almost always GMO, and has MSG because of the heating process. It also has about 9,000 times the amount of estrogen a male is supposed to have in his body at a time in 1 serving. It’s not just bad for males but also females and especially when pregnant. I will not buy ANYTHING with Soy unless it is fermented, even soy lecithin. Here are a couple articles about soy you might want to check out. http://www.westonaprice.org/Soy-Alert/
    http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/myths-and-truths-about-soy

    Reply

  19. Home Ever After
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 21:05:36

    @Lea Ann: You’re welcome, and glad to have a tip you hadn’t heard before! TSP is great- a vegetarian friend told me about it years ago and I thought she was crazy! Boy does that seem like a long time ago now…

    Barbi

    Reply

  20. Home Ever After
    Mar 06, 2009 @ 21:06:16

    @Tami – So glad you did! Let me know anything else you’d like to see on this subject.

    Barbi

    Reply

  21. Home Ever After
    Mar 08, 2009 @ 08:44:44

    @Rochelle: Good point – potatoes are a filler many people don’t think of. Next time I update this article, I’ll add them into the list. Thanks so much!

    Barbi

    Reply

  22. Home Ever After
    Mar 22, 2009 @ 18:32:14

    @Niki: Good tip, I hadn’t thought of that before. Sneaky!

    Barbi

    Reply

  23. Home Ever After
    Apr 15, 2009 @ 09:58:36

    @Liz: I love your ways for adding veggies – sounds like how I add them into sauces. Thanks for commenting!

    Barbi

    Reply

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