More From Less – Tips For Using Less Meat

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*This post focuses on ground beef but these tips can easily be adapted to fit other proteins as well. Less meat dishes

Folks have been looking into ideas on how to make their ground beef last longer and provide for more meals. So today I thought I’d show you some of the things that I personally do to save money and get more meals out of the usual pound of ground beef. These are tried and true and well practiced measures in my house! These days we are using tricks such as these in full force and with uncertain times ahead, I recommend that others do the same. 

One of my main tricks is to combine raw ground beef with other ingredients. There are several ways of doing this and chances are you have one or more options in your pantry. 

Try these add ins: 

Black beans: Canned or home cooked black beans are a great stand in for meat. Cook your meat fully and then stir in equal amounts of black beans. This works well in casseroles, skillet meals, and tacos. Note: If using canned black beans, make sure you drain and rinse them or everything will taste like black beans. 😉

Rice: While browning my beef, I add equal parts of cooked rice and allow the rice to cook in the beef grease a bit. I only do this with meat that has no more than 20% fat. This gives the rice a complimentary flavor and makes it hardly noticeable in a dish. This trick works well with casseroles, skillet meals, tacos, hamburger helper type meals, and even spaghetti. You may white or brown rice. Note: I only recommend white rice for long term food storage as brown rice will go rancid over time. 

Lentils: Lentils are a great source of protein and they cook from start to finish in about thirty minutes. Add your favorite type of cooked lentils to raw ground beef when making patties, brown it with the beef for all other dishes. Lentils are a seamless substitute and extension ingredient to beef. I add equal parts lentils to raw ground beef but you can even add two parts lentils to raw ground beef as well. 

Oats: Raw quick or old fashioned oats not only make a great meat extender but quick oats also help bind patties and such together as well. Add about half as many oats as there is beef when making patties. 

Bread: Adding in a slice or two of bread or even hot dog or hamburger buns serves as a binder, filler, and helps keep lesser fat meat from being dry. This is an excellent add in when making patties. 

Other tips: 

Chop, slice, and shred: Finely chopping, shredding, or slicing meat allows us to use far less but still gives the perception that there is just as much, if not more, since more pieces of meat are distributed throughout the dish. 

Use half as much: When making spaghetti, chili, casseroles, and skillet meals, chop ground beef very fine while browning and add half as much as you normally would. It’s highly doubtful that anyone will notice. 

Add in extra protein: if it suits a dish, use half the meat and add in an egg or two in order to beef up the protein. Fried rice, lo mein, and even some pasta dishes are well suited for this. 

Go meatless: For those of us raised with meat at every meal this may feel strange at first but we usually have at least one meal a week of just veggies. There are a lot of traditional family meals (spaghetti) that are just as delicious sans meat. Cutting meat out of just one meal a week can really impact a food budget over time and help conserve your resources when meat may be scarce. 

These are just the things that I do. While ideas like this may be needed more now, these are simply good stewardships skills that we can implement now and continue for the long haul. After all, we’re just bringing back the wisdom of our grandmothers!

I’d love to hear your tips and tricks below!

Want some great supper ideas? Below is just a sampling of what we have to offer. Click here to see these and more main dish recipes on SouthernPlate!

Bags to Dishes meals

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  1. When I buy groceries, I buy based on planned meals, not necessarily assigned days for those meals. So, I try and plan a Friday or Saturday night meal that’s loosely based on “cleaning out the fridge” meal. A stir fry, or egg dinner that will use up those last bits of veggies leftover, or that single pork chop, etc. Some of my best recipes have come out of those meals…if I could only remember to write down what I did!! Sending love, peace and prayers to all of you during this difficult time. ❤️❤️

  2. When making meatloaf I grate potatoes, carrots and zucchini and add to the meat along with everything else. I use about 2/3 meat to 1/3 veggies. Even my kids love my meatloaf and never notice the veggies in there!

  3. Thanks Christy! I love this post. I’ve been doing the same thing and saving so much food and money during this pandemic. Thanks for gathering the info together in one place! You’re the best…

  4. When turkeys and hams are on sale after the holidays, I buy a large number of each and stash them in our upright freezer. I’m alternating cooking them and use the cooked turkey and ham in all sorts of meals. This plan has been especially helpful in recent days when the meat cases at the grocery store are empty or nearly so.

    1. This is a great idea and you don’t have to wait for a Holiday to cook it. You can have roast one day, turkey pot pies with the left overs and save some left overs for a turkey salad or hot turkey sandwiches, after that you throw all the bones and scraps into a pot and make vegetable turkey noodle soup. Ham works the same way. Nothing better than ham bone and been soup.

  5. When baking biscuits make sure and cook every bit of dough. Those little scraps are delicious crumbled into ground beef when making hamburgers. Toss in a whipped egg too if you need to make the meat go even further. If you are trying to go easy on the carbs serve these burgers without the buns.

    1. Good idea Barbara. I long ago stopped “cutting” out biscuits using a biscuit cutter though. I pat my dough out into a rectangle or square, and cut square biscuits with a sharp knife-no scraps to get rid of and no tough biscuits. Thanks Christy for sharing your tips and thanks to your readers for sharing more-great post!

  6. have friends who cook traditional Italian meals handed down from their Nonnas which include olive oil and garlic sautéed together and then add vegetables like peas, broccoli or cauliflower. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Mix in pasta of choice and a ladle of the water the pasta was cooked in. Tastes so good!

    1. Christy, I just wanted to tell you that your recipes are delicious and your stories are delightful! Thank you for sharing this post with all of us during this difficult time. It’s people like you and your thoughtfulness to help everyone since some items are quite limited right now. Thank you for all that you do!

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