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. Hi Christy,
    I have a sloppy joe recipe that was passed down from my Mom, so it’s at least 60 years old. Everyone I serve it to loves it. One of the secret ingredients that Mom used to use in it (and I continue to use) is shredded carrots. Mom used to add carrots when money was tight and she needed to make the ground beef go further. I have done the same thing, particularly when making a large batch for a group. I’ve used as much as a 1:1 ratio with no issue. An added bonus is it gets kids to eat more veggies.

  2. Hi Christy!
    Just wanted to let you know, I’m relatively new to this newsletter and I am so glad I signed up! I was never a very good cook. I had some basic recipes I stayed with and was never too creative. In fact, when my kids were still at home, it was a joke that when the smoke alarm went off that meant dinner was just about ready! LoL You and your recipes have given me a lot of confidence, and I have tried many different things that I never envisioned cooking myself! I absolutely LOVE meal plan Mondays and I have printed many of those recipes. I have a stack that I try on a regular basis. Thank you so much for all you do!

  3. Thanks Christy for this post and enjoyed your readers comments, too.
    I receive the majority of my meats from Butcher Box and on occasion order from US Wellness Meats. In my area, I can place online orders from a few grocery stores to pick up or have delivered to my house. At the time this pandemic started, my son went to the store for me and my husband, who is sick, and bought a large order of extra items I needed. I love your recipes and stay safe and well.

  4. If you want a quick way to add protein without needing to bulk up the ground beef with extenders you could buy beef gelatin powder and add it to the beef mixture or recipe. I’ve bought in bulk through Amazon. In early March I bought a 4 pound canister from NOW foods for just under $40.00 using my Amazon Prime (free shipping) account. The product label states you get 9 grams of protein from one TBSP. That’s a lot! These days it can go a long way to keeping you out of the grocery stores where meat goes flying off the shelves. That and the “Better Than Bouillon” brand of excellent broth bases can kick up the flavor. Besides the typical beef and chicken flavors Amazon also has mushroom, vegetable, ham, turkey, lobster, fish, clam, chili, and roasted garlic, besides organic, reduced sodium and vegetarian versions which you may not find on the shelf at your local grocer.

  5. Something I cooked often when young and poor, and still like to eat, can be prepared with a smaller amount of ground beef.

    1 pound or less of Ground beef, crumbled, browned, and drained
    Stir in 1 can cream of mushroom soup and
    1 cup of sour cream

    Serve over small package of egg noodles, boiled and drained.

  6. One can always learn some new ways to cook. Thanks for sharing your ideas for stretching meat and making economical meals. Lots of great tips in the comments, too. I cut up a chicken and cook it in the pressure cooker with extra water, onions, and diced celery. Then I use it for casseroles, chicken and dumplings, and chicken soup. You can get lots of meals from 1 chicken.

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