Learn how to stretch ground beef with 17 meat filler options, so you can stretch 2 pounds of ground beef over 8+ meals! Follow these easy steps to stretch your beef and save money.
When you’re trying to eat real food on a budget, chances are one of your biggest grocery budget categories is meat.
I’ve talked about how to save money on meat at the grocery store before, how to save on meat without buying a whole cow, and even how I make our monthly Butcher Box fit within our budget!
But when it comes to meals at home, one strategy that’s proven to work time and time again is to eat meat-less meals.
NOTICE I DIDN’T SAY “MEATLESS,” BUT MEAT-LESS.
But we also love meals that stretch ground beef. With meat prices on the rise, it’s always helpful to cut costs when possible!
WHY WE LOVE TO STRETCH GROUND BEEF
- More veggies, less meat. You’re adding healthy (hidden) vegetables and stretching your beef AND your budget to create more meals with less money. Win-win.
- Kid-approved. This ground beef recipe is tried and tested on picky eaters. Because the veggies are mixed in with the meat, the flavor mixes together and they taste like, well…meat!
- Freezes well. Stock your freezer and toss your stretched ground beef in a variety of dishes.
- Can be Whole-30 compliant. If you’re doing a Whole 30, you can choose meat fillers that are not grains or legumes…just vegetables and meat!
STRETCHED GROUND BEEF MEAL PLAN
My Ground Beef Meal Plan post is one of my most popular meal plans, and it takes two pounds of ground beef and stretches it into seven meals. Yep, you read that right – SEVEN!
I included the exact recipe and strategy for stretching ground beef in the free download (which you can get here), but I never shared it publicly on the blog. Shame on me!
So that’s what this post is for – to show you exactly how I take two pounds of ground beef and stretch it to cover at least eight meals. Let’s get cooking!
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN STRETCHING GROUND BEEF
Anything you add to ground beef to make it go a bit further is called “meat filler.” You can add a variety of filler foods, but the trick is to use meat fillers that will save you money AND that your family loves.
You’ll also need to keep in mind the type of ground beef recipes you cook with stretched ground beef. Meals that require the beef to be ‘smooshed’ together like burgers or meatloaf, won’t work as well with filler. However, foods with ‘loose’ meat, like chili, sloppy joes, or casseroles are perfect for meat filler.
VEGGIE MEAT FILLERS
These veggies work really well, especially when they’re shredded or finely chopped. The texture mixes in well and the flavor doesn’t overwhelm:
- bell peppers
- cauliflower rice
OTHER GROUND BEEF FILLERS
- rolled oats
- cooked rice
- homemade breadcrumbs
- potatoes (roasted not mashed!)
HOW TO STRETCH GROUND BEEF
The following steps lay out how to stretch ground beef using both vegetable and non-vegetable options. You can pick and choose any of them and just add them where listed in the steps, skipping what you’re not adding this time, until you find the combination your family likes best.
I recommend choosing at least two vegetables and one non-vegetable to stretch ground beef.
Of course, choose what fits your diet, preferences, and budget!
STEP 1. PREPARE YOUR VEGETABLE FILLER
Dice your vegetables VERY finely, or shred them using a box shredder or food processor. Teeny tiny pieces are key (about the size of 2 grains of rice). If the pieces are too big, they’ll stick out when you’re done adding the ground beef.
Start with whatever vegetables your family likes the most. You can always experiment with other veggies the next time.
You need 1-2 cups of COOKED vegetable filler per pound of raw ground beef. Different veggies cook down differently, so be prepared with 2-4 cups of raw diced/shredded veggies to get the 1-2 cups cooked.
Add one tablespoon of cooking fat to a large skillet and cook all of your vegetables until they are very soft and cooked through. Keep in mind that different vegetables have different cooking times, so add the long-cook vegetables (onions, cabbage, carrots, celery) first, then add the short-cook vegetables (bell peppers, mushrooms).
STEP 2. PREPARE YOUR NON-VEGETABLE FILLER
Again, start with an option you know your family enjoys. Like the vegetables, you need 1-2 cups of COOKED filler for one pound of raw ground beef. Each filler will cook differently, while some don’t have to cook at all, so be prepared with 2-4 cups of raw filler in order to get the 1-2 cups cooked, or measure accordingly.
Cook your non-vegetable filler according to package directions, or according to your favorite recipe.
STEP 3. ADD THE MEAT TO THE VEGETABLES
Add the raw meat to the same pan with your cooked vegetables, break it up into very small pieces using a wooden spoon or a potato masher (my preferred method), and cook the ground beef until it’s no longer pink on the inside.
STEP 4. ADD THE NON-VEGETABLE FILLER TO THE MEAT
Add 1-2 cups of cooked, non-vegetable filler to the ground beef and stir gently to mix.
Season as desired. I usually add salt and pepper at this point and save any recipe-specific seasonings or spices (i.e. blackened seasoning, taco seasoning, Greek seasoning, etc.) for when I actually use the stretched ground beef in a recipe.
STEP 5. USE YOUR STRETCHED GROUND BEEF
Substitute 2 cups of this meat mixture for one pound of ground beef called for in a recipe.
Note: If your family is not on board with the change in the ground beef, start by stretching your ground beef with just one additional ingredient, or lower the amount of ground beef fillers to just ½ cup of each (or even ½ cup total!). You can gradually increase the amount of ground beef fillers as you go on.
QUESTIONS ABOUT STRETCHING GROUND BEEF
Does this work with other kinds of meat?
Yes! This works with other ground meats as well, such as ground turkey, pork, and chicken.
How do you strain ground beef without a strainer?
Another way to drain the grease from ground beef is to push the meat to one side of the pan. Spoon out the grease into a bowl or use a turkey baster to suck up the grease.
Should you season ground beef before browning?
It is best to wait to season your meat after it has been browned and drained. For stretched ground beef, keep the seasonings simple (salt and pepper) and add additional seasonings when you use the meat in a recipe.
How do you stretch ground beef for tacos?
Tacos are a great recipe to stretch ground beef! Pick some of your favorite meat fillers from this post and add them to this easy Taco Meat recipe.
MORE STRETCHING STRATEGIES
- 10 Steps to Stretching Meat at Home
- 8 Tips for Stretching a Bar of Soap
- Stretching One Pork Loin into Seven Meals
- How to Stretch Chicken into Multiple Meals