The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest official data says in April 2021, the average price of a pound of lean ground beef climbed to a whopping $5.97 per pound. It’s no secret that in the past year, we’ve seen all kinds of economic turmoil sending us into a season of inflation, when the price of everything is soaring.
If you and your family are not ready to turn vegetarian—nor are you prepared to pay a king’s ransom for quality hamburger—you do have another option: Get creative. OK, maybe a little sneaky, too.
But first, let’s talk turkey—I mean, ground beef. The really lean option of ground beef, 93/7, is not easy to prepare well. That’s because there’s not enough fat in it to turn out juicy, delicious fare. Super lean ground beef requires careful seasoning as well as careful cooking.
Let’s say that you, like me, prefer organic, 90/10 lean ground beef. Yesterday I paid $5 per pound at my supermarket, on sale. Yikes! But I didn’t really pay that. My effective cost is more like $3.24 per pound. How? Please don’t tell a soul: I stretch it. I take the best quality ground beef and then “extend” it by at least one-third. So whatever the price in the store, I mentally reduce it by 33 percent to get my effective cost.
How to Stretch Ground Beef
Sounds horrible, I know. But it’s not. By mixing in something with the ground beef to make it go further, I get results that are so much better than the beef alone. I’m always doctoring, seasoning, adding this or that depending on what I’m making.
Take meatloaf, for example. I wouldn’t be surprised if just the word “meatloaf” makes you respond with a resounding, “Yuck!” That’s because a brick of ground beef stuck in the oven with a little salt and pepper is going to turn out dry as shoe leather, and about as tasty.
But take that same amount of ground beef and mix it with a few well-chosen ingredients, and then bake it up or put it on the grill. You are going to be amazed. Even your children are going to say it’s great and ask you to do that again. And again.
Just don’t be so anxious to tell your secrets. There’s something about adding stuff to ground beef that grosses people out.
When browning ground beef for anything like tacos, chili, or sloppy Joes, add one cup of cooked rice for every pound of meat, just after draining the grease. Your family will never know. The rice (brown or white) takes the seasoning very well so that it looks like it is all ground beef.
Add grated potato or dry potato flakes to hamburger meat for any Mexican dish like tacos or chili.
Cook it first in water until soft according to label instructions. Then add to any recipe calling for ground beef and tomato sauce, reducing the amount of ground beef you use to accommodate the addition of the bulgur wheat. Shhh! I’ve been known to go 50/50 cooked bulgur to ground beef. That means 1/2 pound ground beef where the recipe calls for 1 pound.
Roast them first, and then puree in the food processor or blender. Add one cup per pound of ground beef.
Add 1/2 cup of precooked lentils, kasha, quinoa, or beans to the raw ground beef. Now cook it just as if you would if it were all ground beef.
Stale Bread, Crackers
Tear up old bread or crackers into crumbs. Add an egg and spices to make meatballs and burgers.
Ground turkey is very lean and often lacking in flavor. And it’s dry. Mix 50/50 with ground beef for fabulous results.
You can find my family’s all-time favorite recipe for meatloaf at EverydayCheapskate.com/groundbeef. This is the way your grandma made it; trust me on this. This is the recipe that made the house smell great, that went perfectly with mashed potatoes, and that you knew you could eat every day of your life and never get tired of it.
This is the recipe that will make your family hope and pray there will be leftovers for tomorrow. If you follow this recipe well, the kids will never know you used bread, carrots, and cheese to turn 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef into something closer to 3 pounds!
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com