How to Stretch Ground Beef to Make the High Cost Easier to Swallow

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest official data says in September 2021, the average price of a pound of lean ground beef climbed to $6.14 per pound. We’ve seen all kinds of economic turmoil sending us into inflationary times 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 a 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 also say that you, like I, prefer organic, lean ground beef. Yesterday, I paid $6.49 per pound for the best quality at my supermarket, on sale. Yikes! But I didn’t really pay that.

My effective cost is more like $4.35 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% to get my effective cost.

Sounds horrible, I know. But it’s not. By mixing in something with the ground beef to make it go farther, I get results that are so much better than the beef alone. I’m always doctoring, seasoning and 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, 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 eager 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 1 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, visually, 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 bulgar to ground beef. That means 1/2 pound ground beef where the recipe calls for 1 pound.


Roast them first, then puree in the food processor or blender. Add 1 cup per pound of ground beef.


Add 1/2 cup of precooked lentils, oatmeal, kasha, quinoa or beans to the raw ground beef. Now cook it just as you would if it were all ground beef.


Tear it up into little bits. 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.

Got a great way to stretch ground beef I’ve missed? I’d love to know! You can contact me at mailbag@everydaycheapskate.com.

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.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. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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