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It’s never a bad time to learn how to stretch ground beef and other ground meat so that you can get the most out of each meal! I’m also including meals that stretch meat for you to try.

There are a lot of ways to stretch ground meat so that you can make it go further and potentially use it for multiple meals. When you are on a budget or are just feeding a big family and can’t run out to the store to grab more ingredients, knowing which meals stretch meat the furthest is so helpful.

collage of how to stretch ground beef with text for pinterest

Why stretch ground meat?

  • save money
  • reduce the amount of meat you have to use
  • add nutrients with veggies

What to add to ground beef:

One of the easiest ways to make ground meat go further in your recipes is by adding things to the ground beef to bulk it up. Bulking is just hiding things in the meat that allow you to keep the flavor while bulking up the total volume of the meat.

Some great ideas that you can use to bulk up your ground beef and other ground meats are:

  • rolled oats
  • breadcrumbs
  • cream of wheat
  • textured vegetable protein
  • vegetables: grated, chopped, or processed in the food processor
  • cooked beans
  • cooked rice
  • cooked lentils

Don’t worry, adding canned beans and other items won’t make your recipes taste funny. The taste of the beans, vegetables, rice, and more will be disguised by the meat flavors and the seasonings you add.

How to use vegetables in meals that stretch meat:

One of my favorite things to do with ground meat is add grated or finely processed vegetables to the mix before I cook up the ground beef or even ground chicken or turkey.

Cauliflower is an excellent choice. When cooked with the meat, it takes on the flavors really well, and it can be put in a food processor to chop it up very fine. It also helps to add some vegetables to your meals without picky family members complaining about it :)

When to add fillers to the ground meat:

When you are adding fillers to your ground meat you’ll want to make sure to add them in while you’re browning the ground beef. During the cooking process a lot of those juices that come out of the meat will help to flavor the fillers and “hide” them in the meat mixture.

For vegetables, they can be cooked right along side the meat without much alteration.

For dry ingredients like oats, you will need to add liquid to the mixture, depending on how much you are adding, to help them cook properly.

You can cook dry ingredients before adding, like quinoa and rice. Just be sure they’re included when you start cooking the meat so they are flavored by the cooking liquid.

vegetables cooking in a skillet with ipad with recipe

How much should I add to my ground beef?

No matter what kind of ground meat you are using a good rule of thumb is to use about a cup of filler per pound of meat. If you need your meat to go really far because of budget constraints or access to the meat itself, just bulk it up as far as you’d like.

For recipes that have a lot of sauce I would think even doubling that to 2 cups per pound would be possible. Making goulash? You can increase the vegetables in that recipe to 4-5 cups and presto, you have a budget friendly meal that is healthier and serves more people! I’ve added extra veggies to the tomato sauce in this recipe multiple times, and I use a food processor to “hide” this extra vegetables.

How much more “meat” will this process give me?

After you cook your ground meat you will have about 50% more meat if you are using the 1 cup per 1 pound ratio. If you are using rice or quinoa to bulk up your meat you might have a bit more than that since they’re a bit more bulky when cooked.

How do I know which filler to use to help me stretch my pound of ground beef?

Choose your filler based on preference, what you have in your pantry or freezer, or match up your filler to the recipe you are going to use. If you are making tacos for example, use beans, rice, or finely chopped veggies since they’ll hide well and compliment the flavors of the spices.

For meatloaf or meatball recipes, try and use eggs, oatmeal, or bread crumbs since they’ll also help to act as a binder. If you want to make hamburger patties you can use breadcrumbs, oatmeal, or cream of wheat to really help them keep their form and be bulkier.

Can I use this process to transition to meatless meals?

If you are looking for ways to use a small amount of meat or if you are transitioning to a meatless diet I would definitely recommend you learn how to stretch ground beef. You’ll notice that your meat dishes are more flavorful with these meat mixtures while also being more eco-friendly and budget friendly!

salad with ground beef on a white plate

Can I use this process with other kinds of meats?

Ground beef is the most common type of ground meat that people are using so I used that for an example. You can also use these filler ideas for ground turkey, chicken breasts that are ground, and even ground pork for your breakfast recipes like homemade sausage!

Recipes and meals that stretch meat:

Most of these ground meat recipes are traditional comfort foods that are perfect for busy weeknights and work in the Instant Pot, slow cooker, or right on the stove.

I use ground meat in a lot of my recipes. A few of my favorites are healthy Swedish meatballs, and a more traditional BBQ meatloaf, and spicy sweet potato chili.

Stuffed pepper soup is a great recipe for stretching your meat. You can bulk this up with veggies, rice, and even pasta to make it go as far as you need it to!

My healthy homemade hamburger helper is also delicious, kid approved, and perfect for making your ground meat go as far as possible. Instant Pot spaghetti is a classic recipe that the whole family loves, I like that I can use a little bit of meat and a lot of veggies to make it go further when feeding a crowd.

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