It’s no secret that meat is expensive. If you are trying to get out of debt or have a tight budget, buying less meat is a great way to cut kitchen costs.
By hiding fresh vegetables in your ground beef, you not only make each pound of expensive meat go further, you sneak in nutrients that your veggie-haters may not be getting otherwise.
Typically the only meat we buy around here is chicken and ground beef. I use chicken in several slow cooker recipes and ground beef in some of our favorite casseroles and other dishes. We also stock our deep freeze with turkey and ham during the holidays when prices are great.
Most of my kitchen efforts are done in bulk to save time and effort in clean-up. Stretching ground beef is no different. I usually do around 5 pounds of ground beef at a time. I can make 5 pounds of ground beef last us several months.
There isn’t a strict recipe to follow. For 5 pounds of meat, I use about 5 pounds of veggies. I use a combination of carrots, onion and/or celery, depending on what I have on hand. This time, I had carrots and onions from our garden and some celery that was starting to get floppy in the fridge.
Start by washing and peeling your veggies. Then, using a food processor, puree the vegetables.
We affectionately call our food processor “The Gonzo.” It’s fitting, don’t you think? We got this baby as a wedding gift eight years ago and we love it!
I brown the ground beef and veggies in four installments since it won’t all fit in my pan at once. The meat and vegetables go in the pan together and I brown them just as I would plain meat.
It is a little more steamy since the veggies have lots of water in them.
I drain any grease off, just as I normally would.
Since I divided my meat up into quarters, I did this four times. When I finish each pan, I put the cooked meat and veggie mix into a large metal bowl to cool off just a tad. I spoon about 3/4 lb into a zip-top sandwich bag, then put the bags into gallon freezer bags. I don’t reuse the bags that have meat in them and I don’t feel as bad throwing away the thin zip-top sandwich bags. The gallon-size freezer bag stays clean and I reuse it.
I have heard that adding oats is another way to stretch your ground beef. As an experiment, I tried adding oats instead of veggies to the last quarter of my ground beef, since it will be months before I brown hamburger again.
I was sorely disappointed. The oats just absorbed the grease and stuck to the pan in a major way. Did I do it wrong? Has anyone had success with this method? I think I’ll stick to veggies. 🙂
Making expensive meat go further is nice on the budget, and sneaking veggies in is nice for the body. If that doesn’t convince you, consider the convenience factor. I love having baggies of frozen browned hamburger all ready to add to my dinner recipe. That takes care of what is often the most time-consuming part of dinner prep. It’s also nice to not have to wash a greasy pan every time I use beef in a meal.
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I add regular or quick oats to the hamburger, spices, egg and whatever else and then I make them into patties for hamburgers. The oats are well incorporated in and don’t make the hamburgers cook any differently. I’m going to try and add pureed veggies to my mix next time as well as some of the other ideas left by commentors. Thanks for the idea.
I will have to try this! I use corn flakes to stretch my meat. It doesn’t stretch it as much as I like tho.
I kind of scanned through the above posts, so I hope this isn’t a repeat.
I was taught by a hispanic neighbor to add shredded raw potato to ground beef. It is delicious! Makes the best tacos, and you can really stretch a pound of meat with 2 shredded potatoes.
Awesome Shannon! Thanks for the idea!
Something I’ve done to stretch ground meat in a taco mix or spaghetti sauce is to add a handful of oats and lentils after all the ingredients are simmering. I’ve also been known to add grated carrots to the spaghetti and corn and black beans to the taco mix it really stretches the meat and lowers the cost.
I have used oatmeal as an additive to ground meat, but not nearly at a 1-1 ratio. The oatmeal does soak up any juices/oil, and I add it as soon as I put the meat in the pan. I buy my meat directly from a local rancher by the side, so my ground beef is pretty lean.
Thank you! A way to get my husband eating veggies and saving money at the same time!!
Awesome Patti! 🙂
Chelsea Fletcher says
Whoops! I’m a noob 🙂 I guess I should have read all the other comments that said the same thing as my previous comment before jumping in and posting something.
Well again, thank you for such an awesome post!!
Chelsea Fletcher says
Hello! I read this post and I think I will have start trying a mixture of this and oats to my ground turkey! I never would have thought about puréed veggies would bulk up meat. As far as the oats go, this is the website that I saw it on. She mixed the oats in before browning the meat. http://m.gracefullittlehoneybee.com/6emwbbh/articles/49302/How-to-Stretch-Ground-Beef-Using-Oats (That is **not** my site, just a resource I found. Am I allowed to post that?? Just wanted to be helpful!!)
Again, thank you for such an awesome and healthy post! 😀
Thanks for sharing Chelsea!! 🙂
I do this with shredded zucchini. It’s the main thing I grow zucchini for!
Awesome! I have loads of zucchini, so I’ll definitely have to give it a try!
Hi there! I am just diving into the freezer meal world (I’ve done some mass prep a few times) and I want to make up some hamburger patties. Could I use this for patties by just mixing it all together and freezing until a later time or would this pretty much just work for browning ground beef right away?
I haven’t tried making patties, but I bet it would work. You might want to mix an egg or two in to the mixture to help it hold together and you probably wouldn’t use quite as much veggie puree. It’s definitely worth an experiment though!
Thanks for the great tip. I will definitely be trying this is the near future. Once question I did have was about making burgers. Would you use the same ratio if you were just making patties? Are there be additional step to keep the burger from falling apart? Thanks in advance!
I’ve never done burgers this way Elizabeth. I actually have pretty limited burger-patty-making experience. I know you can add onions and probably some veggies, but probably not as much as you can add for ground beef. The veggies give off a lot of water in the cooking process. Sorry I’m not much help! Best of luck!
I’ve heard the same about burgers, but instead of pureeing the veggies try shredding them. Maybe mix in with a little shredded cheese too.
Great idea! Adding cheese sounds yummy too!
Does the hamburger taste any different once you’ve cooked it together with all the vegetables? This sounds like a terrific idea, but if my kids rebel against it then it’d be a waste of my time.
Depending on the veggies you add, it can taste a little different. Depending on what you’re making, though, the different flavor can easily be masked. For example, if you add taco seasoning, your kids probably won’t even flinch!
Jennifer S. says
I blitz 1 pound of mushrooms in the food processor and brown with 3 pounds hamburger. The mushrooms take on the taste of the beef and have a similar “meaty” texture.
That’s a great idea Jennifer! Thanks for sharing!
Hi! I just found your blog. I can tell I will be spending some time here:) Just wanted to add my two cents: I do add old-fashioned oats directly to raw ground beef while browning, but only a handful, maybe a 1/3 cup. I also add about a cup per pound of grated zucchini, carrot, sweet potato, or whatever veggie I have on hand. I buy 10+ pounds of zucchini and other veggies when they go on sale for super cheap to grate in my food processor (raw) just for this purpose. I then freeze the raw grated veggies into muffin cups. When solid I dump them into gallon size bags, so I just pull the little “cups” out still frozen. Because they are so small, they defrost quickly with the meat. I have also thrown in cooked rice (around a cup per pound) and dry lentils, about 1/3 cup per pound. The dry lentils can help to soak up some of the veggie liquid, but you might need to add some water. Oh and one more thing! Beef broth (the powdered or super concentrated soup base kind) really helps to make the dish taste just as beefy.
Those are great tips Kathleen! Thanks for sharing!
Suzanne C says
I like to roast my veggies a bit before I chop them up and add to the meat. Roasting brings out the sweetness and takes the ‘edge’ off stronger flavors. My girls don’t notice when I do this, but they immediately know I’ve snuck something in if I don’t roast first.
I’ve also found that if you add a touch of worcestershire sauce to the meat mixture, it adds a bit of beefiness that masks any traces of veggies.
Thanks for the tips Suzanne! I’ll have to try them!
Christiana Stafford says
The best thing I have found to stretch ground beef is quinoa! It doesn’t have much flavor on it’s own and some people don’t even notice it’s in there. I’ll have to try a combo next time though, I like the idea of hiding some veggies in there too.
I’ve never tried using quinoa. Do you cook it first and then add it?
Karin from Birmingham says
Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini!!! I stretch ground turkey by adding food-processed carrots and zucchini at a ratio of 1/2 cup food-processed combo of zucchini/carrots per 8 oz. of ground turkey…..then add chopped red onions, a little seasoned salt and bam!! 8 oz turkey = 4 good sized burgers, with veggies included for health. YIKES!!!! DO NOT ADD OATS when browning ground meat. This is disaster!!! ONLY use quick-cooking oats (not whole or steel-cut oats, UNLESS you food process them to a cornmeal consistency)….I only use oats incorporated into burgers, meatballs, meat loafs…..NEVER when browning meat for use in sauces, tacos, etc. Of course the oats will absorb fat. DUH. That’s what it does in our digestive tracts, too!! To stretch ground me, I would brown (seasoned to preference)….drain…..and stretch with carrots, mushrooms, ZUCCHINI, or other veggies. Oats + pre-browned ground meat = gumminess. Mixed with meatloaf/burger/meatball meat+=good!! Good Luck!!
Thanks Karin! I will definitely add some zucchini when we harvest it. We always have loads of zucchini in the garden. This would be a great way to use it!
I use oats in my meat. After cooking and draining the meat, add some water and some oats. It works great when making sloppy joes or taco meat.
Thanks for sharing Lori!
I realize I’m coming in a bit a late here, but re:oats – if you mix the hamburger WITH the oats in a bowl, with your hands, before you put it in the pan to brown, it won’t stick like that. (it also works with oats and black beans blended together in a food processor – they make great ‘hamburger patties’)
That totally makes sense! Thanks Alicia!
Betty M. Bird says
ooh boy this should be interesting 1 lb of carrots 1 cup of lentils 1 cup of soaked oats 2 lb of ground beef fills my 8 cup measuring cup and he loves meatloaf we shall see how this passes he always wants to eat nothing but meat I can’t get him to eat the veggies
Sneaky! I hope it turns out well!
This sounds like a really good idea and a great way to add in more veggies. Thanks for sharing. I am going to give it a try.
It works for us! 🙂
I use lentils to stretch our hamburger meat. They are quick to cook and I keep some in the freezer to throw in.
That sounds great! Thanks for sharing Heather!
Can you also do this with ground turkey? I have been getting ground turkey lately and would like to try this process but was wondering if anyone has tried it before with turkey.
I think it would work just fine with turkey! Let us know how it turns out!
When using oat you have to let them sit in water first. One cup of oats to one cup of water and then let them sit for an hour or so before you fry up the hamburger.
That makes more sense. Thanks Larissa!
This is such a great idea! I’ve also read on a different site that you can stretch ground beef by adding 1 cup of cooked rice to a pound of ground beef and cooking it together. I haven’t tried it myself, but perhaps it would be a good alternative to the the oatmeal idea. 🙂
Goodness I seriously though I was the only one who did the carrot trick. I obviously don’t get out much. I was somewhat ashamed of it when I first began doing this. I notice my husband didn’t complain about the flavor so I began adding any veggies I had on hand. He never did notice… or at least he never seemed to mind.
You made me smile Diana. I guess great minds think alike!
When I was a kid I invented the insualted cups that have water in the sides that you put in the freezer, then it makes your drink cold without using ice (that always melts and waters down your drink). I was so disappointed when I saw them in the store when I was a teenager.
Way to sneak the veggies in and fool your husband 🙂
Diana you are too funny! hehe I imagined you watching with a sheepish raised eyebrow as your hubby took the first couple bites. Lol I do stuff like that as well with my Robert, I am a big ham though who likes praise way to much so once I know he doesn’t reject something I will share the what I did differently so I could optimize our money. And he will usually smile in appreciation.
If I am upfront about a change I notice he will often nix the idea if it sounds some what odd. Lol us wives can learn to be so tricky lol but we do it for good reason 😉
That’s me too… I like to brag to my husband about my sneaky frugal tricks 🙂
This is such a great idea! Especially if you have some veggies that are on the verge of going bad and need to use them fast. Thanks for the idea!
Also, i don’t know how it would come out, but would you have to make the oats into oatmeal first and then add to the meat? I’m not a great cook, so I’m not sure if it would work that way.
Yes! It’s a great way to use veggies that are on their way out! 🙂
I’m not sure using cooked oatmeal would work. I think having the oats be dry allows them to soak up the flavor of the meat, but we’ve decided we prefer veggies anyway.
This is such a great idea!! Does it alter the taste of the meat much? We love taco’s around here, and I do have picky eaters, so I was just curious!
It does change the taste a little since carrots are kind of sweet. Of course you could use whatever veggies you want. If you are using taco seasoning you should be fine though! That would mask any of the veggie flavors.
Bulgar is awesome to stretch ground beef… I use it all the time.
Thanks Deann! I haven’t done anything with bulgar before, but that sounds like a great idea.
What is “bulgar”, where do I find it and are lentils good? I’ve never had them. I’m trying to be fragile with 9 mouths to feed but the 9 mouths came about suddenly and no food processor is available. Can a blender be used as a food processor?
What would you say your total yield is? 5 pounds meat plus 5 pounds veggies equals 10 pounds of cooked mixture? Or would you say it’s a bit less because of the water content in the veggies and the fat content in the meat?
The cooked mixture yields somewhere around 7-8 pounds I’d say. I usually still divide it into 9 to 10 portions to freeze and then use in place of 1 lb of ground beef in recipes.
Thanks! I tried it using 3 pounds of ground meat. To each pound, I added 1 cup each finely diced (almost pureed in the food processor) celery, carrot and onion. And then after it was browned, I mashed in 2 cups of lentils. My yield was just shy of 7 pounds.
Great Tonya! Thanks for sharing your measurements and yield. I’ll have to try mashed lentils sometime!
I think if you add oats in addition to the veggies, the oats would soak up some of the liquid as it is cooking & would stretch your beef even further…but then maybe it wouldn’t taste much like beef any more…might be worth a try…
I’ll have to try that Pam! 🙂
The only way I’ve used oats in with my ground beef is in meatloaf in place of crackers – but you could put it in meatballs too.
Yeah, I think oats would be better in meatloaf or meatballs. Then you wouldn’t get it all stuck to the pan. For browning ground beef I’ll stick to using veggies to stretch it and save the oats for meatloaf or meatballs. Thanks for sharing!
I also vouch for putting oats in meatloaf, but I just did it because it made it so tasty. If I find the recipe, I’ll send it your way. So, what kind of meals can you add precooked ground beef to? Spaghetti obviously, but what other dishes? I’m the kind of girl that can’t cook well without a recipe and I’m wondering if the added veggies throw off some recipes?
Hi Katie! A couple of my favorite ways to use precooked ground beef are:
-spaghetti sauce (for spaghetti, pizza, etc)
–creamy tacos casserole
-tacos (just add taco seasoning when you warm it up)
I’d love to get your meatloaf recipe when you get a chance (no rush, though). You can email it to sixfiguresunder at gmail…
I add beans to my ground beef to stretch it. I will have to add some veggies to that also!
We always have beans around. I’ll have to add some to my ground beef! Thanks Donna!
What kind of beans? Pinto? Navy? Dried or canned or does it make a difference? I’ve got both and was thinking the dried would be cheaper although a longer prep time to stretch the hamburger meat.
Don’t add raw dried beans, that won’t work. For ground beef recipes like tacos, taco salad, etc., we always add cooked pinto or kidney beans. We add them when the meat is about 1/2 cooked, so that the beans can get softer.
I only cook with dried beans. I cook big batches of pinto, white, black, kidney, and garbanzo beans, and then freeze the cooked beans in sandwich bags in 1- 1/2 C. portions. Its easy to throw in a bag of frozen cooked beans to all soup recipes, and I even put the frozen beans in with the meat when I’m stretching it. They just thaw and any liquid evaporates. Hope this helps.