A close up of food on a plate, with Meatloaf

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

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest official data says in Sept. 2021, the average price of a pound of lean ground beef climbed to a whopping $6.15 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 quality hamburger—you do have another option: Get creative. Okay, maybe a little sneaky, too.


A close up of a plate of food, with Ground beef

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 I, prefer organic, lean ground beef. Yesterday I paid $5.00 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 $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% 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 farther, 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, 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  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.

Bulgar wheat

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 know to go 50/50 cooked bulgar to ground beef. That means 1/2 pound ground beef where the recipe calls for 1 pound.

Pureed vegetables

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


Add one-half cup of pre-cooked 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

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.


Here’s my family’s all-time favorite recipe for meatloaf. 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 which 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 more like 3 pounds.


A close up of food on a plate, with Meatloaf.

A close up of food on a plate, with Meatloaf

Best Meatloaf Ever

Here’s my family's all-time favorite recipe for meatloaf. 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 which you knew you could eat every day of your life and never get tired of it.
4.45 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 494kcal
Cost: About $8 yesterday. Who knows today?



  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk, whole or 2%
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 slices dry bread, crumbled finely
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot, extra fine, or chopped in blender for picky eaters
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Whisk eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Add crumbled bread and stir until dissolved.
  • Mix ground beef, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, and carrot into bread mixture.
  • Transfer to a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Press firmly into pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard. Spread over meat mixture.
  • Bake until no longer pink in the center, for an hour. Check at one hour with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center. It should read 160 F. Do not over bake. Servings: 6


Calories: 494kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 158mg | Sodium: 1192mg | Potassium: 500mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 2145IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 243mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

First published: 2-17-20; Revised & Updated 6-02-21




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  1. SusieQ says:

    You can add your rice, bread or whatever you like to stretch your meat, but to make this a spectacular meatloaf, take one jar of Heinz chili sauce and put 1/2 jar to one pound of meat loaf and pour the other 1/2 on top then bake. You’ll never want to go without it. A friend gave me that tip years ago and everyone I’ve given it to adds it for every loaf and on other ground meat recipes.

  2. cheryl says:

    i make my meatloaf by using 1/3 ground pork, 1/3 mild or sweet Italian sausage, and 1/3 of 80/20 of ground chuck, and then i take the rest of the pound and divide it accordingly so i have 2 more batches of meat to do meatloaf with put them in freezer for another day. Then to actually make it, i use about 2T milk, 2T. Worcestershire sauce, 1/4c. of favorite BBQ sauce, 1 sm. can tomato paste, 1/2c. onions, 1/4c. green peppers, and 26 saltines, crumbled into small pieces, mix together gently…and grandma always patted it into an old pie/cobbler plate..i use a loaf pan.
    Bake at 375 for about 50 to 55 minutes….can put bbq on top, or just plain ketchup. I had a friend who made meatloaf using whatever bits of cereal she had left. I was never brave enough to try it…Frootloops /Fruity Pebbles, does not strike me as good meatloaf material. ;0)

  3. crabbyoldlady says:

    This is a good time to use ground turkey as half the meat. I also use breadcrumbs AND oatmeal to stretch the meat a bit. Quinoa sounds like a great idea! I mix in about half a packet of dry beef and onion soup mix and about a tsp or worcestershire sauce. My grandkids like it better than their mother’s version.

  4. Chris Pederson says:

    I never thought about stretching out the beef so you get more bang for your buck. I’ll see if I can find some good sides to put with it. It would make getting that prime ground beef more worth it.

  5. PJ says:

    4 stars
    I like to get the 90/10 or 93/7 when I can get it on sale as well. Recently Fresh Thyme had their 93/7 ground beef on sale for 3.99/lb. I stocked up! I will add some 80/20 ground beef if I’m making burgers, but for meatloaf (my husband loves my meatloaf) I add a can of condensed French onion soup (undiluted) a heaping 1/2 cup or so of Italian style bread crumbs (if you don’t have Italian style, add 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley flakes, if you want to, plain bread crumbs are good too), and at least one raw egg, a second can be added if the mixture is too dense to about 1 lb of ground beef. I put this in my loaf pan and cook for about an hour at 325 degrees covered with foil, then I uncover the meatloaf, turn the oven down about 50 degrees, and glaze it with a mixture of ketchup and grape jelly (about 1/2 cup ketchup to 1/4 cup grape jelly – stir well, heat in the microwave about 30 seconds to ‘melt’ the jelly). Put back in the oven uncovered then for the last 20 – 30 minutes, until the glaze is set and the kitchen smells of barbeque! Makes great sandwiches the next day.

  6. Kate Miller says:

    4 stars
    There’s another sneaky way to help stretch your ground beef, turkey or pork and nobody will know, unless they look in your freezer. When browning your meat, go ahead and brown then entire pound. Then, set aside a few tablespoons of the meat. While that’s cooling, put together the rest of your recipe. Now, take that set aside bit of meat and put it in a bag in your freezer. Nobody will miss that little bit of meat and depending on how often you have ground beef, in a little while, you’ll have a whole pound, already cooked and ready for casseroles, for free.

  7. Rachael says:

    My moms meatloaf was similar to your recipe, except for the grated carrot. She always made a ditch down the middle of the loaf and put in green peas and cheese, then covered it over with the meatloaf mix. Each slice was almost half veggies.

  8. Pam H. says:

    5 stars
    Hi Mary: Seeing the post on meatloaf, I have to tell you about an ingredient I put into my meatloaf, and my family LOVES it. I add about 1/3 cup of A-1 steak sauce. It gives a sort of Italian flavor. Try it.

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