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.
4.67 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. Lynne says:

    Great ideas about stretching ground beef. But you forgot an “old” filler: TVP. Like rice and the others it takes on the flavor of what it’s cooked with. I used this a lot while raising my son. He could never tell.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m not sure TVP is cost effective unless purchased in large quantities. At $.30 to $.50 an ounce, that’s more than ground beef even at today’s inflated prices!

  2. Arlene Rogers says:

    I add ground mushrooms to the mix – again, about a third of the volume of the beef. Then I will add an egg, chopped onions, and some tomato paste. Tasty. The mushrooms make the meatloaf very light, not a heavy brick

  3. Sandy says:

    Thanks for these great suggestions, Mary! I’m trying to cut back on my carbs, so rather than using oats (my old “go to”) along with an egg to bind the meat together, I now put my egg into a small bowl and add about a Tbsp of chia seeds. Mix well, and let them sit in the bowl while I mix up the rest of the ingredients for the meatloaf. I add the egg/chia seed mixture at the end and mix it all together. The meatloaf comes out firm and the family enjoys the benefits of extra protein and healthy fat.

  4. Lesley M Nyborg says:

    I was going to visit Costco this morning but I decided not to. Why? I usually feed my husband and my self except for Sundays when my DIL and I switch off. I have a full freezer in the garage, the bottom of my kitchen refrigerator full of food! I don’t need to be spending money on food and maybe by the time THIS crises is over the freezer will be easily defrosted. Win.win!

  5. nina says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention oatmeal and bread crumbs as stretchers. We were poor and so my mom used what she had, sometimes crushed soda crackers if nothing else. Her meatloaf was always good. Now, I eat plant-based and it can be made with veggie ground that is really quite like hamburger meat and brings back memories of my childhood. Don’t miss the real meat at all, just some of the comfort dishes, especially now. But I have learned how to re-invent them as plant-based meals.

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