Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ground beef: tips and experiments

Since working towards slashing our grocery budget further, I am experimenting with ways to get the most bang for our buck without forgoing our favorite recipes. Last night we had a favorite of ours, Taco Salad and were able to put ground beef liberally on top. This is only because 1) the ground beef industry is no longer plotting against me and has been on SALE!!! many times in the last few weeks and 2) I've learned some tricks that work for stretching it further without compromising the nutritional content (rather adding to it!)

Here are some tips I've picked up from various blogs for making ground beef go further!

1) Add onions while cooking. Lots of them. This won't work if your family is onionophobic of course

2) Buy a higher fat content (if its lots cheaper!) so you can do as I do and cook large quantities in a large pot and strain the fat by rinsing afterward. Don't use this tip if you've already added lots of spices and other tasty goodies, or you'll end up losing that flavor

3) Add oats. When I first came across this tip I thought it would be really weird. The first time I tried it I asked my husband if he noticed anything different and he said "are there more onions?" and also mentioned that it tasted quite good. I made him guess what was in his ground beef...which is probably a bad idea if you have a squeamish husband! Don't do this on dinner guests either...they might not come back:) Seriously though, you can barely tell there is anything added to the meat, the oats take on the color of the meat and blend in with it well. That said, I don't add a ton...just a cup or two for 3-4 lbs of ground beef.

3) Add beans. This is great if you eat a lot of mexi-american dishes like we do.

What do we then do with all of this ground beef? I tend to freeze most of it in 3/4 lb portions for soups, pasta sauces, or casseroles. Last night it was a yummy addition to our taco salad.

Surely there are more ideas for stretching ground beef our there. What are yours?

Visit Tammy's Recipes for other Kitchen Tips!


Jessi said...

I like your post. I agree with adding oats. Though, I have used oats as an alternative to bread or crackers in meatloaf, I never considered just using them to add to the meat.

I have a hard time with the notion of buying a higher fat content beef though. First of all, it's higher in fat content. Secondly, it cooks down a lot more leaving you with less meat. More fat, less meat. Not really a bargain in my book.

Just my two cents though.

Mom2fur said...

I might try that oat idea, but I'll keep quiet about it, LOL!
As far as buying meat with a higher fat content, well, it really depends on the difference in cost and what you're doing with the meat. I always get 85% lean for burgers, or they'd be dried out. I go for over 90% for any stovetop cooking.
However! Recently 81% lean was on sale for half of what 90-whatever was. I'm not sure what the difference is after cooking between the two, as far as weight. But I know darned well it wasn't 50%, so the 81%, even with all the fat that drained away, was still a great bargain.
I wish someone would figure out that math, LOL!

Cajunchic said...

We also use the oats in meat loaf by i had never heard of using it elsewhere. I will have to try that. You an also buy the chubs of Jenni-O ground turkey which turns out cheaper from my math.

A little secret. If you have a local slaughter house, you can buy a half of a cow and then have them ground or cut it how you want. You pay about $100-$150 but you come out cheaper as you have so much meat.

Candace said...

Hmmm...adding oats. I'll try that.

Meggan said...

Hillbilly Housewife had figured out how much cheaper it was to use cheaper, fattier beef and rinse it. She has a page on her website about it. From her, it seems like it is cheaper to buy fattier beef.

AllyJo said...

You are always so full of great ideas. I agree with adding beans, but I'm from Texas and we eat lots of beans. LOL I'll have to remember this next time. I had a friend in college who was super poor (to be expected) and she added a can of beans instead of the ground beef to a box of Hamburger Helper. I've always wanted to try that.

Heart of Wisdom said...

I love the idea of adding oats. Fiber....Its a good thing.
Thanks for the tips.


Anonymous said...

The next taco night in our house I'm going to try adding oats. I have one question: do you use instant or are the old fashioned kind OK too?

Marie said...

I plan on writing about this soon myself, but I found that in many meals that usually use ground beef, you can substitute ground pork sausage. It's a lot cheaper, and more flavorful so you can actually use less.

Bren said...

I tend to use ground turkey instead - not much price difference though they rarely use ground turkey as a loss leader (pretty much always $2 a lb). But I always added red lentils to "beef" it up.

Last night I used red lentils AND added oats, and not only could I not tell a difference, but the thought of the healthful combination of oats, legumes, and a lean meat going into my kids was comforting. Thanks!

By the way, red lentils, if you can find them, are a good filler to add. When cool, they 'congeal' a little, like fat does, though there is of course no fat. But it gives the meat, particularly turkey, which has very little fat to begin with, a better feel. They fall apart into nothing, unlike green or brown lentils, or other beans, so there is nothing for little suspicious ones to detect in the meat.

You have so many useful ideas, thanks.