Stretching the Protein in your Dinner – Beef and Bean Tacos

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on March 17, 2010

Stretching those proteins!  It’s KEY!

Proteins can be very expensive. So stretching them can help bring down the overall cost of your meal…and ultimately your grocery bill! (If you haven’t checked out my How to Spot a Great Price on Meats, now would be a great time to do that!)

What I love about the beef and the bean combination…is that you get double the protein and some fiber too!

Tonight’s dinner was just for the boys, as I’m off to hang out with some other bloggers and the folks at Kroger tonight.  I left the guys  with these tacos!

Taco Meat (freezer) + Pinto Beans (freezer) + $1 Taco Shells + some cheese, tomato and lettuce + frozen corn = Simple and Easy Dinner!!!

What are some creative ways that you stretch the proteins in your meals???

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

janet March 17, 2010 at 5:45 pm

When using any ground meat, I mix it with either oatmeal, breadcrumbs or mashed beans and then portion it into “slider” sized patties. I freeze them on a ciookie sheet and then pop them into a freezer bag. One 1 lb of ground meat can be easily stretched to make 12 or more sliders- 1 per person with a big salad on the side – yummo!

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Rona March 17, 2010 at 6:02 pm

This is terrific news for those of us on a very strict budget. Thanks for sharing the info.
I’ll provide a link on my blog.

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Kim Pollock March 17, 2010 at 8:47 pm

This is what we had for dinner tonight. We had the refried beans, but they still have protein. Now, I have to learn to start freezing the meat and beans ahead, and it will be much easier. Love your cookbook!

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Andrea March 17, 2010 at 9:57 pm

You can mix sprouted wheat with ground beef to make it go farther. Tacos is one of my favorite applications. Some people get nervous about the wheat but it really is very similar to rice and way more filling. Work it into your diet slowly if you aren’t used to eating though!

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Stefanie March 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm

So funny – this is almost exactly what we had for dinner! I browned up some ground turkey with onions, taco seasoning and tomato sauce. Combine with some rice and it makes a wonderful burrito filling! YUM!

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Amanda Ybarra March 17, 2010 at 11:55 pm

I add Quinoa to just about everything, meatloaf, tacos. meatballs, it has tons of protein and you don’t have to add junk like bread crumbs just to “fill” it! The best price I have found for Quinoa is at costco.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 18, 2010 at 7:37 am

@Amanda Ybarra,

Excellent idea! So good for you too!

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The Working Home Keeper March 18, 2010 at 7:44 am

@Amanda Ybarra,

Thanks for the tip! I have a box of organic quinoa from Trader Joe’s I haven’t used yet.

Regarding tacos and stretching meat, we use lentils and brown rice as our filling. I’m not sure my kids even realize tacos are supposed to have meat in them!

Mary Ellen

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Jenny@ Thrifty Jenny March 18, 2010 at 2:36 pm

@Amanda Ybarra,
I just made a meatball recipe last night for the first time that used quinoa as a filler. I thought it turned out great, and you couldn’t even tell that it was in there!
http://thriftyjenny.blogspot.com/2010/03/chicken-quinoa-meatballs.html

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Gretchen January 5, 2014 at 1:15 pm

Stupid question– do you cook the Quinoa first or do you just add it to your meet uncooked? Thanks, g. :-)

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Kelly Lininger March 17, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Looks yummy! I have started looking for the 3 day sales at Albertson’s – the paper usually comes out on Tuesday – buy one get one free – pot roast, chicken, and coupons are great… And you can use coupons on their 3 day specials – got a box of bandaids for .25. Two large pot roasts for $8.00 – I am loving this site and the deals I am finding..

You rock!

Love to you
Kelly

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Pamela Stuck March 18, 2010 at 4:43 am

Whenever I buy ground beef (or turkey), I cook some of it up to freeze for tacos and such. When I do this, I also cook some brown rice in the steamer (about 2-3 cups per 1 lb. ground meat). When everything is cooked, I add one 15 oz. can of tomato sauce per lb. of meat, 2-3 T. of my homemade Mexican seasoning mix and the rice. Stir it up together to make some fabulous taco meat mixture. We use it for tacos, burritos or whatever we feel like. I freeze it in quart bags, and when I want to use it, I just reheat it on the stove. Half the time I don’t even remember to defrost it.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 18, 2010 at 7:37 am

@Pamela Stuck,

Great idea!

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Amber March 18, 2010 at 7:43 am

This sounds delish! I usually add brown rice to my meat when make tacos or burritos. Everyone loves it and it takes less meat. :)

~Amber

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Amy March 18, 2010 at 7:43 am

TVP – by Bob’s Red Mill – I add it to every dish that uses ground meat. (In my chili/spaghetti sauce I replace the meat completely)

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jo March 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

@Amy, exactly what I was going to add..We all love TVP..it’s dry, shelf ready, great for back packing and camping..a great protein, cheap, and has little flavor so picks up on whatever flavors are already in the dish…you can use 100% instead of meat in really spicy things like burritos, chilis, etc..and I use partial to stretch an expensive protein..or extend whatever I’m doing if we have a surprise addition to our dinner guests…just soften up in hot water/broth/juice for a few minutes and add to whatever you’re cooking…

I will often do a mixture of brown rice, TVP and lentils for taco filling, spaghetti sauce additives and such…and my family had NO idea until I questioned whether they liked it or not….

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Megan March 18, 2010 at 8:40 am

TVP(textured vegetable protien) is a great product. Sometimes it can be hard to find though, but I just found it in the bulk section at Winco! If your adding it to a ground beef dish, rehydrate it with a little beef broth and you’ll never know the difference. It also freezes and reheats well. I add it to meatloaf, hamburgers, tacos and spaghetti. I also sneek in any vegetables that I can anywhere I can.

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LisaB March 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

For tacos and burritos I stretch 1lb ground beef with rice & beans! My boys love it and think I do it because they love it, when actually it started out of neccessity! lol

I also had white rice to stretch 1lb of ground beef in my meatloaf, stuffed green peppers and cabbage rolls.

Chicken is stretched by cubing for salads, chicken & noodles, chicken fried rice with all sorts of veggies and chicken pot pies.

Steaks- sliced very thin and grilled for Blackened Steak Super Spinach Salads. Boiled eggs are also added for extra protein.

Tuna is stretched in tuna salads with hard boiled eggs and cheesy noodle casseroles.

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Becca March 18, 2010 at 8:58 am

I love adding lentils to meat (or just using lentils instead of meat). They are high in protien, folic acid and they taste yummy. It helps that its the only legume my husband will eat. All other beans he picks at. But if I cook lentils in broth so they are flavored like meat he never complains…well much. The guy just really loves his meat.

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 18, 2010 at 10:20 am

@Becca,

Great idea! Lentils are much easier to hide than beans!

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Catherine March 18, 2010 at 10:45 am

We’ve tried this with pinto beans, but I like it even better with black beans. Tacos aren’t tacos in our house unless they have black beans in them!

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Alta March 18, 2010 at 11:00 am

I do anything I can to stretch the proteins, especially when feeding hungry teenagers! Beans are an easy one – and I really try for cheap proteins when they’re around too!

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Jaime Davis March 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I stretch Chicken by cutting it into small pieces and adding vegetables and sauce for a stiry fry. It’s amazing how far it can go that way.

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Jaime Davis March 18, 2010 at 12:13 pm

I have a question about freezing ground meat in no sauce. How is the texture when it thaws? Does it taste the same? (I am guessing yes but just want to make sure :) )

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Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom March 18, 2010 at 2:40 pm

@Jaime Davis,

It’s fine by us! It doesn’t lose texture or taste, IMO.

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Jen March 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I add a can of black beans, a can of corn and a jar of salsa to ground meat when I make tacos.

It makes a ton of food and we have enough leftovers for at least another meal (if not 2) for all of us.

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Jenna March 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

I’ve added grated vegetables to ground meat to stretch it too. We had tacos with ground pork and grated zucchini a couple of weeks ago. The zucchini was on a great sale – 3$ and I made 6 bags of frozen grated zucchini for muffins, soup and meals like this.

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Michael March 20, 2010 at 2:12 pm

We put black beans and refried beans in our taco meat

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Denee March 21, 2010 at 8:55 am

I have always used a little leftover baked potato along with the meat to make tacos. My ratio is usually 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 potato. I’ll have to try the bean and brown rice idea, too.

One nice thing about the potato filler is that is makes all the meat stick together and not fall out of your taco. I use taco seasoning, and the potato takes to the seasoning nicely, so you really don’t taste potato.

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Mike March 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Whenever we make tacos we add a can of refried beans to the meat. Plus, we fry up some onions and garlic with it.

And we buy the big packages of ground beef from Costco, fry it up and put it all into separate 1lb containers and freeze it.
That way, we always have ground beef on hand ready to go.

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Gail April 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I love to stretch my meats for health and expense reasons. I do have a question for the readers though. Has anyone tried to stretch ground beef with both lentils and veggies? I would like to know the measurments that were used, if so. Thanks!

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Danielle June 4, 2013 at 2:00 am

Hi,
I cannot seam to find your recipe for “Skillet Tacos” which is the recipe without the beans. It is you slightly different in that you add tomato sauce and I think a little water. I think it is a little different or maybe an older recipe for the “Freezer taco meat recipe”. Maybe I am wrong and it is the same.
I thought the heading for the recipe was “Skillet Tacos”
Thanks so much!!!
I can’t seem to find my printed sheet.
Danielle

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Julie September 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I have a question that is probably a “duh question” to many of you but I read that many use oatmeal or quinoa in their meat to stretch it. I LOVE the idea. Do you cook it prior then mix it with the meat and seasonings? Are they quick oats or regular oats? Does the quinoa absorb more flavor so I should add more seasonings?

Thanks so much. I’m trying to get better at cooking.

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Julie September 13, 2013 at 1:51 pm

I have a question that is probably a “duh question” to many of you but I read that many use oatmeal or quinoa in their meat to stretch it. I LOVE the idea. Do you cook either prior then mix it with the meat and seasonings? Are they quick oats or regular oats? Does the quinoa absorb more flavor so I should add more seasonings?

Thanks so much. I’m trying to get better at cooking.

Reply

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