Introduction: Budget Meals: Ground Beef

About: Building design/consulting in Vancouver, WA. Resource based problem solver... in other words, I always take a minute to look in construction dumpsters :) ---the way some have to workout everyday... i have to …

We get a lot of mileage out of ground beef!

Here's how we use the cooked meat throughout the week. Going from a stir-fry into a range of dishes.

  • Stir-fry Base (american/hawaiian style)
  • Pizza + Nachos
  • Eggs + Stuffed Peppers
  • Sandwich + Torta

Also shared are a few tips:

  • Separating Fat (see step 2)
  • Flavored Oils (see step 3)

On a budget? The ground beef we buy goes for between $2.49 - $3.49 per pound. After adjusting for fat content that's $3.10 - $4.36 per pound. We used a 3 pound pack for the meals shown here and were able to get 7 portions... (4 dinners, 1 lunch, 2 breakfast). It works out to be about $1/meal for protein. ---not bad but about twice the price of cooked ham (see budget meals: cooked ham)


The two most handy supplies are a wok and a butcher knife.

  • Wok - It makes it easy to cook large dishes over direct heat. Most things turn into a soup/sauce if we put them in a deep pan and a regular pan never has enough room. After the kitchenaid the scanpan wok is our most valued item in the kitchen.
  • Silicone Ladle - I think I picked up this sm ladle (shown on amazon) at walmart when we moved to MN. ---the same method was used to save chicken fat in the Stocking Schmaltz instructable

Step 1: Cooked Base

Every time we make a stovetop ground beef it looks a little different. Any veggies can be used to make this dish.

Here we used:

  • Onion & Carrots - added at the start
  • Sweet Potato - great to have potato in the dish and sweet potato cooks faster than regular
  • Kale & Broccoli - added at the end
  • Spices - salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, taco seasoning, cayenne pepper, seasoned oils

---note the broccoli stalks go in with the carrots

Step 2: Cook the Ground Beef

Brown Meat. It doesn't matter whether you buy the 73%, 80%... you're going to have beef fat to separate (at 90% you're ok but you pay a premium).

Separate. Using the wok makes it simple to separate. Push the meat to one side and use to the ladle to skim away the fat. Here you can see the fat in a small mason jar.

---same method used in skimming chicken fat to make schmaltz

Reuse. Some of the fat can be used to cook the veggies but the beef fat, or tallow, is thicker than chicken or pork fat. In our opinion food tastes greasy when cooked in just beef fat.

  • Tallow Moisturizer - here's how I put the tallow to use to make a moisturizer just a few weeks ago

Step 3: Cook the Veggies

With the meat in a separate container it's time to cook the veggies.

Stir-fry, or pan-fry, as you typically would. I added some beef fat to the sweet potatoes but later reached for flavored oils to season.

  • Szechuan Oil - we keep a small container with peanut oil, szechuan peppercorns, red pepper flakes and coriander. It takes about 3 weeks to build up flavor as it marinates.
  • Seasoned Olive Oil - In a squeeze bottle we keep a mixture that we change each time it runs out. At the moment it's olive oil (3 part), rice vinegar (2 part), soy sauce (1 part). ---goes well with asian or american/european dishes

Step 4: Stir-fry. Saute. Pan Fry.

On the first day we didn't want to put in any extra effort and simply ate the stir-fry with rice.

Easy to bring leftovers back to life with a few simple variations:

  • Add Cheese + Noodles - makes a kind-of 'hamburger helper'
  • Add Pasta Salad - makes it 'hawaiian style' ---mayo compliments spicy food well surprisingly
  • Add Greens - really any greens work. We typically reach for Kale, Mustard or Collards. Sturdier the better but lettuce and cabbage will also add moisture to re-steam and add freshness.
  • Add Eggs - getting to the end of the week? Add eggs to stretch any leftover stir-fry. ---works nicely with takeaway as well as home cooking. Serve anytime!

Step 5: Pizza + Nachos + Pasta

These two variations are pretty similar. The base can be added over either dough or nacho chips. In each case cheese, sliced onions and peppers go a long way.

Pasta Variation - really the simplest thing to do is to add a jar of tomato sauce and serve over pasta. Takes only a few minutes to reheat!

Step 6: Stuffed Peppers + Eggs

Two more variations. Once the base is made it doesn't take much time to stuff peppers, top with cheese and bake. It's also an easy breakfast when warmed up alongside a couple of eggs.

Step 7: Sandwich. Torta. Taco.

Depends where you are from what you call this one...

Add the ground beef to bread to make a sandwich. Just as easy to make an open face sandwich or add to a taco. Take it in different directions whether you add barbecue sauce or a dollop of sour cream.

Thank you!

Hope this instructable provides a few ideas for meal planning. We tend to see meals built around a protein and find it easier to cook one big meal at the start of the week. It gets tiring eating the same thing everyday... simple additions don't require much time but add variety.

Here's a look at How We Use Cooked Ham.

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