How to stretch your expensive organic meat, plus a black bean burger recipe!

The following is a new weekly feature brought to us by my friend Charlotte Lee.  She has been a wealth of information both here on The Frugal Find and personally when it comes to eating healthful organic foods on a budget.  I’ve asked her to share tips and how-to’s that show us ways to replace the quick and processed foods we’d typically buy at the grocery store with organic and all natural options.  Our goal is show you that you CAN EAT WELL for LESS!  Take it away Charlotte…

Thanks for having me back at TFF! I hope that last week’s post  (Ways to get a Bounty of Organic Foods on a Budget) helped you find some new resources in your area for cheaper organic produce and goods. Something I’d like to share today is sourcing meat and poultry. This is, in most cases the most expensive part of any meal. You can go to Eat Wild and Local Harvest to find local sources for grass-fed, pasture raised meats, poultry and eggs. Local means that you are getting fresh, and more than likely cheaper meats than you would at your local health food store. Yes, organic, grass-fed, pasture raised WILL be more expensive than conventional but the benefits, to me, are worth it: higher in omega 3’s, lower in fat, higher in vitamins and nutrients they derive from eating grass, higher CLA & ALA, no transmitted pesticides, herbicides or GMO’s from feedlot corn, no antibiotics or hormones and all around, better tasting. If you’re going to spend more money on organic, this is the place to spend it!

Buying from a rancher and getting a whole cow will be your best deal on organic, grass-fed beef. You can split with friends and family or often, the ranchers will sell ½ or ¼ portions. Organic, grass-fed ground beef at Whole Foods goes on sale here for $6.99/lb. From the rancher, I got all different cuts and steaks and ground beef for an average of $5/lb. Not including the FREE soup bones, offal and oxtail! Once you’ve found your source you’ll still want to make it last and make it worthwhile. So now what? How do you take that meat and make it go as far as possible?

Meat is a condiment, not the main course. I actually didn’t know that TFF posted this until I was searching through the previous posts but this needs to be restated! For starters, consider portion sizes. If a pound of beef costs $5.00 (this is what buying a ¼ of a cow averaged out to) and veggies cost roughly $0.99-$2.00 per pound, then it’s all in the numbers; eat more veggies! I like to keep meat portions at around ¼ lb. per meal. To make that ¼ lb. be as filling as possible, I get creative with the meats! For burgers I stretch the meat by adding beans and sautéed onions before grilling! This nearly doubles the single pound of ground beef and instead of 4 ¼ lb. burgers we get 7-8 burgers. The added benefit is the fiber and protein of the beans with much fewer calories. For taco meat I add finely diced carrots and onions, which also stretches the taco meat. Topping them with loads of veggies and beans gives you a very filling meal and again, the added benefit is sneaking in extra veggies into the meals!

Don’t pay the butcher for the cutting, just the meat! If two organic, free-range chicken breasts cost $6.99/lb. but the whole chicken costs $2.29/lb. then get the whole chicken and take it apart yourself. For the cost of two breasts you’ll get two breasts, two legs, two thighs, two wings, two tenders AND all the bones to make bone broth for soup! I get them at Trader Joe’s unless Whole Foods has their One Day Sale under $2. In that case I stock up at WF. I can typically make one $12 chicken turn into 3 meals for 4 including left over lunch for my husband and I. The key here is making that chicken stock each week! And it’s so easy when you roast a whole chicken to get practically free stock.

Balance the scales on cost. I make meals like I make outfits! I typically have areas that I splurge on in my closet. When birthdays come around, Christmas and Mother’s Day, I have a few things that are bigger ticket items to use that money for. I like investing in quality shoes and jeans (which by the way, just like groceries, I never pay retail 😉 ). Shoes will last forever when they’re made well and a great fitting pair of jeans is the anchor for many, many outfits. So what’s my point? You’ve decided to invest into this higher ticket area of meats, poultry and eggs but that doesn’t mean that everything has to be expensive! Pairing the more expensive items with cheaper ones helps balance the cost of the meal! For example: chuck roast with potatoes and carrots and onions, roasted Chicken with beans and rice, steak with quinoa and chickpea salad….and it goes on! Just because you’re having fish doesn’t mean that it also requires exotic sides or sauces. Simple is often tastier and less stressful. If you want to splurge on a meal then plan a “beans and rice” dinner later in the week; or two. Rethink recipes that might use out of season (read more expensive) or exotic ingredients so they can be cheaper and more accessible. In season will always be cheaper.

Here’s how I do the burgers and would love to hear from you if you have tried something like this, or would consider it!

Black Beans and Beef Burgers
use organic ingredients whenever possible

  1. 1 lb. ground beef
  2. 1 small yellow onion diced
  3. 1 cup of cooked black beans lightly mashed
  4. 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  5. 1 tbs. organic virgin coconut oil
  6. ½ tsp. celtic sea salt
  7. ¼ tsp. pepper
  8. ½ tsp. cumin
  9. ½ tsp. paprika

Directions: Over medium high heat, sautee the onions and garlic for about 4-5 minutes, then add the beans and cook until onions are starting to brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, lightly mix the ground beef with the spices. Using your hands, work the onions and beans into the beef but don’t over mix! Make 7-8 patties and cook as usual. Be sure to oil the surface you will cook on. The beans can stick.

*Variations include pinto beans instead of black, using whatever spices you so desire instead of mine, or using quinoa and an egg instead of beans (think meatloaf burgers). The point here is to think about the inside of the burger patties, not just on top!

For more budget recipes and tips, stop by Suburban Homesteader!



  1. Claire Wake Westbrook via Facebook says

    This is a great post! Definitely going to try the burgers. I do have a general question any tips to chopping up a whole chicken and a recipe for broth. As an ex-vegetarian (for 16 years) I’m still really squeamish with anything with a bone especially raw, I totally see the savings in a whole chicken though I’m just scared to touch them!! LOL!

  2. Ali Rowan says

    Charlotte I checked out your blog and found you on pinterest I am loving your gluten free inspirations Ill look forward to your future pins :) oh and Im so excited to sneak this recipe by my husband – well see if it passes lol


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