DIVAS ON A DIME: A cheat sheet for stretching meat

By Patti Diamond

Serve dishes centered around familiar non-meat protein, like bean and cheese enchiladas. (www.JasonCoblentz.com)

As the cost of food continues to rise, most families are looking for ways to save money on groceries. One way is to reduce the amount of meat you purchase. Here are some tips to serve less meat (chances are your family won’t even notice).

When you make your family’s favorite meaty meals, use less meat than the recipe calls for and bulk up recipes with veggies. You can add beans to chili, zucchini to lasagna, and celery, onion and carrot to meatloaf.

Serve dishes centered around familiar non-meat protein, like bean and cheese enchiladas (recipe below), vegetable lasagna, macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Breakfast for dinner is always a hit.

When you reduce the meat in casseroles, soups, sauces and pasta, ensure the meat you use is flavorful. Items like ham, bacon and sausage are great examples of a little bit going a long way. Remember, there are sausages made from turkey, chicken and vegetables.

Plan meals around their favorite vegetables. Does your family like corn? Make corn chowder. Like broccoli? Serve broccoli and cheese casserole. Like potatoes? Serve loaded baked potatoes with cheese and veggies.

Save dough with dough. Everyone loves pizza with lots of cheese and veggies. Fill calzones with tomato, spinach and mozzarella. Make pot pies or hand pies with vegetable-based fillings.

Embrace the bean. Explore recipes that use garbanzos, black beans or lentils as the protein source. Beans don’t have to look like beans when you make falafel or bean burgers.

If meatless dinners don’t work for you, go meatless for other meals, like oatmeal for breakfast or vegetable-based soups, salads, peanut butter or cheese sandwiches for lunch.

Here’s an easy recipe for a family favorite.


Yield: 4 servings Time: 25 minutes

1 (20 ounce) can enchilada sauce, or recipe below

8 (soft taco size) flour tortillas

1 (16 ounce) can refried beans

4 cups Mexican blend or cheddar cheese, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Spread 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Place 1/4 cup each of beans and cheese in a tortilla and roll it up like a burrito. Place in the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place them side by side and squish them together.
  4. Spoon remaining sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until it’s all bubbly and melted.


Serving suggestion: lettuce, tomato, sour cream and green onion.



This quick and easy recipe makes 3 cups of sauce for less than a dollar.

Yield: 3 cups Time: 15 minutes

What You’ll Need:

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


Here’s How:

Have everything measured before you start, as this goes fast and you don’t want to burn your flour and oil once you start.

In a 2-quart saucepan on medium, heat oil. Whisking constantly and vigorously, add flour and cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and whisk quickly to incorporate. Add water slowly and whisk. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

I’ll end with my No. 1 tip — don’t talk about it. Just make the changes and chances are they’ll just happily eat what’s on their plate.


Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the penny-pinching, party-planning, recipe developer and content creator of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com


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