Monday, November 14, 2011

The $2 Dinner Plate - Substituting Lentils for Ground Beef

This week for our $2 dinner plate I want to share with you one of my most favorite frugal meal tips!

When we committed to eating only grass-fed and pastured meats purchased from our local farmer, we knew financially we would have to sacrifice somewhere in the budget and we knew that we would not be eating meat every night of the week.

I quickly taught myself how to soak and cook dried beans. I also researched and gathered tasty recipes using frugal, in-season ingredients.

One evening, a few years ago, out of pure necessity (because I forgot to thaw the ground beef) I substituted lentils in a Shepard's Pie recipe. The results were amazing and this sparked my interest in substituting lentils in other recipes. After I understood the nutritional benefits of lentils, I wanted to use them even more.

Nutritional Benefits of Lentils

1. Lentils are an excellent source of lean protein. Although they are not a complete protein as they are lacking one essential protein, methionine. However, lentils can become a complete protein when combined with another food such as a grain, eggs and/or dairy products. (Note: Sprouting lentils dramatically increases the nutritional benefits of this legume. Click here to read more about sprouting.)

2. Lentils are a good source of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to cleanse the digestive system, and can quite possibly decrease the need for insulin in diabetes patients.

3. Lentils help reduce cholesterol. In most trials, high-soluble-fiber foods such as lentils have proven to lower cholesterol levels.

The Substitution Guidelines and A Recipe

My standard is to substitute 1 cup of dried, un-cooked lentils per 1 pound of ground beef. This was the substitution ratio I used in this week's $2 dinner plate.

Busy Day Casserole
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 2-2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 4 green (or ripe red) tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • various fresh herbs from the garden to taste (optional)
Directions: Cook lentils in chicken broth until tender. Then saute cooked lentils, onion, green pepper, and garlic for 10 minutes. Add salt and tomato sauce and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened. Spread 1/2 of tomato slices on bottom of greased casserole dish, top with 1/2 cheese (if using), the add 1/2 lentil mixture. Repeat layers. Bake for 30 minutes in 350 degree oven.

Served over millet and topped with fresh herbs.

Budget Breakdown

-lentils = $0.80
-chicken broth = free: on hand
-onion = $0.16
-green peppers = free: from the garden
-garlic = $0.04
-tomato sauce = free: canned from this year's garden
-fresh tomatoes = free: from the garden
-fresh herbs (parsley, chives) = free: from the garden
-cheese (I only used 1/4 cup to meet budget) = $0.50
-millet = $0.50

Total: $2.00


-Buy organic grains and beans in bulk to save on per pound costs.

-Consider substituting lentils for ground beef in any recipe; from spaghetti, to Shepard's pie, to lentil burgers have fun experimenting with this economical food.

Have you ever used lentils instead of ground beef in recipes? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

See this post and a host of others like it here: Tip Me Tuesdays, Frugal Tip Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, It's A Keeper, Pennywise Platter, Food Renegade, Frugal Friday, Inspiration Friday, SNS 108, Weekend Bloggy Reading



At November 15, 2011 at 3:22 AM , Blogger Heather said...

Yum! This looks great! I have been reading a lot about lentils lately. It isn't something I use that often - meaning I have only cooked with them 3 times :-) I will have to look into more lentil recipes. We are pretty much meat free over here, but using it as a sub for ground beef sounds like a great idea!

At November 15, 2011 at 6:30 AM , Blogger Marsha said...

I use them as burrito and taco filling. I even used them in sloppy joes. The first time I did the sloppy joe substitution, I didn't say anything to my family, and they didn't even realize it!

At November 15, 2011 at 7:36 AM , Anonymous Stacy Makes Cents said...

Yum! We love lentils! I made them last week on Meatless Monday as a substitute for meat - big hit! We also just like a big bowl of lentils cooked and then seasoned with salt and butter. Yummy!
I've got Lentil Meatballs on my list to make. :-) But my list is pretty loooooong.

At November 15, 2011 at 7:47 AM , Blogger Pam said...

We love lentils in our house. This looks really yummy! I'm happy to know that you also host a carnival. I'll be sure to come visit and join. :0)

At November 15, 2011 at 8:24 AM , Blogger The Cottage Market {Andrea} ♥ said...

what a wonderful recipe! this is on my list for this week -- just going to substitute the chicken broth to veggie broth and viola -- a vegetarian and healthy delight! thanks so much for sharing...your newest follower : ) i will be here with eggplant parm tomorrow!!! : ) hugs...

At November 15, 2011 at 12:22 PM , Anonymous 'Becca said...

I haven't substituted lentils for ground beef, exactly, since I never liked ground beef and therefore didn't have any recipes using it...but I do love lentils!

My friend uses garbanzo beans in spaghetti sauce, and that is really tasty, with a consistency that pleases meat-sauce lovers.

At November 15, 2011 at 1:18 PM , Anonymous Micaela @MindfulMomma said...

Thanks for reminding me - I have a bag of lentils in my cupboard right now! Love them!

At November 18, 2011 at 10:51 AM , Anonymous TyKes Mom said...

It is great to see someone else promoting this amazingly healthy and frugal option! Lentils are quite a staple in my house. If I am not substituting them I am just tossing them in dishes for added nutrition. My children aren't big meat-eaters so it is a great way to get them their much needed iron. Not to mention, lentils take on so many flavors that they can be used in almost anything. I have even thrown them on a pizza!

At November 21, 2011 at 11:49 PM , Blogger Penniless Parenting said...

I'll have to try out that casserole! I'm always looking for more, good lentil recipes.

At November 23, 2011 at 7:45 AM , Blogger Sharon said...

I'll be trying this one! If you have any more recipes with Lentils, I'd love to see them!

At November 23, 2011 at 9:08 AM , Anonymous Ground beef recipes said...

What a wonderful recipe! this is on my list for this week. Thank you for sharing! :)


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