There's endless dinner inspiration to be found in a package of this budget-friendly protein.

When it comes to affordability and versatility, few proteins can compete with ground beef. Yet the family-friendly favorite has gotten somewhat of a bad rap over the years for being less sophisticated than rib-eyes, tenderloins, New York strips, and other beefy cuts. While we love a fancy fillet, in terms of everyday cooking, ground beef provides the easiest, most approachable way to get our daily protein intake without completely breaking the bank.

In addition to its affordability, one of the perks of cooking with ground beef is that it can easily be made ahead in a larger batch and worked into recipes as needed. For many dishes, like sauces and casseroles, pre-cooked ground beef can be integrated into the recipe seamlessly. If you have a package of ground beef that’s nearing its expiration date, or are preparing more meat than needed for a recipe, the surplus can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days after cooking, or up to 4 months in the freezer. Just be sure to refrigerate or freeze the beef within an hour or two of cooking to ensure total food safety. As for the leftover grease in the pan, turn it into a simple mushroom gravy for homemade biscuits and gravy in the morning.

These recipes will prove that a package of ground beef can lead you in endless culinary directions, and help you accomplish all of your kitchen goals—and then some.

Healthy Dinners

While ground beef hasn’t always had a reputation for being the healthiest of proteins, leaner packages of beef—in the 92-96 percent lean range—will be the perfect addition to your diet-conscious recipes. Top salads like a Lime and Cilantro Beef Salad or Quick Taco Salad, or try out some healthy, veggie-incorporating dishes like Healthy Picadillo, Meatballs and Peppers, and Quinoa Bibimbop Bowls.

Italian Feast

Ground beef can bring out the best in your go-to Italian recipes, including but certainly not limited to classic sauces like Bolognese and Porcini Meat Sauce. The flexible ingredient can also be used to make crowd favorites like Classic Lasagna and Ground Beef Calzones, or more refined fare like Parmesan Polenta with Quick Ragu and Baked Italian-Style Cauliflower.

Slow Cooker Connoisseur

For those who regularly rely on the trusty slow cooker to get dinner on the table, ground beef can be your secret weapon. With simple and delicious recipes like Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce over Pappardelle, Slow Cooker Meatloaf with Shiitake Mushrooms, and Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Chili, prepping for dinner will be easier than ever.

Classics with a Twist

While tacos and Sloppy Joes might be the first things that come to mind when you think ground beef, the ingredient can be used in surprising ways to bring new life to kitchen classics. Give a twist to meatloaf with this Italian Style recipeor Whole Grain Mini Meat Loaves, which are given a healthy upgrade with the addition of quinoa and vegetables. Adapt your baked classics, like Shepherd’s Pie with a sliced Potato Crust or Greek Baked Ziti, or bring your burger game to the next level with recipes like Spicy Cheddar-Stuffed Cheeseburgers and Mediterranean Burgers.

getty raw ground beef image
Credit: AlexeyBorodin/Getty Images

AlexeyBorodin/Getty Images

Fiesta Time

It’s no secret that when it comes to prepping for a fabulous fiesta, ground beef is the HPIC (Head Protein in Charge). While chicken, steak, and seafood all make great additions to Tex-Mex dishes, ground beef is by far the most affordable and easy-to-prepare meat for your Crunchy Beef Taco baror Sheet Pan Beef and Black Bean Nachos. Try your hand at Beef Tostadas with Quick Pickled Onions or Spiced Beef Tostadas with Cilantro Lime Rice, or a funky take on an Italian classic: Mexican Lasagna. Add margaritas to the mix, and you’ll be looking at the most epic fiesta ever.

Extra Serving of Veggies

For a sneaky way to work a few more servings of vegetables into your diet, ground beef can provide the smoke and mirrors necessary for even the most adamant of veggie haters. Dishes like Beef and Mushroom Sloppy Joes, Thai Beef Cabbage Cups, and Stuffed Peppers will be so satisfying you’ll hardly notice the extra serving of plants. If you’re craving some Eastern flavors, try this Minced Beef with Bok Choy and Fried Egg recipe, which is served on a bed of greens.

Picky Eater Approved

When it comes to the pickiest of little eaters, finding a protein that they’ll consume happily can be a challenge. Luckily, ground beef can be an approachable way to get a serving of protein via kid-friendly classics like Sloppy Joes, Beef, Cheese, and Noodle Bake, and Ground Beef and Pasta Casserole. Or, add a fun twist to some family favorites with Cheeseburger Pizza, individually-sized Meat Loaf Muffins, or Hamburger Hash.

Party Down

Party prep can be time-consuming, stressful, and, most of all, expensive. Luckily ground beef can act as an affordable and easy protein when cooking larger, crowd-approved quantities. From little bites like Ground Sirloin Sliders and Classic Bacon-Cheeseburger Sliders to bigger batch dishes like Chili For a Crowd or Southwest Style Meatballs, ground beef could be the culinary savior of your football watching or award show party.