I've talked about my tvp mixture alot in this forum, but today I actually calculated the cost per serving, and found a simpler and faster method for making the meat mixture.
I made two batches (and the equivalent of 10 pounds of meat). One with tvp/ground beef/ground pork, and one with tvp/italian sausage.
I used 4 ( one pound) packages of meat, 20 ounces of dry tvp, a medium chopped onion, a few stalks of chopped celery, and some seasonings (garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt, and pepper).
The ground beef and ground pork were 2.49 and 1.99 respectively on sale. The italian sausages were only 99 cents on sale. The tvp was $7.00 (I had to buy it at Walmart at 3.49 per 10 oz package. When I can find it in bulk, I pay less than $3 per pound usually closer to $2.50).
At any rate, I paid less than $15 for all of the ingredients, including the 2-gallon ziploc stype bags I bought at the dollar store (6 bags for a dollar, and I used two) and made 40 1/2 cup servings of meat.
That brings the cost per serving to about 35 cents.
To compare with ground beef. A lb of raw ground beef yields 4 cooked servings of 3 ounces. If you paid 3.00 per pound, that would be more than 75 cents per serving (you'd still have to pay for the seasoning veggies and such).
The meat alone costs me $12 (30 cents per serving if you don't count the seasonings). The sausage was on sale for 99 cents per pound, and the ground pork and ground beef were each about $2.50 per pound.
My Simpler Recipe
any combination of diced seasoning veggies such as onion, garlic scallion, celery, carrot, bell pepper, hot pepper, mushroom (today I used only onion and celery)
ground meat, any kind
any additional seasonings of your choice (or none - I used garlic powder and italian seasoning for the sausage batch, and garlic and worcestershire sauce in the second batch - beef/pork ).
In a large dutch oven (or deep skillet if you're making a small batch of less than 2 lbs).
Saute seasoning veggies on medium-high heat. Chop and saute any one or combination of seasoning veggies, in a very small amount of oil.
Add water equal to volume of dry tvp, plus an additional 1/2 cup of water per pound of meat. You can add seasonings now, or after the meat is cooked (or both). When the water/meat mixture starts bubbling, you don't want a hard boil, you want a slow bubbling simmer.
The water amount isn't all that important, because you can simmer until the water is gone, or you can even drain any excess liquid (which will also drain off some fat with it). You want enough water to make it easy to break the meat up with a spoon or a potato masher as it simmers. (I used a teflon-coated potato masher).
Once the meat is cooked (no longer pink), reduce heat and simmer off extra liquid, or drain the meat in a fine mesh colander (you can use a regular colander, but you might lose a few of the smaller pieces of meat through the holes. Not a big deal).
Pour into a bowl or return to the dutch oven and move to a cool burner. Allow meat mixture to cool a few minutes before putting meat into a freezer container (I like ziploc freezer bags).
Fill freezer bags and place in freezer. Every 20 to 30 minutes, smoosh the bag around, so that the mixture freezes in scoopable crumbles.
Once the mixture is completely frozen. Open the bag, push out as much air as you can and reseal the bags (or transfer them to a freezer container with a tight-fitting lid).
Scoop out what you need as you need it. If using a freezer bag, always squeeze out as much air as you can. Use in any recipe that calls for browned ground beef. Two cups of crumbles is equivalent to 1 lb of browned and drained ground beef.
To make two batches, the equivalent of 10 lbs of ground meat - it took me only about 90 minutes (even including the veggie chopping).