Ground beef mixed with textured vegetable protein (TVP) has made a comeback of sorts. During the last period of inflationary prices for beef, earlier in the '70s, many stores sold packages of the mixture, pricing them significantly below regular ground beef. In addition, several companies began producing their own textured vegetable protein which the cook could combine with ground beef and save even more money

When ground beef prices declined, so did the sales of TVP. The beef-TVP mixture disappeared from the meat counter; the largest manufacturer of a seasoned TVP, made especially for mixing with ground beef, cut back on the variety of seasonings; at least one food processor took the line completely off the market.

Now that ground beef costs as much, even more than some cuts of beef, two Washington area stores have began selling the ground beef-TVP mixture once again. Last week it was selling for $1.29 per pound at Safeway and Pantry Pride; regular ground beef was $1.59 at most supermarkets. Some smaller stores, however, do run ground beef sales for 10 and 20 cents per pound less.

After buying ground beef on special, greater savings can be obtained by making the mix yourself. By using Williams Textured Vegetable Protein, one pound of ground beef can be turned into two. If beef costing $1.59 per pound is used, the total cost of two pounds would be $2.08, or $1.04 cents a pound. If a less expensive ground beef were used the savings would be even greater.

With Lipton's Make a Better Burger, the mix, combined with a pound of ground beef will provide you with 1 pound 13 ounces of mix, costing $1.20 per pound.

Both of these mixes contain monosodium glutamate and artificial color.

If you use plain, unseasoned, textured vegetable protein, such as Good For Ya, a brand sold in natural food stores, the cost will be $1.26 per pound.*tTo do this, combine 1 pound of ground beef with 1 cup of TVP which has been mixed with 1 cup of hot water.

Do these mixes make good hamburgers? Not if you like the taste and texture of beef alone. It isn't unpleasant, however. It's just different. But if you want to use the ground beef in spaghetti sauce, for seasoned meat balls, meat loaf or in other highly seasoned dishes calling for ground beef, you will not notice the taste and texture diffence as much.

Mixing ground beef with TVP has one further health advantage. While there is still more than enough protein in the mixture, the satured fat is reduced and so is the calorie count.

Try it. You might like it.