Hearty Chili ~ Real Food Dollar Menu

Well, I’m really sorry if I disappoint all of you so early in this new Dollar Menu series.  Don’t be mad.  Please. I’m just trying to help all of us out as we work on finding inexpensive real food meal ideas.

Okay, are you ready for me to share the potentially upsetting news with you?  Are you sitting down?

Here’s the deal.  Depending on how you make it, this Hearty Chili recipe actually costs way, way less than $1 per person.  I know.  This is not what I promised you.  Can we still be friends?  ;)

When I began tweaking and adding up the cost of this recipe, I was rather shocked myself.  Because I used tomato products we had grown in our garden, it turns out that this entire pot actually cost me about $1.05 to make – and it fed 10 people! That’s 11¢ per person*!!!!

However, since not everyone has a garden, I also figured the cost with purchased tomato products. This made the cost $5.40 for the pot, which divided by 10 people is 54¢ per person. I’m liking this hearty meal – how about you? :)

Now guess what?  If I wanted to add a pound of hamburger to this pot of chili, my cost with garden tomatoes would be $5.40 for the entire pot. Cost with purchased tomatoes would be $9.75…STILL less than a $1.00 per person! And actually, the meat would help the pot of chili go just a tad further, making it possible to feed more than ten.

If you don’t mind a little additional cost, you can add shredded cheese or sour cream, which is always tasty on chili. You can serve this with Corn Bread Muffins (also inexpensive) and carrots sticks. Or you can fill tummies and stretch the chili by serving this over baked potatoes.

Are the possibilities not endless?

Hearty (Cheapo) Chili

1 cup dry pinto beans
1 cup dry red beans
4 cups tomato sauce
2 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/4 cup chopped onions or 2 Tablespoons dry minced onions
chili powder or chili peppers to taste
garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper to taste

Place dry beans in a large cooking pot.  Cover with water by at least an inch.  (Splash in some vinegar to help make these more digestable if you want.)  Soak beans in water overnight or for at least 12 hours.

Drain beans and fill pot again with water, enough to cover the beans by 1 and a half inches.  Bring beans to a boil.  Cook (watching to be sure they don’t boil over) for about an hour or until beans are tender.  Drain.

Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, onions, and seasonings.  The more chili powder or chili peppers you add, the spicier it will be, so you make the call on those.  I typically add about 3 Tablespoons of chili powder, which keeps it pretty mild.

Simmer chili for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Simmer longer if desired.  Or make this ahead of time and warm it in the crock pot on low for several hours.  The longer it simmers, the more flavorful it will be!

chili_2

What’s your favorite way to eat chili?  (I love shredded cheddar melted throughout mine!)

Don’t you just love a dollar menu that’s less than a dollar?  Wonder what else I’ll be able to come up with that doesn’t quite “meet your Dollar Menu expectations”…

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

Comments

  1. says

    I made a very similar chili last week, so tasty with shredded cheddar! I made mine in the crockpot, though, and that recipe called for the beans, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water and spices. If you were to make yours in the crockpot, would you use the same ingredients as you have listed or would you add water or anything?

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    Laura Reply:

    No, you could just cook the beans and then throw everything into the crockpot on low for a few hours. You wouldn’t have to change a thing!

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  2. LisaB in VA says

    We like our chili over rice. That way, if I get it too spicy, the rice mitigates the heat. Also, the chili goes farther. Cheddar cheese, sour cream, and Frito-style corn chips are usually on the table when we have chili, too.

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  3. HollymMead says

    We ran out of our 1/4 cow (of grass fed beef raised by a trusted neighbor) and can’t afford to buy another for a few months and since we are “Beef–it’s what’s for dinner” kinda people, this has been an unhappy culinary development. On the way home from church on Sunday my husband asked me, “Can you make chili without meat? Can you make it taste like chili?” I told him that while the concept was totally alien to our kitchen and stomachs, that I understood that not everyone believed that the first ingredient in a pot of chili was “5 pounds ground beef,” so that–in theory mind you–it could be done. When I saw this post I forwarded it to him and he immediately got a chuckle and decided we should broaden our culinary horizons until we could buy another portion of a cow and get back to our Texan-roots at the table. Thank you for these $1 recipes–they are so useful to us right now!

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    Laura Reply:

    I am SO with you! I love five pounds of ground beef in…everything. :) It was good for me to try this meatless chili – and if you can believe it, I survived the meal and even blogged about it. :) (But I still love my beef.)

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    Jen Reply:

    I feel your pain Holly! We also ran out of our 1/2 grass fed beef earlier this year, a few months before we were able to purchase more. Fortunately, I have a wonderful local, organic delivery service that I can order from weekly. They had grass fed ground beef on special 2 pounds for $7.99 the entire time we were out, so I was able to purchase that every few weeks to get us through.

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  4. Kristin says

    Only $4.35 for a pound of grass fed hamburger from humanely raised cows? Wow, I’m so jealous!

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I’m totally spoiled, huh? I’m very thankful for this price and quality! :)

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  5. Lyndsay says

    I have heard of people cooking a bunch of dry beans and then freezing them to throw in recipes later. Have you ever tried that? because I never remember to soak my beans before a meal!

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    Kathleen K Reply:

    Oh yes, Lyndsay. We do it all the time, for the same reason. In fact whenever I plan a meal with beans, I usually cook extra because beans go so well in so many dishes and they stretch the budget SO much.

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    Jen Reply:

    I cook large pots of beans and freeze them too, Lyndsay! It’s really nice to have beans ready to go when I need them. I just divide them into 1 1/2 to 2 cup portions (about the same amount that is in a can) and freeze them with a little of the cooking liquid.

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    Lisa Reply:

    Yes!! I’ll often cook up large batches of black and kidney beans (our favorites) and freeze them in Tupperware. Inexpensive and simple to pull out when needed! To make it even easier, I cook them in the crockpot on low while we’re at work all day.

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  6. Sheila says

    we recently discovered we love the addition of pumpkin in our chili! You don’t want quite so much tomato, the pumpkin thickens it. I use a big can of diced tomatoes and a small can of rotell with a small can of pumpkin, no tomato sauce. (we moved this year and were not able to have a garden so I have to use the canned stuff.)

    [Reply]

    Lisa Reply:

    What a great idea! I love pumpkin and will have to try this.

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  7. Crista C says

    I like to mix cottage cheese in my chili

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    Sheila Reply:

    my hubby does that too.

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    Jen Reply:

    A similar childhood thing we always did is to put baked beans on top of cottage cheese. So good! I’ll have to try mixing it into my chili sometime.

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  8. Jenifer Parker says

    we do Chili over rice occasionally but usually have it plain with saltine crackers (and I know that’s not really healthy but……..) :-)

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  9. Nia says

    Hi Laura,
    This post called to mind the box to real food comparisons you did with brownies and macoroni & cheese if I remember right. Are you still doing those comparisons? Or have you completed the series? Just wondering ’cause I really enjoy seing those posts, I’m such a slowpoke in the kitchen, trying to learn to speed myself up.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I wasn’t really doing a “series” on that, but just ended up doing several experiments to prove that healthy cooking didn’t have to take long. So glad to hear you liked it. I’ll have to try to come up with more!

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  10. Wanda says

    When we owned restaurants, a popular menu item was always 3 way chili or 4 way chili which was cooked spaghetti, topped with chili and extra beans (3 way) or chili, extra beans, and cheese (4 way). These are tasty and stretch the budget as well. They’re good topped with diced onions and lots of crushed saltines.
    At home, we most often eat chili with rice (like a previous reader commented) and sometimes a dab of sour cream if its on hand to cut the heat a bit. … and one more tip, I use a Racheal Ray recipe sometimes to make a veggie chili, and at the end she adds a can of refried beans, making the whole dish really rich and thick and seems like its simmered all day. You could add some mashed cooked beans to any chili and get a similar result.

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    Barbara Reply:

    When I first got married, my mother-in-law used to make a chili-rice casserole with leftover chili. Cooked rice in the bottom of a casserole dish, cover with chili, top with shredded cheese and bake until heated through and bubbly. It quickly became my favorite way to eat chili!!

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  11. Sheila says

    We like to have left over chili, it always tastes better the next day. One way we like to eat it is to make a salad (or just use chopped lettuce), crunch a few tortillas over the salad, spoon some chili on top and sprinkle with some shredded cheddar cheese. This is very good with ranch dressing on top.

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  12. Dione says

    One of our favorite meals. I use venison since I get that given to us by a friend who hunts and doesn’t eat the meat. I use my home canned tomatoes, my frozen peppers and onions that I barter for ( I work for food, lol) and the only thing that we actually pay for is the dried beans which make this meal such a blessing.

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  13. Doreen says

    Though left over chili rarely happens in my house, I thought I would share what I do with it. Spoon some over french fries, or fried potatoes of your choice, sprinkle with chopped green onions on top, a dollop of sour cream and topped with shredded cheese of your liking…uses up that last bowl of chili and makes a tasty quick meal served with a fresh green salad. Great easy winter meal.

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