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

Hearty Chili ~ Real Food Dollar Menu
  • 1 cup dry pinto beans (or 1 15-ounce can)
  • 1 cup dry red beans (or 1 15-ounce can)
  • 1 pound hamburger meat (optional)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • ¼ cup chopped onions or 2 Tablespoons dry minced onions
  • chili powder or chili peppers to taste
  • garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper to taste
  1. Place dry beans in a large cooking pot.
  2. Cover with water by at least an inch. (Splash in some vinegar to help make these more digestable if you want.)
  3. Soak beans in water overnight or for at least 12 hours.
  4. Drain beans and fill pot again with water, enough to cover the beans by 1 and a half inches. Bring beans to a boil. (Skip all above steps if using canned beans)
  5. Cook (watching to be sure they don't boil over) for about an hour or until beans are tender. Drain.
  6. 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.)
  7. 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!



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.