Fast and Easy Weeknight Chili: Dinner Under $10
My Quick and Easy Chili Recipe
Please note this is not home cooking, slow simmering, scratch cooking chili (called chili con carne in some places)! No, I didn't soak beans for hours. I didn't even use a fresh ear of corn (which would have only added 5 minutes).
While I love my scratch cooking, I also have three children, so it is nice to have an easy chili recipe that I can cook in less than 30 minutes in one pot for easy cleanup.
This recipe is also very flexible. There are lots of variations, and you can add or subtract ingredients to your liking. I love corn and so do my kids, so the corn distracts them from the beans.
Ingredients (and Shopping List)
- 1 (15.5-oz) can kidney beans, dark or light
- 1 (15.5-oz) can chili beans, in sauce
- 1 (28-oz) can diced or whole tomatoes
- 1 pound ground beef (80/20 is the cheapest option available for me)
- 1 large onion (I prefer yellow or Vidalia)
- 1 large bell pepper (I use green, but any color is ok)
- 1 packet chili seasoning mix
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 can corn, drained (I prefer sweet corn)
- Ground beef: $2.99/lb (sale price)
- Chili beans: $0.59
- Kidney beans: $0.59
- Onion: $0.86 (sale price was $1.49/lb)
- Tomatoes: $1.29 (sale price)
- Bell pepper: $0.99
- Chili seasoning mix: $0.50 (sale price)
- Corn: $0.89 (sale price)
- Total: $8.70
I used store brands and 80/2 ground beef. I am also located in a rural part of the Southeast, so my prices may be cheaper than major cities. However, with sale searching and possibly using coupons, you can likely get the prices comparable.
I also had some banana peppers in the fridge I needed to use, so I threw them in. Chili powder is a basic seasoning in my cabinet so I did not need to buy it, but if I did the store brand is $0.99.
- Dice the onion and bell pepper. Make sure you seed the pepper. Throw away or store seeds, but do not add to the recipe. I find the easiest way to seed a bell is to cut around the top. Dice all into quarter-inch pieces.
- Add ground beef to a 5-quart pot and brown for 2 minutes.
- The ground beef should have produced some grease for the pan by now, so add onion and bell pepper. Finish browning beef with the onion and pepper.
- Add all canned items with juices except the corn. Make sure you drain the corn. If you forget to drain the corn it WILL ruin this recipe. (I've accidentally done it before, and it made it taste very watered down.)
- Slowly stir in the seasoning packet and chili powder.
- Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes.
- Serve with cornbread, cheese, sour cream, or crackers.
Basic Chili Recipe
This really is my basic chili recipe. There are so many other things you can add into chili, or other ways to make it even more flavorful.
Any ground meat can be used. I know a couple people who only use their fresh ground venison, and I also know a very budget minded mom who only uses ground pork she gets on sale at $1.99 per lb. So the meat really can be changed out based on what you have. Even chunks of meat will work if you don't have ground. I used leftover chicken breast diced once, and while it wasn't what I was use to, it was still good.
If you have more time you can add more things or allow a longer simmering time. This basic recipe does quite well in my house. My kids even ask for it in the middle of summer. This recipe can be easily frozen. It tastes just as good after being frozen, though you may need to add a bit of tomato sauce to thicken it back up a little.
Chili Variations and Additions
Where I Got This Recipe
Many people who follow me know I grew up during my teen years in foster care; the years before that spent with my mother and father. When I made it to what was called "independent living" around my 18th birthday, I began having to buy my own week worth of groceries for $25 a week. My mother never really taught me to cook, and neither did the foster parents.
So there I was with $25 to provide a week worth of food, hygiene, and household items. I thought back on the things I ate while growing up and did my best to remember what was in them. I always loved chili; it had lots of protein to keep me full, and one pot was enough to feed me most of a week. So this was my very first recipe I made when I moved from foster homes to independent living. The staff of independent living always were amazed that for less than half my allowance I would have my dinner for the whole week.
I still have no idea if this is close to my mother's recipe, but it tastes so good I don't really care!