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  • Writer's pictureSara Benesh

What We’re Cooking: Chili On The Cheap

This recipe has been handed down through group chats for one whole generation. Legend has it, my mom discovered the recipe when she Googled ‘easy chili for 10.’ Who knew that 10 years later I'd be sharing the results of that Google search with you! All jokes aside, this recipe is the most meaningful dish in my cookbook (notes app). It made me feel close to home when I was far away, got my husband and I through our first year of marriage, and shared the love with our friends in need. As a former, poor college student (and a current, poor graduate student), I know firsthand how hard it is to make nice, affordable meals without taking too much time away from homework which is why this is the first thing I make for my family when we're all stressed out and the first thing I make for other people when something goes wrong. This is an excellent recipe for anybody just starting out, good cooks, bad cooks, busy people, and lazy people. It will last you a while, and you can freeze it to make it last even longer! It's the perfect winter comfort food because it warms you up while providing key nutrients, minimal calories, and minimal effort.

Here's what you'll need:


  • Spices:

    • Cumin

    • Garlic Powder (lots)

    • Chili Powder

    • Onion Powder

    • Salt

    • Pepper

    • Or two packets of taco seasoning

  • Canned Goods:

    • 1 Big Can of Diced Tomatoes (undrained)

    • Black Beans x2

    • White Beans x2

    • Kidney Beans x2

    • Small Can of Tomato Paste x2

    • 1 Diced Onion (2 if your really like them)

    • 1 Diced Jalapeño (2 if you can handle the spice)

    • Any Other Kind of Beans (not Lima though)

    • Diced Green Chilies x2 (Optional)

  • Other:

    • Chicken Broth (or Water With Extra Seasoning)

    • Meat of Choice (Optional)

    • Shredded Cheese of Choice

    • Sour Cream

Here's how to put it all together:


  • First, open all your cans and drain everything but the diced tomatoes.

  • If you’ve elected to use raw meat, I’ll assume you went into it with a plan. Season to taste with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder or use one taco seasoning packet.Whatever it is, just make sure to cook it thoroughly! You can take a peek at this website to make sure it’s cooked all the way through: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart | Food Safety and Inspection Service. Don’t worry too much about overcooking; chili makes everything better!

  • In a large pot, Instapot, crock pot, really deep saucepan, or anything else that will both hold all your ingredients and hold up against the heat of a burner, mix all your ingredients including your spices. I like to eyeball it. Just keep seasoning evenly and stirring until it tastes good to you!

  • Unlike the meat, you don’t have to worry about undercooking chili. Just keep stirring until everything is warmed through. You do have to worry about burning it though. I recommend scraping from the bottom and bringing it to the top to avoid ruining your pot or making more work for yourself.

That's all there is to it! store in your fridge for a week (1.5 and a smell check if you really want to risk it). If you want to save it for later, you can store it in the freezer for 4 - 6 months! Just wait until it cools to room temperature, and put it in a freezer bag. Place the bag in the freezer as flat as possible for easier storage and defrosting. When you’re ready to eat it, put the bag in the fridge overnight, or submerge in cold water. Heat it up in a pot or the microwave, and you’re good to go!


  • If you really want to get fancy, you can get a box of Jiffy’s corn muffin mix for less than a dollar at just about any grocery store. Don’t have a muffin tin? Don’t worry! Most grocery store baking sections have small, inexpensive aluminum pans. Pam, butter, or almost any oil will make sure your mix doesn’t stick to the pan, but cupcake wrappers are the best! Serve on the side, or crumble into your chili right before eating. It’s a cheap and tasty way to make your food last a little longer.

  • Don't be afraid to change things up! Want to add some green onions for a garnish? Do it! Want to add hot sauce? I like Tapatio in my chili. You could have a chili night where everybody brings one ingredient to add to the pot. Eat it with chips! The nice thing about chili is that it's really hard to ruin. Some people even add brown sugar. I think that's gross, but you can try it if you want! Maybe just make a small batch in case you also think sweet chili is gross. Go crazy.

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