Archives

The costs of chili; and we get some public mention!

The student-produced TV show “For Your Island” is made at the university where I work, and they were nice enough to interview me about a bunch of things, including CookCheap.org. I’m an adjunct professor, as they point out, and I’ve had a class to teach this semester (which I’ve enjoyed a ridiculous amount), but I haven’t forgotten about CookCheap.org. I have a bunch of potato footage in the can, and I need to finish up the videos and post them! We’ll definitely get through potatoes before the spring/summer farm share begins.

I’m really dying for some fresh vegetables. But it’s that time of year where mostly what I can find cheaply is in a can. What are you eating for vegetables this time of year?

The deli near where I work sells a bowl of chili for $2.65. I’ve been eating it for lunch from time to time, because it’s cheap and hot (it’s been a ridiculously chilly spring here). But I can tell it’s got sugar or corn syrup or something in it, because it makes my eyes cross every time I eat it.

I made a batch of chili tonight in my kitchen, putting it up in containers to eat for lunches this week, and bemoaned that quality and convenience couldn’t match up with price.

Or could it?

We did the math. Here’s how I make chili:

Crumble up a pound of ground beef
Cook it in a big skillet with a BIG chopped up onion.
(Drain off any fat if there is any – there isn’t usually much, and add:)
A heavy sprinkling of chile powder
And lighter sprinklings of cumin, coriander, dried mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper
A LIGHT dash of cayenne
and if I have it, from the fridge, some squirts of:
lemon juice
worcester sauce
and tabasco.

I cook that over some heat and then add:
a big can of diced tomatoes
a can of black beans or pinto beans, drained
and a can of corn, drained

Now simmer that for a while and it’s just good eating. It makes four good servings. I love it with some cheddar cheese and, if I’ve got it, sour cream on top. (It looks pretty similar to my Emergency Canned Stew just previous, no?)

Now let’s do the cost comparison. I’m using, as always, organic ingredients, the best I can get. I get organic ground beef from Costco, and organic canned tomatoes, corn, and beans from Trader Joe’s.

All those things together are between 9 and 10 bucks, giving me a cost per serving of $2.50 – quite equivalent to the cost of the deli chili, and without anything in it to make me feel oogy after I eat it.

I didn’t include the cost of the cheese and sour cream, but then I don’t get those at the deli anyway! And the cost of the onion and spices and flavorings are, as the spousal unit said, “negligible”. It’s all perfectly substitutable. If I don’t have any of those things, I can always leave them out or use a little more of something else. I think it would still be “chili” if I just had some chile powder, black pepper, salt and Tabasco. I’ll always have the garlic and onion powder anyway; I got them for a dollar apiece at the drugstore. Really, chile powder (dried chiles) is the biggest splurge in the spice category, and if I get it cheaply enough (as we’ve discussed), it lasts a long time for very little.

Doubling this recipe would provide a good stash of meals or a week’s worth of lunches for two. It freezes well, too!

Leave a Reply