Awesomely Good Cheap Chili

by John Smith


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Like me, chili is cheap. You can go all out and spend as much money making chili as you want, but I'm here to tell you that is not necessary. You can make a great big pot of the stuff that will last for days for just a few dollars. The basic ingredients, beans and hamburger, are generally not going to break the bank. Plus, if you use my easy-to-follow, award-winning (that's right, first prize at our church's annual chili cook off of 2001) recipe, you, too, can save even more money and maybe even wow your friends. Of course, if you start winning the chili cook off contest every year, you soon will find out who your friends really are.

The secret to saving money making chili is spending as little as possible for the most expensive ingredient. Nice ground beef for chili can set you back some. You have several choices. You can purchase hamburger already to go, paying top dollar, or wait for a boneless chuck roast sale and ask the butcher to grind a roast or two for you. Chuck roasts make outstanding hamburger and this will cut your costs about in half.

Another money-saving alternative is ground turkey. The frozen rolls in the meat section of the freezer are the way to go. The frozen rolls are of good quality minus the frilly and fancy packaging and the big name of the fresh stuff. I have actually made chili from time to time with ground turkey with pretty good results.

My favorite money-saving alternative for making my award-winning chili is ground pork butts. Pork butts can be found on sale all the time. They make great tasting "hamburger." They have just the right fat content, perfect for chili. Next time you see pork butts on sale at that rock bottom down and dirty price, scarf up a bunch of them and ask the butcher to grind them for you and fill up the freezer. Ground pork butts make great hamburger and can be used in just about any application that ground beef is used in. Experiment and save some money.

Also don't use canned beans. They just aren't as good and it's much cheaper to get some nice new dry beans. The chili powder can be expensive too so just go down to your local huge warehouse type supermarket and get it in the bulk for a whole lot less than what you'd pay for a fancy little shaker container.

Now, just follow my cheap and easy, award-winning chili recipe and be the envy of all your friends.

John's Awesome Way Good Cheap Chili

2 lbs. ground pork butts
2 lbs. dried pinto beans
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large green bell pepper chopped
1/2 cup pickled Jalapeno peppers chopped
1/4 cup flour (or so)
4 heaping tablespoons chili powder or so, to taste (I actually end up using quite a bit more)
2 tablespoons sugar or so to taste (the sugar is used to mellow the flavor not make it sweet so go easy)
1 cup Pace Hot Salsa
4 to 5 small cans of tomato sauce
1-2 large cloves of fresh garlic
1 teaspoon or so chopped red hot chili peppers (optional)
salt to taste

A few hours before dinner put new pinto beans on to boil. Use just enough water to cook the beans. Do not make soup! If your beans are fresh, meaning less than a year old, they will get nice and tender in a few hours. If they are not new beans, they may never get tender. Brown the ground pork with onions, garlic and peppers. Once meat is cooked mix flour in thoroughly. Add tomato sauce and chili powder and simmer a few minutes. Mix meat mixture in with cooked beans and water, add remaining ingredients, bring to boil and simmer for a while. Make adjustments on seasonings to suit your taste. For thicker chili, tomato puree or a little tomato paste can be used with or in place of tomato sauce. You can see that this recipe is not an exact science. Just trust yourself and may the force be with you.


John Smith has been a butcher/meat cutter for 30+ years. He's written the book Confessions of a Butcher - eat steak on a hamburger budget and save$$$. You can check out his book and some of his archived articles at www.all-about-meat.com or post any meat related question and get it answered usually within 24 hours. John, his wife Vickie and their 8 kids live in eastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons.

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