How to stretch the grocery budget


Yesterday was National Chili Day and Charlie Weatherly treated the Rose Society to his special blend along with the best cornbread I ever tasted.

Funny, I thought chili came in a can until I left home and set up housekeeping on my own.  I began experimenting with homemade chili – with beans, without beans, vegetarian, white chili with chicken, you name it, I’ve made it.


There are as many variations on chili as there are cooks in the world.  My secret is adding a package of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix – really sets it apart from the pack in my opinion.

But do you know the history of Chili – here’s what one authority says:

“A variation on the cowboy origins of chili recipes says that cowboys would plant oregano, chiles, and onions along their well travelled trails in patches of mesquite to keep foraging cattle from eating them. As they moved along the trails, they would harvest the spices, onions, and chiles and combine them with beef to create a chili recipe called "Trail Drive Chili".

Yet another version of the origin of chili says that the first chili recipe was made in the Texas prison systems because only the cheapest meats were served in prison. To make the meats a little tastier and less tough, they were cut into very small pieces that were boiled with chiles and spices.”

Yet another theory is that Canary Islanders who were transplanted into San Antonio as early as 1731 used peppers and onions combined with various meats to make early chili dishes. This theory also gives credit to Canary Islanders for first bringing cumin, an essential chili recipe spice, to the United States.

One largely disregarded theory is that chili was founded by the U.S. Army. The first Army chili recipe was published in 1896. Garlic and beans were added by World War I and tomatoes by World War II.

Living on the cheap

The most plausible origin of chili came in 1828 when J.C. Clopper observed the poor people in San Antonio cutting what little meat they could afford and stewing it together with as many pieces of peppers as pieces of meat.”  (Source:

I expect we’ll get back to doing that again if gas prices move any higher.


Last week Brenda and I went to Sav-a-lot in Houston and picked up cases (yes, six in all) of  corn, black beans, white beans, and Rotel tomatoes (they sell all for only 59 cents a can).  Okay so, they’re not REAL Rotel – they are called Senior Something, but gooo-od.

So here’s my really really cheap and really really delicious and nutritious meatless chili.  Serve it up over rice with a little lime juice, cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped scallions. 

Then ask all your neighbors over for a little food and conversation.  You’ll be the most popular kid on the block.

Three Bean Chili Recipe Ingredients

• 2 Tablespoons olive oil
• 2 medium onions, chopped
• 1 medium red pepper, chopped
• 1 medium green pepper, chopped
• 1 large jalapeno pepper (seeded, de-veined and chopped)
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 cup beer
• 2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes
• 1 14 oz. can black beans
• 1 16 oz. can dark red kidney beans
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 can vegetarian refried beans with chiles

Three Bean Chili Directions

In a large pot, add olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Add onion, peppers, and garlic.  Saute for 5 minutes or until softened.  Add beer and stir well.  Add tomatoes, black beans and kidney beans, stirring well to combine.  Add cumin, chili powder, hot sauce and salt.  Stir in refried beans to thicken chili.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

chili recipe

4 thoughts on “How to stretch the grocery budget

  1. The theory I heard was that chili came out of Mexico Where there was no refrigeration and meat would spoil. You can eat spoiled meat if you cook it enough’ so the mexicans would add chili peppers and beans (to stretch the recipe) and to mask the flavor of spoiled meat. Considering that refrigeration was minimal in texas and the south also, it caught on.

  2. Funny you should write on chili. We’re having a chili cooking contest Sun night @ FUMC. I’m cooking along w/12 others. Giving prizes to the top 3. Should be loads of fun. You should come w/us.

  3. We got into this discussion at Jay and Melissa’s last night while eating White Chicken Chili. What makes chili chili? Does it have to have the chili peppers in it to be true chili? I usually leave out most of the hot stuff and let people add their own because it is easier for those who like it hot to add “hot” than it is for those who don’t like it hot to take it away. Actually, I guess taking the hot away is impossible, isn’t it?!! Just a thought. Do you have the answer to my first question?

  4. I did not know that your son is Jay. You have done a great job raising a beautiful son and a beautiful family.
    Who cares if we cant produce a perfect chili.

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