Nothing Fancy Chili


Great chili doesn’t take a lot of time and money

Chili should be a staple for any family on a budget. The ingredients go on sale all the time–and the leftovers can be frozen for future meals.

This is a basic chili recipe I’ve made up over the years. I’ve won many church chili contest with this recipe–and it’s really nothing fancy. People try to add expensive meats, fancy peppers and all sorts of spices to chili. But in the end, sticking to a basic, home-style chili always wins!

I never measure the spices, just shake in the ingredients using the “sift” side of your spices. I give a suggested number of shakes–but make your chili to taste. If you put too much heat in, have an extra can of chili beans and chili-ready diced tomatoes ready to add in. You can’t mess up chili!

Makes 8-12 servings!

Add all ingredients to crockpot (or use dutch oven for faster cooking–peppers/onions should be soft):

  • 1 lb of lean ground beef or lean ground turkey (you won’t notice the difference using turkey).
  • 2 cans of chili beans
  • 1/2 can of seasoned pinto beans (do not drain)
  • 2 cans of chili-ready diced tomatoes
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 to 1/3 chopped large onion or 1 small onion (yellow or white)
  • 1 chopped fresh jalapeno (take seeds out if you don’t like a little heat)
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder–then add to taste
  • 2 shakes of hot sauce (optional)
  • 2-3 shakes of black pepper
  • 1 shake of cinnamon (optional–something I added after living in Cincy for a while)
  • 2-3 good shakes of garlic powder
  • 1-2 shakes of oregano
  • 1-2 shakes of cumin (careful with this–makes it hot!)
  • 1-2 shakes of cayenne (optional)


  • For a more beany chili, toss in some drained black or northern beans
  • For a more watery chili, add half bottle/can of your favorite beer.
  • For a sweeter chili, add tablespoon of dark brown sugar
  • For meat-lovers, add in 1-2 pre-cooked polish or italian sausages–sliced

Note: I like to check the Chili after an hour in the crockpot and see if more seasoning is needed.


Meal Planning on a Food Stamp Budget

adsI’m getting excited to begin my year on a food stamp budget in just under a week! In preparation, I’ve begun looking at the Jan 1 sales in my area. As you can see in this photo, I like to go through each store ad (mailed to me) and circle items I know to be at a good price. Then I see if I can tie them all into meals.

As you can see in the photo, pasta, hamburger meat, cottage cheese, quality pasta sauce (I splurge the extra dollars for good sauce) are all on sale. I thought this was a great start to Lasagna! My husband and children prefer a recipe that uses cottage cheese rather than ricotta. And what’s healthier than red pasta sauce, eggs and cottage cheese! The pasta and mozzarella are okay in moderation.

I also found shrimp at a yearly low of $3.99 a pound! You can’t get any healthier than shrimp! Since lemons are also on sale, I’m hoping to find a great lemon shrimp recipe–and I’ll probably make a Cajun shrimp and rice dish, too.

Finally, I saw Planters Trail Mix, Pace and several other good snack items were on sale. I’m gathering coupons now for these items. I use the coupon database at to search for available coupons. To view upcoming coupons, I use Finally, you can usually find coupons on Ebay–though you have to buy them in bulk to be worthwhile. If it’s an item you use a lot of and has a long shelf life–this could be a good option.

Note: you are not actually buying the coupons, as that is illegal. You are paying the person for their time to collect and sort the free coupons. It’s a loophole I guess.

So that’s three dinners already planned for the first week–and all three will come out under $12 total after coupons and sales.

Cheap Treats for skinny families

I have several favorite go-to foods that allow my family a little treat, and still keep our waistlines in check. The best part about them–they’re cheap eats!

Just keep in mind that all eating should be done conscientiously. Watching TV, talking on the phone or being on the internet while snacking is a good way to overeat. The mind needs to be involved, too!

  1. Reduced-fat Wheat Thins and Laughing Cow Cheese slices (low fat version). You can go to Aldi and get the generic version of this (not my favorite), or coupon it down to about $1 a box for Wheat Thins and $1.50-$2 for the cheese. The best part is that both stock well. The individually-wrapped cheese slices can stay in your fridge for months! Be sure to portion out the crackers (about 17-21).
  2. Apples and greek yogurt. Dip whichever apple type is on sale ($1 a pound is good). There are so many greek yogurt brands now and tons of coupons to help get the price down. I buy Chobani brand by the tub.
  3. Homemade Rice Krispie treats. We all need a sweet treat once in a while. Rice Krispie treats have a lot less fat that cookies. The key is portioning. As soon as they cool, cut them in small pieces and put them in baggies. Eating a whole pan defeats the purpose. 🙂 Marshmellows at Aldi are about $1 and I like stock up on Rice Krispie cereal when it’s about $2/box and I have a coupon.
  4. Nearly fat-free popcorn. This is my one exception to conscientiousness snacking. Go ahead and eat it during a movie or while your working. It’s usually 94-98% fat free. Every store sells it–and many have a generic brand. A great price point is under $1 for a box of three bags. Occasionally, you can coupon a name brand for around $.50 for a box of three bags.
  5. Celery and PB. Celery at Aldi is so cheap they nearly give it away. With some $2.00 honey peanut butter–you’ve got a protein-packed snack. Just be sure to spread a thin layer of PB on a few stalks of celery. You don’t want to overeat foods high in fat–even when it’s the good kind.
  6. Raisins and dried cranberry.  For these, coupons can be hard to come by, but Sam’s club offers a great price on Ocean Spray cranberries in a large bag. Just use sandwich baggies to portion (I never, ever eat directly out of a bag; it’s a budget and diet buster!).
  7. Chocolate lovers need something, too. Jello Pudding coupons pop up once in a while. The 60-calorie pre-packaged or boxed puddings are a great way to get a quick chocolate fix.
  8. Flavored nuts are high in protein and easy to coupon–Walgreens has Blue Diamond on sale B1G1 just about every other week. We love the ones with a little spice to them.  Just skip those covered in sugar.

How to Make Kraft Mac and Cheese Healthier

It’s a cheap, quick meal that kids love. But left alone, boxed mac & cheese is high in fat and simple carbs. Here’s how to make it healthier.

  1. Wait for a sale that includes Kraft’s whole grain variety. My older daughter does not enjoy this variety as much as the creamy ones, but she’ll still eat it. The whole grains are harder to break down, so they keep you filling fuller longer. And because it’s a blend (only 50% whole grain) it goes down like regular noodles–you won’t notice much difference. I actually prefer the whole grain variety, as it’s slightly more firm and less sensitive to overcooking.
  2. Cut the butter. I know one mom that leaves it out entirely–I usually put a half tablespoon in for texture. Cutting out butter is like switching to diet pop; you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll get used to it.
  3. Use skim milk.
  4. Mix in the green veggies! Frozen green beans and peas are so healthy for children. But getting them to eat them can be tricky–especially the frozen kind because they have less salt than canned vegetables  So I put everything into a bowl for them and give it a quick mix. With a little of the cheese sauce on the green veggies–they go down easy. And if you want to add a protein, beans also mix in well–my daughters prefer black beans!