My Mother-in-Law’s Chili Part I

With fall comes chili weather. I already made a big batch of chili a few weeks ago and it was a hit. I make my mother-in-law’s chili, which is better than the vegetarian chili I used to make when I first met my husband, who is from Kentucky. Some things Kentuckians do better than Californians.
I gotta say, chili is about the cheapest way I know of eating, save getting 10 packs of ramen noodles for a dollar and eating only them for a week. (Didn’t some guy die from doing that recently?) Chili is versatile, freezes great, and is one of the few foods that my husband will eat the leftovers of.
The two of us can easily eat on a pot of chili for a week. In the past, when we have been saving for something, I have been known to make a pot of chili and then vary it with different combinations. By doing this, I have fed the two of us for a week on about $10. Here’s how I do it:

Making the beans.
I recently switched from using canned beans to making beans in the crock pot because it’s far cheaper and tastes better than canned beans. But you can skip this step and just use canned beans if you’re so inclined.
Making Beans

2 bags beans (I usually use kidney beans, but you can use chili, pinto, black…whatever you want.)
1/4 C brown sugar
Ham hock or a slice of ham (This is optional. I happened to have some ham in the freezer and threw it in. If you skip the ham, try 3 Tbs of salt to start and then check for seasoning later on.)
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
Chicken or vegetable broth to cover the beans
Additional salt to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a crock pot and let cook overnight. If you don’t have a crock pot, you can simmer on low heat on your stove top during the day. After 10 hours, your beans should be soft and flavorful. They should be a blend of a little bit of heat, a little bit of sweet, and a lot of savory. If the beans aren’t soft, add more broth and let cook for a few more hours. If the beans are too sweet, add more salt.
You should end up with about six cups of beans. You’ll use only three cups, or half the beans, in the chili. Freeze the rest in ziplock bags or freezer containers and use for burritos, future chili, etc.
Cost of Dish: Beans: $1.60 ($.80 X 2); Brown sugar: $.15; Ham: Free in my case because someone gave it to me, (I would estimate $.80 or so); Peppers: free from the garden; Vegetable broth: free.
Total Cost: $1.85
In the Store: 6 cans of cooked beans: ($.99 X 6) 5.94
Total Savings: $4.09
Next: Make the Chili.

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