The SNAP Challenge Gourmet | Dented Can Chili

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The other day I was in the market, grocery shopping and as I was grabbing a half gallon of milk, I glanced in the dented and discarded bins. I often peek, but have never bought anything but soup vegetables. Instead of the usual completely useless crap, there was a pile of canned goods. I took a closer look. Chili. Black beans. Refried beans. Tomato puree. Hmmm. White beans. More chili. This is starting to look like a plan.

Here’s what I scooped up.

Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Nalley Big Chunk Chili (no beans) .99¢ (reg. $2.00)
Hormel Beef Chili with Beans .69¢ (reg. $1.29)
Dennison’s Chili with Beans .89¢ ($1.83)
Rosarita Refried Beans .49¢ (reg. $1.00)
S&W White Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
S&W Black Beans .49¢ (reg. .89¢)
Hunts Tomato Puree .69¢ (reg. $1.33)

For a grand total of $5.72 and a savings of $5.51.

How to bring this pile of salty swill up to some semblance of acceptable nutrition, wholesomeness and deliciousness without a lot of effort or spending?

I’ve got onions and fresh garlic at home, so first stop is a 28 oz. can of store brand diced tomatoes. $1. Then a big sweet potato. .69c. Next stop Trader Joe’s for a one pound bag of frozen red, yellow and green bell pepper strips. $1.69 (What can I say. My building has a walk score of 100).

Big pot. Chop and sauté two onions. While those are going, chop and add frozen peppers. After ten minutes, add a few cloves of chopped garlic for five minutes. Dump in all the cans. Add two tablespoons of New Mexico chili powder. I get the packets in the Mexican section, much cheaper. Peel and grate in the sweet potato. Heat through and simmer for an hour.

I also had some frozen corn that I thought about tossing in but didn’t. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.

Add in $1.00 for the ingredients for home and the grand total looks like:
$10.10 (the amount Obama is proposing for the minimum wage. Coincidence? You be the judge.) That worked out to about $1.44 a quart or 28 servings at .36¢ a serving. It took about 12 minutes to get in the pot. An hour and half on the stove with occasional stirring. Less than ten minutes to clean up and break the chili into plastic containers for freezing. Just over one minute per serving.

Let me emphasize that opening the cans was the hardest part.

So what was the verdict? My room mate cooks for a living. He’s no push over. Around lunch time the next day, the call came out from the kitchen, “What’s in this chili, it’s great.”

“You don’t want to know.”

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About Marc Brazeau

Free lance cultural attaché. Writing at REALFOOD.ORG.

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