The finished product.

When I have a lot on my plate (figuratively speaking), the last thing on my mind is what’s going to be on my more tangible dinner plate. I get caught up with school and work, and it’s much too easy to succumb to the all-too accessible host of downtown Columbia restaurants (I’m looking at you, Shakes). Eating out is easy, but my wallet took a major hit last semester.

This time around, I made it my mission to cook cheap meals that don’t consist of Ramen noodles or Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Each week I’ll prepare a home-cooked meal that is affordable, easy to make and, of course, tasty.

I must explain that I originally had the idea for my first meal, chili, when the temperature was in the 20s and I was bundled up in sweaters and scarves. But I found myself slaving over the stove with the windows open in 70-degree weather.

Still, whatever curveball Missouri weather throws our way, chili is an easy and cheap meal to make. I fed myself and four friends comfortably and still had some leftovers.

And all for less than $10!

With some modifications, I used an old family recipe (read: the recipe on the back of the Brooks chili beans can).



  • 1 box Jiffy cornbread mix ($.50)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Blend cornbread mix, egg and milk. It’s okay if the batter is sort of lumpy.

3. Fill lined muffin pan. The recipe typically makes 6-8 muffins depending on how big you want them to be.

4. Bake 15-20 minutes.


Invite friends — this makes a lot!


  • 1 can diced tomatoes ($.68)
  • 2 cans mild (or hot, if you are more adventurous than me) chili beans ($1.92)
  • 1 1-lb. package lean ground beef ($4.28)
  • 1 yellow onion ($.40)
  • 1 packet McCormick chili seasoning ($.98)


1. Brown the ground beef.

2. Dice and brown one medium onion in oil or butter.

3. Add 2 cans chili beans.

4. Add tomatoes.

5. Add seasoning.

Both recipes are extremely straightforward and almost impossible to screw up.

When I do the chili + cornbread combo, I always start with the cornbread because it takes longer to bake.

Once the cornbread’s in the oven, I start browning the meat on the stove. The recipe says to brown the onion on its own, but I usually just cook it in the same pan as the beef. Less cleanup! After that, all you need to do is add the beans, tomatoes and seasoning. And that’s it! Grab some friends and enjoy this perfect winter meal.

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