Recipe Idea: Chili Mac

Having the most frugal grocery budget in the world isn’t going to help you and if you can’t put together at least a few healthy, tasty, and cheap eats! Every month, The Outlier Model features a cheap recipe idea, along with the cost breakdown.

Chili?  Yes.  Pasta?  Yes.  Together?  Hell yes.  Chili Mac was one of my first slow cooker successes.  Most of the ingredients that you need are probably already in your cupboard or freezer.  It’s a great recipe for Sunday batch cooking or lazy midweek meals.  The best part is that it is a one-pot meal that can be enjoyed as-is or customized to include your favorite chili ingredients.


Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pot-o-chili.jpg



  • 1/4 – 1/2 lb of lean ground beef at (at $3/lb, about $1.50)
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained ($1)
  • 1 onion, chopped ($0.25)
  • 1 clove of garlic ($0.05)
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of chili powder (< $0.10)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (< $0.05)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (< $0.10)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (< $0.10)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (< $0.10)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (< $0.05)
  • 2 cups of cooked macaroni ($0.50)

Brown the beef in a pan over medium-high heat.  Drain the fat and add the meat to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the pasta.  Mix it up and cook on low for 4-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker settings.  I like to set it at the lowest temperature possible and just let it go all day while I’m at work.  About 1 hour before it is done cooking, add the macaroni.

If you’re lazy and want to add the macaroni at the beginning, be sure to under-cook the pasta, otherwise, it will get soggy!  You may have to add water depending on how under-cooked your pasta is.

Serve with a bit of salad, fresh carrot sticks, or vegetable soup.

Servings: 5-6 total servings of meat & pasta.

Cost per serving: $0.70 per serving of slow-cooked beef and pasta, plus the cost of your side (salad, soup, etc.)

Frugal hack:  Stock up on canned tomatoes and stash them for recipes like this!

Feeling adventurous: There are lots of additional ingredients that you can add to chili.  Some that I enjoy include jalapenos, canned corn, and red pepper.  If you get them on sale, it really doesn’t add that much to the cost!

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