Like many young couples thrown into the adventure of new parenthood, we were low earners, making slightly above 11K net combined, and suddenly had to stretch our same income to cover daycare and baby equipment. We had to figure out how to get the best deals on diapers, wipes and formula (which we only optimized once our first child was past that stage). One big change was replacing our frequent dinners out with home cooked meals, often featuring beans, lentils and more beans – some of the healthiest and cheapest protein sources available. Some of our cheap meals have fallen by the wayside as time went on, but the pizza one and this one are still among our favorites and star on our dinner table almost every week. Now that winter is approaching, warm stews are particularly welcome.
Even with the recent rise in food costs, this meal costs us less than ten shekels for a pot of hearty vegetarian chili that serves 4-5 people – even including the cheese we sprinkle over our bowls.
2 cups of cooked red beans with the liquid (see below for how to prepare from dried* or use one can)
3 large tomatoes or 4-5 smaller ones
1 large bell pepper (preferably not green)
1 medium-large onion
About 80 grams of tomato paste (or one tiny tub)
¼ cup water if needed (depends how watery your beans are)
A little oil for the pot
A generous shake of granulated garlic
About half a Tbsp of oregano
About half Tbsp of cumin
salt according to your taste
chili flakes (or a chili pepper) also according to your preference
What to do with them:
Put some oil on the bottom of a medium sized pot and let it get hot. Dice the vegetables starting with the onion, throw them in and poke them around occasionally. After letting them get soft, add the tomato paste, spices and beans. If you are worried about anything sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning, add a little water. After it hits boiling, let it stew on low for about an hour. If you want, serve with bread, tortillas or leftover pasta from your fridge. For garnish we like to put some shredded cheese on top when serving. B’teavon!
* How to prepare dried red beans
We buy dried red beans (שעועית אדומה) for 10 shekels/kilo. We’ve seen bags for up to 15-16 shekels at other supermarkets – still an excellent deal considering how many meals you get out of it! We prepare a kilo at a time and freeze with the liquid in 2 cup portions. One kilo of dried red beans makes 5-6 pots of chili.
Pour the bag of dry beans into a big pot or bowl and cover with enough water to let the beans double in size and still be covered – at least 15-20 cm over the top of the dried beans. Let it sit for 10-12 hours (overnight or while at work). Drain the water and replace it (cuts down on tummy issues) and boil in a regular pot for about 2 hours or in a crock pot or instant pot for whatever the instructions tell you to do. Separate into 2 cup servings (or whatever you choose) and freeze immersed in the liquid. While it’s a bit of work, we only do this every 6-8 weeks or so and definitely find the savings and taste worth it.
Our falafel recipe is another incredibly low cost legume based dinner that we prepare in bulk. We’ll share it in a future post.
What are your go to low cost dinners? Do you ever prepare them in bulk in advance?
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