Chili Verde: 85 cents a serving

When I was checking out the marked down beef bones I used to make beef broth, I spotted some pork marked down as well. I picked up one pork shoulder steak (boneless) for .73 and it weighed about a pound. I also saw some “pork stew meat” for $1.73 which was also about a pound. Both of these were originally $2 more but had $2 off coupons so for less than $2.50 I picked up 2 pounds of pork for chili verde. I know in other parts of the country meat is regularly on sale for much cheaper than I can find it conveniently in the suburbs where I live (in the SF Bay Area).

Oh, I had been worried about my pots, since I had one simmering beef broth and the other big one with the pinto beans in it. I remembered my deep covered non-stick skillet and used that and it was perfect.

Chili Verde

  • 1 Tbs oil
  • 2 pounds pork, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 7 ounce can diced green chilies
  • 1 14.5 ounce can tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup water
  • salt to taste, garlic salt would be good too
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch plus 2 Tbs water
  1. Cube the pork into 1" or so cubes and brown in the oil.
  2. Add the onions and cook a few minutes, stirring.
  3. Add the chilies, tomatoes (undrained), garlic, and water.
  4. Bring to a simmer, cover partially and cook 2-3 hours. Add more water if necessary and stir periodically.
  5. When you're ready to serve, mix the cornstarch and water, then stir into the chili and simmer a few minutes to thicken.


I served this with pinto beans and flour tortillas. I did the pinto beans a bit differently though, adding a tablespoon of bacon grease instead of the salt pork. Came out great, as always! I debated about adding a can of tomato sauce, but decided simpler was better as a side for the chili verde.

The girls wrinkled their noses a bit when they saw dinner. Chili verde was an unknown and kids just don’t generally like stuff all “mushed together” I think. But the younger one wrapped the pork in a tortilla, took a bite, looked at me and said “Mom, this is really good! Can I take some for lunch tomorrow?” The other took a few more minutes of looking at it and watching her sister. Then she had to get up and grate some cheese to go with it and get some sour cream. She put the pork, the cheese, and some sour cream and rolled it all up. Took a bite. Took another bite. And another. “So?” I said. “Uh, yeah, this is really good!” The only disappointment for them turned out to be that I didn’t fry and mash up the beans for refried beans. Next time.

I want to try to start calculating costs for some meals. The magazines and “news media” seem to think $1/serving is unheard of, but I swear we can do better than that pretty easily.

$2.46 pork
.33 onion
1.19 tomatoes (frequently on sale for less but I don’t have a record so I used the store price)
1.00 green chilies (probably on sale for less periodically)
.10 garlic? (.50 a head right now)

I think this would serve us more than twice so I’ll count it as 6 servings, making it .85 a serving for some great food! I’m not counting the cost of cornstarch or salt. Garlic I usually grow myself but I estimated it here. Flour tortillas would add another 15 cents per serving, but I personally found the chili verde just as good on top of the pinto beans–or you could make the flour tortillas for far less of course. I’ve done them before.

And the beans… 99 cents a bag or cheaper if you buy 2 pounds at once. Bacon grease is free if you cook bacon otherwise add a bit for some salt pork. Chili powder I buy at the warehouse store and don’t have the price handy. Another 33 cents for the onion. Probably 6-8 servings so 22 cents or so. Compare that to a can at $.75 (cheapest price I’ve found) to $1.79with perhaps 3 servings so actually if you can find them on sale and don’t want to go to the trouble, the canned ones are a pretty good deal! Dry beans are, of course, cheaper, but canned ones are pretty darn close and much more convenient.

One thing I discovered a long time ago was to check the “ethnic” sections for spices and such, by the way. The price difference is amazing for stuff like cinnamon, bay leaves, chili powder and the like. So if you don’t have access to a warehouse store, check the local ethnic groceries or the ethnic sections of your regular supermarket.

Addendum: I hadn’t actually looked at the $40/day book I had seen referenced, but it is about eating out for that much, which makes me feel a bit better. However, the local papers here did a “budget cooking” article a while back using $100 for 4 days, dinners only, to feed 4 adults.

Addendum 2: We’ve now had 7 servings of this (2 dinners for 3 of us plus 1 lunch for me). I froze part of it already and still have at least 1 more serving in the frig.



  1. cheap eats says:

    hey that is so cool that you posted about Chili Verde! I make this meal quite a bit, actually very similar to the way you do as well. Yeah, I find that it’s a pretty cheap meal to make as long as you get a good deal on pork. I pick up pork shoulder en masse at Costco and then freeze individual portions of 3-4 slices. That way I can have chili verde whenever I want! Some ppl don’t like the “smell” of the pork but it doesn’t bother me a bit…

    also good to see you started doing a breakdown of price. I’ve been doing that for cheap eats. It’s pretty tough actually to figure out how much a tablespoon of mayo is for example. But yeah, i think more food blogs should focus on the bottom line this way!

  2. Jensgalore says:

    Anyone who would consider $40/day to be anything other than astronomical is beyond insane! 😀 I spend about $100/week at the grocery store for my family of five, and that includes diapers and pullups. I make a point of stocking up when I find things on sale, which helps, because once you’ve got enough backlog you can just concentrate on buying what’s on sale every week. The only things I wind up having to pay full price for usually are fresh fruits, veggies, dairy and meats. I try to buy those items only on sale, but can’t always do that.


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