How to Make a Fast Pot of Chili & Chili Seasoning

Are you rushed for time? Frustrated trying to get dinner on the table? This series will show you how to make your own convenience food using healthier ingredients for less money. Part One shows you how to make a fast pot of chili and chili seasoning.

What do you cook for dinner when you're in a hurry and everyone is hungry?

"Hangry" is a real thing in my house... and I'm usually the guilty party. I'm often so wrapped up in a project that I forget it's nearly dinner time. I forget to take something out of the freezer in the morning. 

When our children were teens, we were often at sports practices in the afternoon and didn't get home in time to cook a good meal from scratch.

In other words, it's usually due to a lack of planning on my part.

I tried meal planning, but the Chief likes to change his mind at the last minute. If I've planned stew for dinner, he might want something else instead or even suggest eating out so we can go run some errands in the afternoon or evening.

And then there were those evenings when I realized I didn't thaw the necessary ingredients to make the planned meal.

Over the years I learned how to make some of my own "convenience food" so that we could still eat healthy even if time was short. And, yes, I've become a better planner too. (I still have to deal with the Chief's impulsive nature though. I do love his impulsiveness - most of the time.)

Are you in a similar situation? Whether it's trying to get a meal on the table after work, or you worked on a project all day and now you're too tired to stand in front of the stove, or you forgot to take something out of the freezer to thaw, I hope some of the following tips will help you make your own convenience food, as well as have a few back-up ideas on hand for quick-and-easy meals.

How to make chili fast

I can almost always find the ingredients for a fast pot of chili in my cupboard and freezer. True, the best chili made with fresh chunks of beef is cooked all day long, but it's also possible to throw some simple ingredients in a large saucepan and have a hearty meal on the table in almost no time.

Here's what you need to make a fast pot of chili:

A can of kidney beans (or a pint jar of home-canned beans)
A can of diced tomatoes (or a pint jar of home-canned tomatoes)
A handful of frozen or canned corn (optional)
A pound of ground beef
A packet of chili seasoning (keep reading for my recipe and more tips!)

Brown the ground beef and drain it, then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about ten minutes. Serve over rice with shredded cheese on top. Corn muffins and a salad are a great addition to this meal.

Chili-making time savers

To make this quick meal in even less time, brown several pounds of ground beef at a time, package it in one-pound portions and freeze it. A fast way to brown a quantity of ground beef is to boil it instead of frying it. Here's how to boil ground beef and why you should.

If your cooked ground beef is frozen, it will thaw very quickly in the chili pot. The trick is to freeze the cooked beef in a freezer bag that's placed flat on the freezer shelf.

This flat layer of frozen beef will thaw more quickly than a big, fat rock of frozen hamburger. Just open the package and drop it in the chili pot. Break it up with your spatula as the other ingredients heat up and the beef thaws.

How to make a fast pot of chili and get dinner on the table in no time.

For an even-faster thaw, remove the frozen ground beef from the freezer bag, put it in a strainer and run hot water over it.

It's also possible to pressure-can ground beef so you can store it on your pantry shelves. You can brown it before canning, or just add it to the jar raw and can it. It will cook during the canning process.

Make your own seasoning packets

You know those pouches of chili seasoning, taco seasoning and so on that you buy in the grocery store's spice aisle?

Did you know you can make your own seasoning packets for pennies compared to the store-bought price? Plus you're controlling the ingredients, leaving out the preservatives, additives, and the excess salt that are in those premade packets.

Yes, it takes a few minutes to measure all the spices. But here's the trick: when you make chili tonight, measure out more than one "batch" of the ingredients.

It will take a few more minutes tonight, but the next several times you make chili you will save time. And you already have the spice jars and the measuring spoons out, so that's time you're definitely saving too.

I save empty spice jars for this purpose. Each batch of chili seasoning goes in a jar, labeled simply with a sticky note held on with a rubber band. (Do be sure to label them somehow. Chili seasoning and taco seasoning aren't interchangeable in recipes!)

If you don't have empty seasoning jars, use sandwich bags. Or wrap up each batch of seasoning in a foil pouch. Whatever works for you.

Line up your little jars on the counter with the lids off. Use a funnel to pour the measured spices into the jars without mess or waste.

Start on the left end of the line of jars and add the cayenne pepper to each one, then go back to the first jar and add the paprika, repeating for each spice. OR add all of the measured spices to the first jar, put the lid on, and then measure all the spices into the second jar.

The following recipe for chili seasoning is one that I've adapted over several years to suit my family's taste buds. Whether you try this recipe or use your own favorite, make several at a time to save time later.

Chili Seasoning
Add to one pot of chili

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1 1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt*
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano
pinch of cumin
1 Tbsp cornmeal or flour to thicken the chili a bit

* You can use table salt instead, but Himalayan pink salt or sea salt is so much tastier and healthier for your family. It really does taste saltier than table salt.

How to stock your pantry with convenience food

One can each of diced tomatoes, kidney beans and corn, a packet or jar of your homemade chili seasoning, and a pound of browned ground beef (frozen or pressure-canned) will yield a quick meal of chili for your family.

Those boxes of processed convenience food in the grocery store are just pre-measured ingredients. all packaged up with directions - you just add the meat. So let's make our own "hamburger starter". Put all the ingredients in a large plastic bag or other container on your pantry shelf (well, except the frozen beef of course), and you're ready for a fast meal on a busy day.

Making your own convenience food

Part Two of this series explains how to turn sloppy joes into convenience food. You'll discover how to make sloppy joes easily in your slow-cooker for a hands-off dinner and learn some make-ahead tips too.

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Are you rushed for time? Frustrated trying to get dinner on the table? This series will show you how to make your own convenience food using healthier ingredients for less money. Part One shows you how to make your own chili seasoning AND save time. #recipe #fromscratch #frugal

Are you rushed for time? Is it hard to get dinner on the table? This series will show you how to make your own convenience food using healthier ingredients for less money. Part One shows you how to make a fast pot of chili and chili seasoning. #recipe #conveniencefood #frugal

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