Tonight I decided to put something we make all the time to the test. Is it really better and cheaper to make your own chili?
I've often heard the argument that eating homemade, healthy meals is more expensive than eating out. In fact, one of the criticisms I've read against creating and following a meal plan is that it's too expensive and takes too much time. But the last time I took my family to McDonalds for dinner- on the road on our way home from summer vacation- we paid over $20 for a very basic meal- drinks, burgers, happy meals for the kids.
From start of cooking dinner to finish I spent 22 minutes. To pick up my chili from Tim Hortons, I ran out in the rain to my car, drove across town, noted the line in the drive-through and parked to run inside instead. I only had to wait about a minute to be served, and then another minute or so to get my order. Ran back to the car, drove back across town, waited at 2 lights, and ran back into the house. All told, 18 minutes. So basically equal in time, though if I had hit the dinner rush it would have easily doubled the time spent away.
My chili cup from Timmy's was 284mL. It included a white bun.
I grabbed a nutritional information brochure while I was there so I could breakdown and compare with my chili. Are you ready?
Mine vs. Tim Hortons
Calories: 303 vs 290
Fat: 10 vs 16
(Trans 1 vs 0, Saturated 4 vs 7)
Cholesteral 44mg vs 60mg
Carbohydrates 33g vs 20
Fiber 7g vs 5g
Protein 22g vs 18g
Sugars 9g vs 5g
Sodium 979mg vs 1180mg
Iron 25% vs 25%
Vitamin A 11% vs 7%
Vitamin C 14% vs 10%
Calcium 9% vs 8%
Visually, the chili looked completely different. It was much more watery, and had lots of rehydrated vegetables in it. My chili is pretty basic (see the recipe here), in fact it was less complete than usual as I skipped the chia, corn and black beans. The nutritional information above is using my modified recipe from today.
The taste of the chili was vastly different as well. Husband loved how "meaty" it tasted when compared to mine. Mine was a bit sweet, which I agree it is, especially when compared to Timmy's. My guess is a lot of beef boullion is added to theirs for additional flavour, which would help account for the extra sodium. Although I rarely use processed shortcuts when cooking, I do use canned tomato soup in both my chili and my meat sauce and pasta, which does have glucose/fructose in it. That likely accounts for the difference in sugars.
The difference in cost is where the benefit is very obvious: including the bun, $1.78 per serving
1 Serving of Tim Hortons Chili= $4.50 (including bun)
Mine: $1.63 (+ .15 for a bun) = $1.78
Ground Beef 5.78
Spices 1 (generous guesswork)
Kidney Beans 1.27
Campbells Soup .50
Tomato Paste .88
If all four of us had gone to Tim's for dinner, even if we just had the chili and bun, it would have been $18. But let's be realistic. When in Rome...or Tim Hortons...we would each have had a beverage and possibly dessert as well. Here at home we drank orange juice (to help absorb the iron, at $1.66 per jug) with our meal. No more food was needed, because that 287mL (which works out to 1 c. plus about 2 tbsp) was plenty of food. I'm still full, and it's almost 3 hrs later.
Not only that, but this recipe made 6 servings. 6! So there are leftovers in the fridge waiting for us to eat tomorrow, and my first son is very happy about that because it means he gets a hot lunch at school on a very rainy day.
I wanted to share an interesting article with you about this misconception that healthier = too expensive. Read it here.
Here's a picture of all you need to make a great pot of chili. Let me know your thoughts!