Three-Bean Chili
Save Money; Plan Ahead

Make your dollar stretch further by planning your meals a week in advance. Knowing what you'll be cooking ahead of time means you can take one weekly trip to the store (which equals fuel cost savings). But most importantly, you can plan ahead for how to use up any leftover ingredients to ensure nothing goes to waste.

If there's one thing that's cheap, filling and exceptionally healthy it's beans. They come in all different shapes and sizes, and they truly shine in a spicy dish like chili.

Just grab a few cans of red kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and you're off to a good start. (Dried beans will cost even less and have far less sodium, but they do require soaking -- overnight is best, but a few hours will do, also -- and take longer to cook.) You can swap out any of the beans if you prefer a different variety -- navy beans or pinto beans are always a good choice.

Add in whatever peppers you like -- bell peppers for a mild flavor, jalapenos for a little kick -- and some corn, onions, tomatoes and carrots. You can use vegetable or chicken broth as the base, but a giant jar of salsa also makes a flavorful, thick base and eliminates the need for diced tomatoes. Season with cumin, chili powder and any other spices you like. Let it simmer in a slow cooker all day or cook it up to a half an hour before mealtime and you've got a hearty, filling meal that doesn't break the bank.

Can't go a day without eating meat? It's easy to "de-vegetarianize" this meal by adding ground beef or ground turkey -- both of which are inexpensive.