One of my favorite books is The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. I read it all the time and it has been the inspiration to so many of my changes!
I've always known that homemade from scratch is the most economical way to cook - I was raised this way so I didn't have to be sold on that idea.
I was ultra-inspired to find this research for homemade chili... I can make homemade chili, using my canned tomatoes, dried beans and TVP for .07/cup! This is the most economical way to go with Wendy's costing .99/cup at the time this was written, canned chili = .53/cup, Homemade with dried beans and hamburger = .27/cup and dumpster diving for canned chili being free.
Here is the recipe I go by, using whatever beans I have in the pantry. I am sure mine costs a little more as I use organic but I am going to stick with these costs for your benefit:
1 chopped up onion
2 cups TVP
3 cups pinto beans, dried
1 cup black beans, dried
1 cup navy beans, dried
1 cup kidney beans, dried
salt & pepper to taste
2 quarts home-canned tomatoes
Boil all the beans and TVP all day. Half-way through the day, add everything else and cook until beans are tender. Be sure to watch the water level so the beans are able to cook. Once they are tender, turn the temp down and allow the flavors to meld.
This makes a HUGE batch and you can then freeze into smaller portions to use on baked potatoes, nachos or for lunch time.
Using The Frugal Zealot's numbers, if this takes me an hour to make, I will make $10/hr tax free, for my time. My guess is I make a lot more since it didn't take me an hour. Win-Win situation.