Bargain Meal, Budget Cooking, Cheap Shopping and Cooking, Chili Casserole, Frugal Cooking, Frugal Hausfrau, ground beef casserole, Mexican Casseroles, Southwestern Casserole, Taco Casserole, Taco Night Casserole, tortilla chips
Here is a recipe I found on a website that allowed for a search by price option. Under the three dollar range, I came up with their one dish version of “Taco Night.” Their recipe makes six servings, each $2.25 for a total cost of $13.50. Mine comes in at a cost of $3.76 total for the whole casserole. See, it’s not always about what you make – it’s usually about how your shop.
Taco Night intrigued me – it’s quick and easy and I knew my teenager would like it, so I adapted it and made it. My cost was $.63 per serving, for a total of $3.76 each. (That’s right, for that price, I made two, one to serve and one to freeze, maximizing my work time. And my cost includes the storage bags.)
Another thing I like about this casserole is that it includes 4.3 oz of vegetables (not including the beans) per serving in a flavor profile my son already likes. (Teenagers are worse than toddlers when it comes to veggies!) Be sure to read my “money saving strategies” before buying the ingredients. This is a big, hearty dish and it’s a snap to make.
Recipe: Taco Night Casserole, servings: 6
- 1 lb of ground beef or turkey (or ground beef)
- 1 pkg of McCormick’s taco seasoning (or substitute mine, see below)
- 16 oz can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or substitute dried, already cooked, about 1 1/2 cups)
- 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
- 1 can (11oz) Mexican style or regular corn
- 1 cup of shredded cheese
- 1 cup of coarsely crushed tortilla chips
Directions: Preheat oven to 400. Brown meat in large skillet over med. high heat. Drain. Stir in seasoning mix, beans, tomato sauce and corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer five minutes. Put into a 2 quart casserole, sprinkle with cheese and tortillas and bake 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with toppings such as lettuce and sour cream if desired.
Note: If you’ve doubled the recipe as I did, reserve 1/2 of the meat/bean/tomato mixture before putting it in to the casserole. Get a large ziploc freezer bag (8 cents) label it ”Taco Night” with the date. Just under the name, write: Thaw, place in 2 qt casserole, top with 1 cup shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips, bake at 400 for five to 10 minutes. It’s much easier to label with a flat bag and clean hands! Let the other half of mixture cool enough so you won’t melt the bag, spoon into ziploc.
In two smaller ziplocs, (3 cents) place the cheese and the chips. Best to label them cheese for Taco Night and chips for Taco Night just in case they get separated. Put the cheese bag inside the tortilla bag to keep them together. Take a smidge of freezer tape and tape the tortilla bag to the Taco Night bag. (Or you could put both together into one large bag, but it’s not as cost-effective.) Freeze promptly. Normally, I wouldn’t freeze tortilla chips, for fear the texture might be off, but a 400 degree oven should crisp them right up. This also ensures, too, that I have them on hand and don’t have to run to the store when I want to bake the casserole. You should be able to keep this frozen for 2 to 3 months. After that time, you may notice a decrease in the quality of the product, although it will still be safe to eat. (FDA guidelines.)
Money Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
- Meat: I had 2 lbs in the freezer, bought at $.99 per lb for a total of $1.88, portioned into one pound bags. The last of the special from around Christmas of last year. Sometimes during the holidays, you get great meat items, not only on the expected hams, turkeys and roasts, but also briskets and some of the more generic items the stores want to keep moving so they have room for all of the above!
- Seasoning: I made my own, sorry McCormick’s. I usually buy in the bulk aisle unless I have a coupon. $.40. I make this in batches and put in a glass jar, labeled of course, with directions 3 T to 1 lb meat. Here’s the recipe I use for Taco Seasoning.
- Beans: I had a lb of dried pintos, $.99, soaked them overnight. I cooked them for about an hour before proceeding with the recipe. Sometimes when I’m watching a movie or hanging around the house, I’ll just cook up some to have on hand in the freezer and portion them out to 1 1/2 cups per ziplock, or the equivalent of a 15 oz can. You’ll about get three of these 1 1/2 cup bags per pound. I froze one for later use, with a little of the cooking liquid so they don’t dry in the freezer air. My beans cost $.66 for this recipe.
- Tomato Sauce: Mine was .98 on special for 28 oz, and I was upset that I forgot to give the store my $.40 coupon for three which would have been doubled. Oh, well, easy come, easy go. Add a tad bit of water if it looks too thick, since we’re shorting the tomato sauce by two ounces, but mine was fine. Total $1.96.
- Corn: Mine was on sale for $.33 a few weeks ago, so 2 cans $.66. For plain eating, I prefer fresh in season or frozen, but for a casserole, I think canned is fine.
- Tortilla Chips: Mine were on sale for $1.88 for a 13 oz package. 1 cup is 2 oz, I need four, saving 9 oz for my teenage son to have, oh, I don’t know for breakfast or something. He eats at the oddest hours. Look for items like chips on sale, especially around holidays. I always say, never pay full price for junk – it tends to help it become “self” limiting that way. My portion comes to $.58 cents.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 539 Calories; 23g Fat (38.5% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 14g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 1063mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 3 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 3 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Your Own Spin:
Try leaving off the chips, throwing it in the crock pot with cheese on top and using it as a dip with the chips on the side at a casual party.
For this amount of protein, you could probably cut down on the amount of hamburger and up the amount of beans to make it even a little bit more economical. My daughter suggested cutting the hamburger by adding in a little oatmeal or tvp. You could certainly dress it up by adding some onion, maybe some green chile, and possibly a little more cheese. You might want to serve this with a salad, just to up the vegetation of the meal, we like avocado and salsa and a dap of sour cream.
My PayOff: The nicest part of all this is that I now have a cost effective dinner tonight, leftovers for later in the week, a nutritious convenience food in my freezer ready to go in a few minutes, and the equivalent of a can of pintos, additive free, in my freezer to use in another meal. I’m thinking minnestrone.
Oh yes, I also have an extra $9.74 in my pocket and just a little hint of smug satisfaction…of course, if I would have remembered my coupon at the store, it would have been $10.92 in savings, and I would probably be so smugly satisfied I’d be impossible to live with.
I made this recipe in March of 2010.
- Tortilla Bake Recipe – SoyConnection.com (soyconnection.com)
- Guest Post – Main Dish Monday! Taco Casserole! (my-imperfect-kitchen.com)
- Mexican Chicken Casserole…How do you say that in Spanish? (glutenfreemedley.wordpress.com)
- Taco Salad Bar (theheartyherbivore.wordpress.com)