I am guilty of depriving my family of homemade tacos. I know, that’s kinda bad because we all love them. I don’t want to sound whiny, but I don’t like stuffing each taco with meat, then cutting up ingredients, and having to tediously put them in each little shell. I don’t mind too bad on a Sunday afternoon sometimes, but after a long day at work, I need to be able to throw quick things together.
I thought having a taco bar so my family could serve themselves would fix this, but somehow that leaves me lots of little bowls to wash. Another issue I would have… one or two people may get most of one ingredient leaving whoever eats last, usually myself, with not much of a taco😬. Oh, and I don’t dare put the taco sauce on the table if there isn’t a lot left in the bottle…..We will talk more about that later. Am I the only one that has these issues?
In comes the quick, weeknight taco bake☺️. I wish I could say that there is a real recipe for this but there just isn’t. I start by putting crushed tortilla hard shells, tortilla chips, soft shells, or even corn chips on the bottom of a baking dish. If you use soft shells, you will have to cut them into bite size pieces or they are difficult to serve…yet still delicious☺️.
Also, sometimes I may only have a small amount of crumbs that are left in the bottom of a tortilla chip bag to use, and that’s ok. You could just use more veggies and meat later on. to make up the difference. This is very versatile, so I just use what I have☺️. Today, I used crushed tortilla chips from my Kroger free Friday download. Check into that if you have a Kroger or affiliate store nearby.
Then you need a protein. Having your protein precooked would be even quicker. I have a good bit of ground beef in the freezer, so I am using that. I have left off the meat sometimes and simply used beans..yep…still good. Shredded chicken or pork is also delicious. Sometime, I plan to try fish for a take on a fish taco…doesn’t that sound interesting?
Once you cook your meat then drain, or heat up beans if need be, then you basically just add in the extras. Today, I used 3 tsp of canned corn, a half a diced bell pepper, and a small onion. I like to cook my ground beef first before I add in the other ingredients. It just taste more fresh this way☺️. I also added 1/2 of a taco seasoning packet and water. You can make this seasoning easily at home, but I am currently out of a few things. Some of these packets have a lot of sodium in them. I have found that 1/2 the packet still gives lots of flavor. Also, I some left for another time.
Frugal drip#1 When you are buying produce and the price says “per count” or “per unit”..buy the biggest one available. You will get more for your money. This bell pepper was 59 cents per count…can you guess which one I chose? The onion I bought was 89 cents per pound, which is regular price, so I got the smallest one since it will be weighed at the register. If onions were on sale, and if I had another meal plan with an onion coming up, I might have chose a bigger one.
Ok, now pour the meat(or bean) mixture over the top of the tortilla layer.
Frugal drip#2 If I don’t have a lot of meat in the mixture, this is a great time to add some canned beans, or even refried beans, over the top of the meat. It makes the dish filling and seems as if there is more meat.This is a great way to gradually reduce the meat in your diet and save some money☺️….Told ya healthy is frugal!
The last step before putting in the oven is topping all this with cheese. I usually sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese, reserving a couple teaspoons to put on top at the end. I like to use sharp cheddar, but honestly, I could see most any melty cheese working pretty well here.
Bake at 350 until cheese is melted and bubbly.
I didn’t have a lot of taco sauce and with the few ingredients in this dish, it really needs a sauce. I am making a some out of some taco sauce left in a jar, a Taco Bell sauce packet, a squirt of ketchup, and a little water. I mixed all this together and it tastes very good! Sometimes I have added lime juice or a little sprinkle of taco seasoning for more flavor.
If you don’t have a lot of sauce, dressing, condiment, etc. it’s best to serve it over the whole salad, casserole, etc. …as opposed to self serve. This way, everybody gets a little of the yummy goodness. Remember my taco story from above🙄
This is where you get to be even more creative. I have added a healthy couple of handfuls of fresh chopped lettuce and the reserved cheese after baking. If I had some tomatoes on hand, I would have added those. Fresh onion, olives, jalapeños, even cilantro would be be nice. Whatever you love on tacos would be great here. Diced avocado comes to mind….yum!
Last, drizzle the whole thing with taco sauce and serve immediately. The lettuce will get limp and warm after while…….which I would still totally eat☺️. A spoonful of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt would be delicious over top.
Now, I know this is basically a glorified taco salad. Something about baking this dish for a bit, brings all the flavors together and elevates it…Frugaldribble is no chef, but do you like how I threw that chef-ee word in there?
To me, substituting ingredients is one of the best kitchen skills I can think of and it was the main reason for this post. Being versatile is key to being a frugal cook, I think.
Here’s the breakdown:
Tortilla chips- Free from Kroger’s free Friday downloads!
Lettuce- 1/2 head so $.50
Corn-maybe 10 cents, I only used maybe 3 tsp from a can that cost $.48
Taco Seasoning Packet- I used 1/2, so $.25
Bell pepper-1/2 of a $.59 pepper, so $.30
Onion- $.89 per pound so I am going to say this was approx $.30
Cheese- 1/2 of a $.99 bag, so $.50
Taco sauce- hmm, this is hard to calculate.. maybe $.10
Total= $3.83 for my family of four. I think that’s pretty good☺️. That’s only $.96 per person for a delicious, pretty healthy, meal.
Just a few more thoughts:
What I consider to be necessary ingredients in this dish are chips/tortilla of some sort, taco seasoning, cheese, fresh veggies, and taco sauce. The rest could be variable.
Also, can I say that I love that little bit of corn in there? That small amount of crunchy sweetness gives it something special☺️.
What are your favorite substitutions? Have you made something like this before? Do you enjoy these recipe posts? Tell me what’s on your mind.