When Mr. Crumbs and I lived in Texas, we ate Tex-Mex all.the.time. We would split a single order of beef and chicken fajitas and with the never ending bowls of chips and salsa, we ate until our bellies literally held no more food – all for under $12.
And that INCLUDED tip.
Nowadays with food prices going up and living on the West coast, dinner doesn’t come by as cheap anymore. Also, there’s no such thing as “Tex-Mex” in California. With FIVE taquerias on the one mile main street in our tiny beach town, we officially live in the land of tacos.
It took us a little bit to warm up to the idea of tacos instead of fajitas, but we’ve come to enjoy the different flavors that the various shops have to offer. In fact, we now have taco night at home at least a couple times a month and use the local restaurants as inspiration for flavor and taco combinations.
While tacos are relatively cheap in California (about $1.40 for one), you know as well as I do that it doesn’t take long for the price to quickly add up for a family of four.
Taco nights at home are extremely affordable, and you can even serve meat!
Here are three simple ways to have affordable taco nights at home:
1. Offer several taco options.
You could easily call taco night “clean out the fridge and stick it in a tortilla night” since that’s often how we determine what’s being served, but if you plan ahead – just a little bit – you could really knock this meal out of the park. In fact, we often serve tacos to guests and it’s great, every time!
Note: As a clear out the fridge kind of meal, tacos work great when you are trying to stretch the budget just a bit at the end of the month. Learn more ideas on how to make your budget work for real food in Grocery Budget Bootcamp!
For a family of four, start by offering at least two fillings to go inside the tacos. Serve at least three fillings for groups of six or more. Some ideas include:
- coconut rice
- mexi lentils
- ground beef
- chopped steak
- shredded or chopped chicken
- carnitas (shredded pork)
- grilled fish
Next, offer two or three different relishes to also go inside the taco.
- southwestern corn
- sauteed onions and zucchini
- sauteed onions and bell peppers (fajita style)
- black beans
- refried beans
- cabbage slaw
Then, offer a few different types of salsa.
Finally, serve a few traditional (and non-traditional) toppings for every one to top their tacos with.
- sour cream
- shredded cheese
- fresh cilantro
- fresh tomato wedges
- lime wedges
- chopped olives
- bacon pieces
- shredded lettuce
- lime crema
2. Serve everything in their own dish, pre-measured before dinner.
I learned this trick early on in our frugal adventures: If you bring an entire chicken to the table, the entire chicken will get eaten. So then, don’t bring the whole chicken. When food on the table is pre-measured, people are less likely to take as much.
I’m not saying skimp out on the food by any means, but I am saying to be conservative with your feeding efforts. Usually 1-1/2 cups of each dish you’re serving (including the relishes, salsa and toppings) is more than sufficient.
Taco night is a lot like Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving, the table is filled with so much good food that you only take a tiny bit in order be able to try it all, right? Tacos are the same. You can only fit so much food inside a tortilla at one time. If someone wants to put rice, beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, lettuce AND chicken in their taco, they’ll only take a little bit of each.
PS – It’s perfectly okay to cook extra chicken and leave it in the kitchen. Just in case someone is extra hungry.
3. Make your own tortillas.
Yes, homemade tortillas take a little bit of work. However, it is well worth the effort! Tortillas are one of those foods that are expensive to buy, yet incredibly inexpensive to make. One batch of corn tortillas costs only 25¢ and a batch of flour tortillas costs 50¢.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
It’s easily a toss up between corn tortillas and flour tortillas. We like to mix it up between the two, giving us even more variety to our tacos. You can find our favorite flour tortillas here.
- 1½ cups corn masa flour
- scant ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup warm water, plus extra as needed
- Preheat a griddle to 400F.
- Combine masa, salt and water in a large bowl.
- Using your hands, knead the mixture into a dough whose texture resembles play-dough. If necessary, add water to the mixture by wetting your hands and kneading. If you add water directly to the mixture it might become too wet and you will either have to let it sit to dry (approx 5-10 minutes) or add more masa.
- Pinch of a small portion of dough and roll into a ball, 1-2" in diameter. Place in a tortilla press and press into a 6" round tortilla. (You may use a rolling pin or a glass jar if desired.)
- Cook on the griddle for 1 minute. Flip and cook again for 1 more minute.
- Remove from the heat and keep covered. Serve warm.
Additional Tips to Make Taco Night a Success:
- Serve a simple side salad or a vegetable to stretch taco fillings even more.
- Taco night is ideal for serving small amounts of leftover meat, so freeze and save even the smallest amounts!
- Fresh ingredients taste better, so aim for fresh produce whenever possible.
The best part about taco night is leftovers: Simply divide whatever is left evenly into two or three containers (depending on how much food you started with) and you’re done!
Pair your tortillas for Mexican night with any of these dishes: