|Seasoned black bean, olive, cheese, lettuce and salsa tacos|
We eat tacos about once a week in our house. I use corn tortillas to make my own shells. I buy 72-count packages of corn tortillas (Cash & Carry, the ethnic market and Win Co all carry the large packages of corn tortillas), for $2.18, or about 3 cents per tortilla. The best price I ever find on pre-made taco shells in a regular supermarket, is in boxes of 10 for $1, on dollar sales, or 10 cents each. (Cash & Carry also sells cases of 200 taco shells, for $14-something a case, or 7 cents each shell. I did buy these once. They were a convenience, and would consider buying them again, for convenience.)
4 cents per shell for homemade, compared to 10 cents per shell in a box
The most oil I might possibly use when frying tacos is about 4 ounces per batch of 10-12 tacos, or 7 1/2 cents worth of oil for a batch. That works out to less 2/3 of a cent per taco, bringing my cost per taco up to 3 and 2/3 cents per shell. If you throw in natural gas for the stove (at about a penny for 30 minutes, total for all 12 tacos), I'm just short of 4 cents per shell, still less than half of my best supermarket price per shell. (And even if I underestimate my oil use, and if I double the oil cost, it's still under 4 and 1/2 cents per taco shell. But I do think it's around 4 ounces, or 1/2 cup for the whole batch.)
If I'm making on average 11 tacos per week, frying the corn tortillas myself, I'm saving 66 cents on taco shells each week, or $34.32 per year, over buying a 10-ct box of pre-made shells, each week, for $1 at the grocery store.
Keeping the corn tortillas from cracking when I fold them
The only problem with frying packaged corn tortillas is they seem to split when you fold them in half. There's a way around that, though. Here's how I fry my taco shells.
(If you've ever had a Jack-in-the-Box cheap taco (they used to be 2/$1, a few years ago), then you have an idea of how I make mine. I fry the tacos with the beans/meat/rice inside, then add cold fillings, like cheese and lettuce.)
|The shell to the left is the one I'm softening, so it won't crack at the fold. |
The one on the right is a filled taco frying.
To start, I put some oil into a skillet and heat over Medium. When the oil is hot, I take a flat, corn tortilla, and pinch two opposite edges, loosely. I hold the tortilla so the bottom of the fold, only, is in the oil. I hold here for 60 seconds. This softens the tortilla and makes the fold flexible so it won't crack.
Then I remove the tortilla from the oil, fill with my beans/rice and or meat, and return to the oil, to fry on each side. There's enough room in the skillet for me to be frying one taco, while I softening the next taco shell to be filled. It all goes very quickly, taking about 30 minutes of frying time for 12 tacos.
(I could halve the time spent by using a large skillet, and frying 2 tacos at a time. But you know -- a creature of habit; been doing this since my single days and only frying 1 taco for myself.)
Anyways, when I'm looking to cut grocery costs, I break down the price on different menu items, including all expenses to make the item, and compare to my available options.
Frying your own taco shells might not be as advantageous for you, as you may pay more for tortillas and/or oil than I do. Or maybe you do a lot of couponing, and can buy ready-made shells for what my cost is in making them. You would have to do the cost comparison with your own prices for the tortillas, oil and energy used by your stove.
Sometimes, I do one of these cost breakdowns and I find making a food from scratch is not the most economical. Making my own tomato paste from store-bought tomatoes was one item that was more costly to make than to buy. It's worth it to do the calculations, so I can make informed choices.
FYI -- we rarely have meat-filled tacos. Most of the time I use refried beans, leftover beans and rice, or as in these tacos, seasoned black beans with olives. Then I add cheese, lettuce, tomatoes (if we have any) and salsa. Our tacos this last week cost about 85 cents for 10 tacos -- a bargain supper.