Taco Night Casserole

Taco Night Casserole. $3.76

What can I say about this casserole? All the appeal of tacos combined with a nacho like topping, hearty, with vegetables and added fiber from the beans? I tried it, thinking my teenager would like it. I was wrong, he loved it. A little salsa, a few slices of avocado and a dab of sour cream add a freshness to this substantial meal.

Taco Night Casserole
Taco Night Casserole

Each serving of Taco Night Casserole contains a full serving of vegetables in a flavor profile my family already likes (Teenagers can be worse than toddlers when it comes to veggies!) I don’t mind, either, that its a snap to make and is easily doubled. I like to freeze half for another time.

Be sure to read my “money saving strategies”  before buying the ingredients – I originally found the idea for this casserole on a site that indicated six servings for $13.50. With careful shopping, I was able to put it on the table for much, much less.

 Taco Night Casserole,

servings: 6

  • 3/4 lb of ground beef or turkey (or ground beef)
  • 1 pkg of taco seasoning (or substitute home-made, but make certain it is one that contains a bit of a thickening agent like cornstarch, flour, arrowroot, etc.)
  • 16 ounce can of  pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or substitute dried, already cooked, about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 fifteen ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 eleven ounce can Mexican style or regular corn or an equivalent amount of frozen
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • 1 cup of coarsely broken tortilla chips, or the smaller rounds

Directions:  Preheat oven to 400. Brown meat in large skillet over medium 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 tortilla chips and cheese and bake 5 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with toppings such as lettuce and sour cream if desired.


When I double the recipe, I reserve 1/2 of the meat/bean/tomato mixture before putting it in to the casserole. I place it, when cooled enough, into a large Ziploc freezer bag. I label it “Taco Night” with the date. Just under the name, write: Thaw, heat through, place in 2 qt casserole, top with 1 cup each broken tortilla chips and shredded cheese, bake at 400 for five to 10 minutes. It’s much easier to label with a flat bag and clean hands!

In two smaller ziplocs, 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. You should be able to keep this frozen for 2 to 3 months. After that, you may notice a decrease in the quality of the product, although it will still be safe to eat. (FDA guidelines.)

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Used:

  • Ground Beef:  by many, is considered to be a “cheap” meat, but I rarely see any hamburger for sale at less than $2.49 a pound, although now and then it shows up for $1.99 a pound (and I buy it and freeze.) I can buy the much healthier chicken breast for 89 to 99 cents a pound and pork butt and loin for 99 cents a pound on a deep sale; chuck roast (for pot roast) can be bought at a low of $2.99 a pound. By comparison, hamburger doesn’t seem to be the greatest bargain out there. When I use an odd amount like this in a casserole, I save what’s left over in a ziploc bag in the freezer, and add to it until there is enough there for another dish. Cost at $1.99 a pound: $1.49.
  • Taco Seasoning:  I made my own, sorry McCormick’s. I usually buy spices and herbs in the bulk aisle unless I have a coupon. 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 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. I portion them out to 1 1/2 cups per ziploc, 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.

Nutritional Analysis:

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.

Put Your our Own Spin on It:

  • 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 Pay Off:

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 Minestrone.

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.

Comments and discussion always welcome - tell me what you think.

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