Sunday, February 27, 2011

Can you beat 39 cent tacos?

Driving home last week, I saw a Del Taco ad for 39 cent tacos on Tuesday nights (as opposed to 59 cents regular price). Coincidentally, I was making tacos that night for our family also. Some have claimed that at such a low price, making tacos at home would be more expensive. So just for grins, I did the math. 

Not only that, but my numbers are based on using organic ingredients exclusively. These are not only healthier because they do not contain questionable ingredients such as preservatives, genetically engineered foods, and (in the case of ground beef) excrement, but they also taste so much better.

1 lb organic ground beef: $6*
1/3 lb organic shredded cheese from raw milk (Cheddar and Jack blend): $2
2 dozen organic corn tortillas @ $.99 each: $1.98 
1/2 cup organic sunflower oil for frying tortillas: $.96
1 head organic romaine lettuce: $.50
seasonings: $.25

TOTAL: $11.69 for 24 tacos


$.49 each

So, on all days but Tuesday night, cooking at home using organic ingredients is still cheaper than this "deal". Using conventional ingredients would cut the cost in half, to about one quarter per taco, making home cooking cheaper any day of the week.

Eating out even the cheapest, junkiest foods is more expensive than one might realize. This calculation does not even account for the expenses associated with poor health, an inevitable side effect of eating fast "food". Cooking dinner at home is better on every level - nutrition, taste, and cost.

* It is possible to find organic ground beef for as low as $4/lb, but we prefer to buy ours from a small local organic rancher. Had I used the less expensive organic ground beef, the total cost for the meal would have been $9.69, or a little more than 39 cents per taco - virtually the same price as the Del Taco junk food.


  1. Geez I wish I had where you were buying your stuff from around here! I don't think I could find that amount of cheese, even the processed rubbery kind at a discount chain for $2 :(
    I wish I could find a co-op and get lettuce for .50 cents!!!

  2. Impressive! I am inspired to learn to shop for deals as you have. If I had made these tacos, it would have been far more expensive, and far less organic. I don't even know how you were able to do that. Way to go!

  3. I don't think you can be all self righteous about using organic ingredients when in another post you talk about giving your kids Krispy Kreme donuts...

  4. While I completely agree with you about cooking vs.eating out, your calculations leave out an important factor: your time. And time is worth a great deal. In our family of 8 we order in maybe once a month and go out twice a year, so please understand I think cooking from scratch is always worth it, but the price differential should include the time spent cooking. Another example of this is knitting or sewing. I knit for all 6 of my kids and my hubby. Other people have offered to pay me for my knits, but if I charged even only $5 an hour for my time, it would amount to a $75 sweater for a toddler, not including materials. I knit and cook for love of my family, not because it saves money. (Cooking does, knitting doesn't!)

  5. While I agree with you about junk food, you forgot to factor in the cost of electricity or gas (to cook with), and the cost of water (to wash up with). You'd also need to factor in the cost of your time (Taco Bell pays employees). These things factor into the cost of the Taco Beill taco.

  6. People often underestimate cost for an employer to pay employees, taxes, and other operating expenses. These costs cannot be offset no matter how cheap, junky food gets and no matter how much barely-food products you add.

    It's impossible to get any cheap than not paying for labor. Most people are simply too lazy to put forth the effort and try to justify themselves by saying "it's the same price." (when it's not, though it may be a little close)

  7. Wow - I wish I could get organic lettuce for 50 cents! For us, organic is much, much more expensive, but I still try to buy as much of it as possible. Maybe we need to move to Arizona :-)

  8. I too wish we had prices like that down here. We are trying to go all organic. Slowly but surely.

    Your tacos look way better than the picture above ! The tortillas look fresh and yummy.

  9. you're saying you can feed a family of 8 one pound of hamburger? wow they must not eat much because I use a min of 2 lbs of hamburger to make tacos for my family of 7 but alas I cannot afford to pay $6lb for hamburger so I don't buy organic. Maybe that's why you only use 1 lb

  10. Since getting diagnosed with high blood pressure and obesity (well, that part wasn't a diagnosis so much as the observation that I tipped the scales too high), I've lost 50 pounds. Of course, I'm very pleased with myself!

    50 pounds is pretty dramatic and people who haven't seen me for awhile are really shocked. They ask me, "What did you do? Did you go to Weight Watchers? Do you follow a diet?"

    My reply, "I stopped going through the McDonald's drive-thru and started getting exercise." I guess that's a long way to say how much I agree with you about fast food and restaurants in general. I used the Weight Watchers philosophy (I didn't join it, though) of plain old-fashioned healthy eating rather than "going on a diet" and the weight naturally came off.

    I work, so shopping for 50-cent heads of Romaine lettuce is out of the question, but eating at home and having the leftovers available has also saved me a lot of money. Those $5 "cheap" meals at Mickey Dee's are still more expensive than slicing off a nice piece of roast and putting it on bread with spicy mustard and having some nice, fresh cole slaw on the side. Or eating a nice, filling bowl of beans and rice.

    And, anonymous above, even Zsuzsanna knows that the occasional Krispy Kreme isn't going to hurt anything! You're being contrary just to be contrary.

    So here's to going back to the basics! I really enjoy your blog.

    - Other Sally

  11. Yours look so much better too!!!

  12. It is quite possible that she feeds her 8 with 1 pound. Her family consists of 2 adults, 3 young boys, 2 toddlers, and an infant. So 24 tacos would go a long way.

  13. Thank you for the link to that article at

  14. while i completely agree with you about cooking from scratch. I find it hard to believe that you can feed six people with a 1 lb of hamburger. Plus there are things on your taco in the picture that you don't account for in your pricing (the red thing on the taco on the left looks like a tomato). I could see it working if you spread the meat a bit thinner by supplementing it with beans (which would be very healthy and cheap!) but you're not. 24 tacos with 1 lb of meat between them means that you're getting 2/3 of an oz of beef per taco. or 2 & 2/3 oz per person (four tacos each). A standard serving size of meat is 6 oz (the size of a deck of cards). You're serving less than half of that! and the only other thing in the taco is lettuce and a 10th of an ounce of cheese?! Generally a serving size of cheese is 1 oz, or a 1 inch cube. You're putting a 10th of a 1 inch cube of cheese on each taco?! give me a break.

    of course you could be serving it with something else, and i'm sure your kids don't eat that much compared to you or your husband, but still. these number just don't seem to add up.

  15. To Anonymous regarding the 1lb of ground beef: They could be rationing because money is tight. She doesn't work and her husband lost his job. They don't have health insurance either. I've commented to myself on many pictures that there wasn't enough food for that many people. One of my sons would eat this entire pizza and he is by no means heavy. He is athletic and very physically fit. I also recall holiday pictures where the food looked very sparse. We eat more in a family of five (four children and me), but I have a very good job and can afford to feed my children. I don't like tacos, but my kids like them, and I buy at least 2lbs of ground beef when I make tacos for them. I don't buy into God choosing family size. He gave us free will and we can add to the number of children if we so choose. People shouldn't keep having children if they can't afford to feed them properly.

  16. Ohmygosh, I get share baskets at Bountiful baskets too! I would rather vomit than eat Del Taco!!! BARF! Did you see the article about Taco Bell only being like 60 percent beef and the rest is just vile binders?

    Do you know what this means? I'm like your new liberal, Democratic, secular, homo-loving BFF! Kisses, girlfriend!

  17. P
    Matthew 5:43-44 KJV
    43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
    44But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that dispitefully use you and persecute you.

    46 For if you love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publians the same?

    Romans 2:11
    For there is no respect of persons with God.

    Also read 1st Peter 1:17 Proverbs 28:21

    Matthew 22:39
    And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    Where does God ever tell us we should hate? I just find verses that tells us to love. God died for everyone. He says WHOSOEVER calls on the name of the Lord.
    For God so loved the world...
    I would take that as everyone in the world.

  18. Thank you so much for this encouragement to be a keeper at home. What a blessing. I love how you happily shop for great deals, buy organic where you can, research and use a co-op, and cook at home Your tacos do look wonderful.

    ~ Blessings as you joyfully keep your home.

  19. People will pay anything for the convenience factor. They don't realize it will be more costly in their health and habits they teach their children. I think mothers who say they can't afford to stay home, don't realize the extra amount they spend on fast foods (among other expenses) because they don't have as much time to cook and take advantage of grocery deals. I remember my parents would come home every day after work with a bag full of $1 whoppers for dinner because it was cheap and easy. Does it take time? Yes! Is your family worth it? Yes!

  20. Wow, it always amazes me what blog post people get their knickers in a twist over. To clear up the dietary concerns for my family/children:

    - I didn't realize that eating organic excludes me from taking the kids for donuts on their birthday.

    - There are, in fact, items on our tacos that del taco doesn't have, namely parmesan (on the shells), tomatoes, and salsa. I did not factor those in because I was comparing apples to apples, i.e. how much it would cost to recreate their product at home.

    - The recommendation for ADULTS is two 3-oz servings of meat per day. Since the tacos were only one of three hot, cooked meals that day, rest assured everyone got more than enough meat, especially since everyone got as many as they wanted. How much meat do you think is on a del taco taco???

    - The person suggesting there was not enough cheese: do you realize that 8 oz make 2 cups shredded? Are you actually thinking that del taco puts 1/4 cup of cheese on their tacos? They don't even use real cheese.

    - Denise, you are insane. Your life as a single, working mom must really be miserable if your hobby is analyzing photos of what strangers eat. My husband owns his own company, so he can't lose his job. The picture of the pizza you are referring to was a closeup, and showing 5 of the 12 pieces. And, we bought two of them, Sherlock. Our kids are fed as much as they want.

  21. Karen R, not all parents who work get take out. Most take out food is disgusting. My kids do love pizza, but that's about it as far as take out goes. I love to cook and find it very relaxing.

    Zsuzsanna, I love the life I have and am by no means miserable. I own a business and can make my own hours. I own my own home and am able to take my kids on vacations. God is good. I am blessed. As for your husband's job, I'm going by this post. His words. You can't even provide health insurance for your children. Your free will controls how many children you have. If you can't adequately provide for them, you shouldn't keep having more.

  22. I have been reading your blog for two years now and it always amazes me how many strange people read it and feel the need to leave ugly comments on a non-offensive post about tacos. I guess some folks have nothing better to do with their time.

    Good for you for going all organic.

  23. I have about the same age of children (one less in number, we don't have a newborn) and we only use 1 pound of hamburger when we have tacos. Then usually have a tiny bit leftover. Some kids just aren't big eaters. My 2 boys will eat 3 tacos each but my daughter and the two toddlers will only eat 1 before they get bored and run off to play. If you had a big breakfast and lunch, you don't feel as hungry at dinner, when the day is winding down.

  24. Karen R, it's important to note that not everyone who buys non-organic food does so because they're lazy. For example, I live in a big city and I don't have a car, which means I either take the bus to go grocery shopping or I beg a friend for a ride. When rides are limited, your choice of store is also limited, which means that your choice of food is even more limited. So I can pay two dollars for a fresh, non-organic head of broccoli or buy a one dollar whopper for dinner. Add in the fact that I'm a destitute student barely making rent as it is so I really don't have a choice when it comes to money.

  25. Firstly, thank you for clarifying!

    i do apologize about the cheese. i read the ingredient list incorrectly. I thought it said 1/3 cup (shredded), not 1/3 lb. you are correct.

    And as for the meat, i assumed (incorrectly) that you have one serving of meat a day. I didn't think that you would split it up between multiple meals. again, i apologize. I'm not sure why i made that assumption.

    and i've never eaten at a Del Taco (I don't think they have them around here), so i was thinking that they'd be comparable to Taco Bell, which does put salsa and tomatoes on their tacos.

    I would like to add that I wasn't suggesting that your tacos weren't as nutritious or as tasty as fast food tacos, they most certainly are both better for you and better tasting. I was just concerned with the amount of ingredients you listed that they wouldn't be very filling for 6 people. I'm glad you put extras on your tacos.

    I stand by the suggestion to add beans. They'd be tasty, cheap and nutritious.

  26. to Denise, the Anderson's choose not to buy health insurance, that is a huge difference from not being able to buy it. They are very healthy people and rarely have to see a dr and are able to pay cash when they do, seems to me they spend the money they would be paying on health insurance on healthy foods etc so they don't need insurance (btw a lot of people choose to pay cash for medical care instead of buying nearly worthless and way over priced coverage)

    I make a homemade "enchrito" (inspired by taco bell) that is delicious and my family loves it when I make tacos they hate the fast food ones though

  27. Thank you everyone for the comments. I apologize that I cannot respond to everyone individually. We have been on a trip in California and responding to comments on my phone was rather slow and tedious.


    thank you for the apology. You bring up a very good point about beans, and for some meals they are a great way to add protein without using more meat. My family just doesn't like them on their tacos.


    not having health insurance does not equate to not being able to afford medical care. If and when we go to the doctor (extremely rarely - maybe every year or two), we pay cash. Buying a high-deductible PPO would cost our family upward of $10,000 per year in premiums. Add to that the deductible, and we would be out of close to $15,000/year before they even started covering 50-75% of our bills. I am sorry if your family has the kind of health that makes such a plan financially advisable. But more likely, the insurance companies are just making a fortune out of people's paranoia. And in case you care to know, we do buy dental insurance because it makes more sense financially than not having it (the premium is the same regardless of how many dependents are on the policy).


    just wait until you see my next blog post. You'll love it, I promise.

  28. Parmesan on the shells, like jimboys tacos (only i'm sure you're are a lot tastier). Thank you for posting those I usually use flour tortillas but yours look so good i'm going to make mine like that next time we have tacos

  29. Zsuzsanna, when you had a donation box up on your blog asking for money, it stated that the money was going to legal AND medical expenses.

  30. Haha. I thought only I was attracting the weirdo commenter's. You knew tacos could cause such a hullabaloo? Funny how people can accuse you of starving your family but never before do I remember how anyone left a comment on how frail, thin and ill they all looked....

  31. True, Denise - the medical expenses from when my husband was taken to the hospital in handcuffs to have his head stitched, after the Border Patrol beat it in. That was hardly an expense he chose to incur.

  32. Keep up the good work Zsuzsanna!! You are an inspiration to me. I will try those organic tacos sometime.

  33. Wow, looks like the trolls don't stick to your husbands awesome and irrefutable sermon videos. It would appear that the likes of them also post moot/ignorant comments on your blog as well.

    I guess the zombies never heard of being healthy (and thus saving money) by eating healthy. I've only known Steve to be sick one time.
    But he's good when it comes to seeking healthy food.

    Food like McDonalds, Del Taco, etc have ZERO nutrients. More like, do only harm.
    Sometimes I still eat that crap. I didn't bring a lunch to work today, so I had McDonalds for lunch.

    It's funny. Even some of my co workers see me come back from lunch with a McDonalds bag and go "Yuck! You ate that?" HA HA! People are waking up. Instead of being jealous that you got fast food, they pity you!

  34. Haha! Some comments are way too funny. I cook tacos for our family of 7 ALL THE TIME with 1 pound of meat. And my husband eats enough for 3 men sometimes. There is plenty enough and even left overs.

    It sort of seemed like some are saying that because you used only 1 pound of meat somehow you were failing to provide. HAHA.

    Dear Ignorant Commentors,

    I actually met one of the Anderson children last week at an event where there was pizza. This child didn't tear through the crowd starving for pizza. In fact he was just as normal looking as can be. Certainly not even close to under fed. Go fly a kite.

  35. Zsuzsanna, taking to the internet to ask people for money because you can't pay your bills is not providing properly for your family. You can sugarcoat it any way you want.

  36. Mmmmm! Those look GOOD! Do you fry the tortillas until they're crispy, or do you leave them a little soft? To echo other posters, adding beans to tacos is delicious. I like to soak black beans, then simmer them with onions, red or green pepper, cumin and cilantro.

  37. Wow, some people are really splitting hairs here, trying to insult you. Sounds like they need to get a life!!

    On a happier note, your tacos looks absolutely amazing and delicious.

  38. Here is how I make the shells:

    I heat some oil in a frying pan (maybe 1/2 inch deep) over medium heat.

    When the oil is hot, I slide one corn tortilla into it and cook it about 5 seconds or so, until it floats to the top, and looks "cooked" (it kind of expands, puffs up, and changes color).

    Then, with a pair of tongs, I flip the tortilla over, and immediately fold it in half. I cook each half side another five seconds or so.

    I move them to a paper towel-lined plate, and immediately sprinkle the outside with grated parmesan.

    If you want your tacos soft and chewy with only a slight crunch, it's important not to overcook the tortillas. I used to make them hard and crunchy, but it would cut everyone's mouth and gums, and be messy because the shells would crack and spill. It will seem like you are pulling them out too early, but don't worry - they will harden up more after they are cooked. You may also think that the tortilla will stick together once it is folded in half, but don't worry, it won't.

  39. This is the first time I've read all the comments on this post.
    Silly me. I thought it was just an interesting post that a)compared fast food items to homemade and b)provided your readers with a new recipe. I for one am glad to know how to make my own shells.

    But wow. Just wow. This is just comical that tacos have branched into health insurance and scripture references.


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