Frugal recipe series #2: Taco Soup

Welcome to our second post in the Frugal Recipe Series! We try to plan out all our meals ahead of time, which means 99% of the food we eat is cooked at home. Because of this, we are constantly looking for new recipes to try out, but we have some pretty stringent requirements when it comes to what we are willing to make, especially on a weeknight. Besides being delicious, which is a non-negotiable, there are three other necessities for our top recipes. We present, the Frugal Recipe Trifecta:

  1. Healthy – we’re often only willing to cook one “thing”, which means we aren’t usually making vegetable or salad sides. If we can get the vegetables into the actual main dish, that’s a plus. We’re also looking for some lean protein and healthy fats here.
  2. Relatively inexpensive – sometimes we splurge a bit, but we are generally looking to stay under about $4 / serving, often well under.
  3. Easy to make – this is slightly more important to me than Mr. Paradise. If we’ve planned out a complicated recipe for a weeknight and we don’t get home until 7 or 8pm, there’s a chance we (I) might throw our hands up and declare that we are having canned soup instead. Also frugal but not the healthiest choice.

Sometimes we can’t hit all three of these (e.g. we might be willing to sacrifice #1 on occasion for uber delicious recipes, #2 when we have been doing really well with groceries otherwise, or #3 if we have some extra time on a weekend). But today’s recipe meets the requirements to be a Frugal Recipe Trifecta!


Wow, we need to clean the outside of our slow cooker...

Wow, we need to clean the outside of our slow cooker…

Taco Soup

Today we are featuring The Original Taco Soup from A Year of Slow Cooking. Stephanie O’dea has basically changed my life. Every recipe on her website can be made in bulk (well, obviously), which is perfect for meal planning, and can be made gluten free. Most recipes are relatively low effort and inexpensive too! I highly highly recommend checking it out if you are even remotely interested in slow cooking. Maybe even if you think slow cooking is bogus and you never want to try it, go there anyway and she will change your mind!

The only thing that limits how fast you can make this recipe is how good a can opener you have. We have one of those “no edge” can openers, or whatever they are called, which prevent you from cutting yourself and gives you a bonus arm workout at the same time. With a traditional can opener you could do this quite a bit faster.

This is before adding the sausage / other meat. I feel like this makes our kitchen look dangerous...I swear we don't have that many knives.

This is before adding the sausage / other meat. I feel like this makes our kitchen look dangerous…I swear we don’t have that many knives.


  • 2 15 oz cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (we usually sub chickpeas because we like them better)
  • 2 15 oz cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 15 oz cans of corn (with juice)
  • 26 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 10 oz can tomatoes and chiles (Rotel)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning (recommend buying this in bulk from Costco)
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix (we haven’t found this in bulk but you can buy a box of the packets)
  • 1 lb cooked sausage (the original recipe calls for ground turkey or hamburger, but we usually do sausage, because yum)


  1. Add everything except the meat to your crock pot (you need at least a 6-quart size for it to fit)
  2. Cook on low 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 (longer is better)
  3. Add the cooked sausage with about 30-60 minutes to go. We’ve tried adding it at the beginning but the texture gets a bit off. With hamburger or turkey you could probably add at the beginning.
  4. Optional, add cheese and/or sour cream for serving.

It’s SO easy, it’s perfect for a Sunday when you need to make lunches for the week but all you really want to do is watch cartoons in your pajamas. This gets the Paradise household through about four weekday lunches for the two of us. Also, did you know that adding beans to your diet can help you live longer?

Below is a quick analysis of the frugality of this recipe. At $1.40 or less per serving it earns a Frugal Paradise Gold Star. If you try out the recipe, let us know what you thought!

Total$11.05Price per serving = $0.95 - 1.40 depending on if you go vegetarian
2 15oz cans kidney beans$1.60All of the cans in this recipe range in price from $0.60 - $1.00 at our local grocery, so I took the average.
2 15oz cans pinto beans $1.60
2 15oz cans corn$1.60
26oz can diced tomatoes$1.20
10oz can tomatoes and chiles (e.g. Rotel)$1.00
Taco seasoning (one packet worth)$0.05You can either buy a packet for about $0.60, or you can invest up front and buy the giant container from Costco. I didn't factor in opportunity cost...
1 packet ranch dressing mix$0.50You can usually buy these individually or in a box of 4
1 lb cooked sausage (optional but delicious)$3.50This is going to vary hugely depending on where you buy it, I took a conservative guess

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