Vegetarian nachos: Homemade vs takeout, which is cheaper?
We compared prices at four different supermarkets and weighed up the takeaway options to find out which offered the best value for money.
It's supposed to be a gloopy mess of a meal. Every bite needs some of every component: a crunchy corn chip, a few spicy beans, smooth guacamole, melted cheese, and to finish it all off, chilled sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh chilli and coriander.
This Friday night in homes around Aotearoa, friends, flatmates and families will be looking for something easy to cook. With a few simple ingredients, vegetarian nachos can be a cheap and cheerful tummy filler.
But as the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation continue to bite, how much will those ingredients set you back? Is it even worth cooking nachos yourself, or are you better off buying ready-made kits or takeaways?
Consumer NZ decided to try and find out. For six weeks, we're choosing a people-pleasing meal, then surveying our four big supermarkets to see how much it will set you back to cook that meal for four people. Then we're comparing those prices to takeaway options.
Previously, we’ve found a homemade lasagne with all the trimmings would set you back nearly $78 at Countdown, or $66 if you shopped at Pak’ n Save. We also discovered that ingredients for four burgers and fries would cost nearly $60 at Countdown, or $53 at Supie.
Now we’re turning our Friday night fake-away survey on: vegetarian nachos.
Making nachos to feed four
This meal's an easy one. Chop and sauté your onions and capsicum, then tip in the beans and tomatoes, juice and all. Simmer these down until they form a nice thick paste. Add some fresh chillis here, if you like it hot.
Next, make your guacamole by mashing ripe avocadoes with plenty of salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix in chopped coriander, if you have some spare. Get your rice simmering on the stove.
To serve, spread the chips over a baking tray, cover them in grated cheese and grill until the cheese is gooey and bubbling. Pile up the chips in bowls, pour over cooked rice and piping hot beans, then layer up guacamole, sour cream, more cheese if you like, coriander, and chopped chillis.
How we tested supermarket prices
We filled our carts with nacho ingredients at the four supermarkets to compare prices. Our carts contained Mexicano corn chips, Anchor sour cream, Mainland Colby cheese, two avocados, brown rice, tins of kidney beans, butter beans and chopped tomatoes, coriander, onions, capsicum and fresh chillis.
The good news is that these ingredients are easy to find at every supermarket we surveyed, with most major brands available. This is also the cheapest meal we've surveyed so far, showing that if you're skipping meat, you're likely to also be saving a bit of money.
The bad news? As our previous recipe surveys showed, there are large price differences, and it pays to shop around.
What our Friday fake-away price test discovered
Who knew chillis were so expensive? In our survey, the price of chillis was the biggest variable for this meal. Three of them will set you back $5.99 at Supie, while 50 grams of the hot stuff will cost the same at Pak’nSave, and $6 at Countdown. On the day we checked, New World was easily the most expensive, charging $9.99 for a pack of what appeared to be six chillies.
You’ll also want to shop around for cheese. A 500-gram block of Mainland Colby cost us $7.99 at Pak’ n Save, but $10.89 at New World – nearly $3 more.
As for avocados, there are some good deals to be found in spring, when they start getting affordable again, with New World offering two for $2, a price only bettered by Pak’nSave, which charged $1.78 for the same thing. Online, you never know what you'll get with avocados, so you're better off buying them in person – give them a gentle squeeze to check for bruising and ripeness.
Which supermarket was the cheapest?
Overall, New World came out as the most expensive supermarket, costing $57.78 in total, due mostly to the increased cost of those chillis and the cheese. Supie was second with $53.35, Countdown third at $51.94, and Pak’nSave the cheapest at $48.29 (not including delivery costs).
How does that compare to takeaways and nacho kits?
If you live near a Taco Bell, the American food chain that serves ready-to-eat Mexican food, a bowl of bean nachos with "your choice of protein, nacho cheese, sour cream, guacamole and fiesta salsa" will cost you $16.99. For four people, that's $67.96, well over the cost of the homemade variety.
Likewise, Mexicali Fresh offers a bowl of vegan nachos with "BBQ jackfruit, seasoned black beans, lettuce/cabbage mix and grilled cheese ... Topped with guacamole, your choice of salsa and either sour cream, chipotle crema, vegan chipotle or jalapeño ranch". That will cost you $18.90, or $75.60 for four.
You can also buy ready-to-compile Nacho kits, including a Culley's Nachos in a Box pack that costs $10 at Countdown and comes with chips, cheese and salsa. For $21, Tío Pablo offers a pack that includes refried beans, salsa, corn tortilla chips, and a seasoning mix, but says you'll need to add your own avocados, cheese, corn, olives, sour cream and oil. It’s unclear how many of these kits you’d need to feed four people.
There's one big thing to remember when it comes to choosing nachos for dinner. Under all those messy sauces, plus cheese, beans and guacamole, it doesn't take long for the crunchy corn chips to turn soggy.
If you want to keep the crunch factor, and save a bit of money, you're better off making your nachos at home – and shopping around when you do so. If you're getting your nacho meal delivered, that leaves a lot of time for them to go soggy.
Up next: Pizza
(Prices were accurate as of week beginning 4 September.)