Why I Don’t Make Homemade Tortillas

A few months ago, I got an email from someone who was really bothered by the fact that I don’t always make tortillas from scratch. This person felt I’d save so much money by doing so and they were kind enough to pass along their tried and true recipe.

While I very much appreciate the input from this reader (I learn so many amazing things from you all and am constantly challenged by your frugal ways!), I have to disagree with her that I’d save a lot of money by making my own tortillas.

Your prices might be entirely different, but here in Kansas, we can pretty routinely pick up a package of 8-10 tortillas for around $1. When I priced out the ingredients of homemade tortillas, I figured up that it would likely cost me around $0.30 to $0.40 per batch.

So yes, you could say that homemade tortillas are slightly less expensive than store bought tortillas. However, you forgot to factor in one very important part of the equation: TIME.

To make 8-10 tortillas from start to finish would likely take me around 30 minutes. At that rate, I’d be spending 30 minutes of my time to save around $0.60 to $0.70 total.

I could probably figure out a way to make them more efficiently if I did a bigger batch, so let’s say I became the world’s fastest tortilla-maker and I could whip out 70 tortillas from start to finish in an hour. At this rate, I’d still only be saving less than $5 for an hour’s worth of work.

If your family loves homemade tortillas, or you don’t want to eat some of the ingredients in store bought tortillas,  or you love making tortillas, or you go through seven packages of tortillas a week and the least expensive you can find them in your area is $4.99 per package, then by all means, make homemade tortillas. But, don’t do it merely for the cost-savings because, unless you live where tortillas cost $7 per bag, the savings per hour is so slim that your time would very likely be better spent elsewhere.

It’s imperative, in seeking to be better home economists, that we value our time as well as our money. It is easy to get so caught up in trying to pinch every penny, that we lose sight of the big picture. We can become so focused on trying to save money that we end up spending hours and hours and hours of time to save a mere few dollars.

Personally, if I’m not saving at least $20 per hour by implementing a particular frugal practice, than I’d rather invest my time elsewhere. Of course, this rule doesn’t apply if it’s just something I really enjoy doing. However, if I’m doing something primarily for the money saved, then it is important to me that I’m actually saving money!

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and going nowhere when it comes to saving money, I encourage you to stop and consider how much money you are saving per hour in your various money-saving activities. If it’s below minimum wage, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board and find some other money-saving practices to implement which will give you a better return on your investment of time and energy.

After all, time is money, too.

photo by This Year’s Love

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Comments

  1. Angela says

    We do both in my house. I buy them most of the time, because then I have them on hand, but when I get the chance I definitely love to make them, not only because I love them, but my kids are finally getting old enough to appreciate them. I will do anything again, when it brings comments like “Mom your tortillas are the best in the world”–and cheers at dinner time. I guess that’s another reason NOT to make them all the time, though, so they know how yummy they actually are when the get them…

  2. says

    Wow – to buy ot make tortillas is generating such debate. That’s the amazing thing about this website – no stone left unturned. Personally, to make tortillas has never crossed my mind, as they can be purchased so cheaply here in the UK. A store always seems to have them on offer. Add to that the time factor in making them. The very benefit, I find, of shop bought tortillas is that they can be used to produce a fast and nutritious family meal. Only this week (Tuesday) I produced a Chicken Fajitas meal for four, adding red pepper, onion, and mushrooms to the meat. It literally took 10 mins to make from beginning to end, and that is what is needed for my children on school nights when you may not have the time to spend at your leisure in the kitchen. Saying all of that, now that the idea has been planted in my mind, I may just give making them a go as curiosity has bitten me now reading all of these comments !!

  3. Jennifer says

    I needed this post today. I place great emphasis on healthy eating, and cook and bake all of the meals for myself and my daughter from scratch most of the time, with the exception of a few things (like tortillas!). But as a single mom with both a limited income and limited time, I have found that more and more of my “free” time has been devoted to cooking, and that makes for a very tired, stressed out mama. I HAVE been spinning my wheels, and it must stop. I need to take time out for myself, and remember that we won’t die if we eat pre-made food every now and then. :-)

  4. sydney says

    I feel this way about beans. So many people are like buy bagged beans instead of canned. OK, but they have to be washed, sorted, soaked, and whatever, and by that time I can still buy a can of beans for like 60 cents and it’s maybe 10 cents more than an equivalent amount of bagged (around here). I really don’t want to use my time picking through beans when I could be doing something else.

    • Marg says

      @sydney, I make my beans on a Sunday morning and rinse them but I never pick them like my mother used to do. I’ve not found anything foreign in them. :) It’s so nice to have them cooking and have them fresh out of the pot or “de la oya”. Funny thing, I didn’t know for the longest time that you could get beans in a can (other than refried Rosarita). It’s all personal preference though and as long as it all works! :) I love any conversation or “debate” on food! lol…

  5. Jennifer says

    I agree that it takes way too much time to make them homemade. Unfortunately we’ve become addicted to the great taste of the homemade ones. So it looks like I’ll continue to waste time for a great taste.

  6. says

    Thanks for the reminder that time saved is just as important as money saved sometimes! Great post! – Ryan from Alpha Omega Publications

  7. says

    I have made my own tortillas, granted I thought they tasted awesome, they were a pain to make and did not come out round. I want them round, darnit! ;o) Someone commented above that they would want to make a bunch and freeze them. This was my original intention as well. After trying several batches here and there, I took hung up my sombrero. No more tortilla making for me, it’s too much work. Great idea in theory but I think unless you have a bunch of materials and people to make an assembly line, forget it. Good luck to those who try, I would certainly at least try it!

  8. Liz says

    I needed this post! Every week when I buy tortillas I feel guilty that I should be making my own. I laughed when I saw your picture because I can’t even get my pizza crust perfectly round and my tortillas would probably look like yours!

    Thanks!

    • Marg says

      @Liz, That’s funny. I can’t imagine feeling guilty for not making tortillas! :-) I can’t make pie dough to save my life!

  9. says

    I hate making tortillas. (I think it’s a pain having to cook every tortilla individually.) However, the cost trade-off is much higher (at least around here) with whole-grain tortillas than with the plain white ones. And the storebought whole-grain can taste pretty nasty, too.

  10. Lindy Critchfield says

    Hey Krystal,

    Can you post the tortilla recipe? They looked really great.

    Lindy

  11. Jen Soto says

    My MIL can whip out a batch of 3 dozen tortillas in about half an hour, but she’s been making tortillas everyday since she was 13 and now she’s in her 60’s. Sadly her arthritis doesn’t allow her to make tortillas anymore.It was her job in their family of 12 to make tortillas for breakfasts, lunches and dinner. They were a migrant farm worker family. She does complain frequently that store bought just doesn’t taste right tho. I’ve tried and tried to duplicate her tortilla taste and I just can’t get it right. Even when she’s standing right next to me telling me exactly what to do! So it’s store bought tortillas for us.

  12. amanda says

    I tried making my own tortillas and they didn’t turn out well and took a long time. I’ve also gone back to buying them, but I do make my own pita. I really appreciate this post, though, because I have been buying bread again some lately (I’ve been really busy) and I’ve given up on making my own yogurt, b/c it never got to be the right consistency and no one but me would eat it! That’s a waste of milk and it makes me sad!

  13. Jana T says

    Good thoughts, Crystal — and I agree. Tortilla making just isn’t for everyone. :-) Personally, I’m a big bagel maker, but I know other women think that is time consuming. To each their own!

  14. says

    I didn’t read through every single post, but did anyone mention the tortillas you can get at Costco or Walmart? They are the dough and all you do is cook them before eating them. I agree, I won’t eat the store bought packaged ones either, except for Trader Joes, but those aren’t cheap. The Costco ones are our go to ones now, and worth every penny @ $6 for 36 large tortillas.

  15. Vicky says

    My Tortilla Recipe (makes 8-12 depending on size)
    3 cups flour
    1 cup water
    1/4 cup oil (butter, lard, coconut oil etc)
    1/4 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt

    Mix everything but flour in a mixing bowl. Once that is stirred up add the flour and combine. Knead for a min or two to get dough to come together. Seperate into balls and then cover and let rest for 10-15 min. Th

    Notes: I use half whole wheat flour, coconut oil, a jalapeno seasoning salt and then employ the dough hooks on my mixer for the mixing and kneading portion…take maybe 5 mins to do. I generally mix them up and ball them early in the day and let them sit, covered, till I am ready to roll and cook. I don’t refrigerate them or anything, just on the counter. Then cook them in a cast iron pan. They freeze great, wrap some in foil and pop in a freezer bag.

    • Vicky says

      @Vicky,

      This was just to give my recipe and tips on how I make tortillas. As everyone said their is a season and mine is…single working mom of a 9 y/o daughter and we both like to cook so whipping them up is a fun activity that we can do together and I like the way they taste better then the store bought ones where we live.

      I often wonder on the ROI of online surveys or scratch cooking or multiple store shopping and those are the things that give when I have less time. I actually don’t do multi store shopping anymore for several reasons, but 1) is I stocked up on good deals (a few years worth of body wash never hurt anyone) so now don’t have the need anymore and now have found that I would rather spend my that time doing other things, like cooking from scratch, then running to and navigating more then one store.

      • Marg says

        @Vicky, I’m new to this type of frugality and deals, couponing etc. But I was trying to play it all at once and feeling really dumb not being as organized as everyone seemed. I will take it slower but I’m a single mom of a girl too and I was spending a lot of time surfing the websites for deals and cutting the coupons. I love this site for info and tips. What is ROI? :)

        • Vicky says

          @Marg,
          ROI = Return on Investment. Is the return you get (money saved) worth the cost (time spent).

          For example, I used to frequent Wags to get shampoo, razors and the like for free or really inexpensively, but it was time consuming navigating the multiple translations and RR etc. Now unless there are several things that are free (or hot deals on things I need) I don’t bother going because it took up too much time for the amount of money I saved.

  16. Meredith says

    You know Crystal, with three little kids (i have three about the same age as yours) I’ve just learned that while I COULD save a TON of money by doing things by scratch, if I did it ALL, I would never have time to spend with our kids. We could buy them COOL STUFF with all the money i’m saving! But really, they just want US….to read to them, to talk with, to play games, to cuddle, etc. Yes, I do make a TON of food from scratch…but DEFINITELY NOT ALL! Life is not all about saving money….although we need to be good stewards–that is totally important…there are things in life more important. Thank you Jesus for the biggest blessings you give to us each day (which have nothing to do with finances or stuff)!

  17. Tracy Harper says

    Thank you for this post Crystal!!! I needed the encouragement. I’ve been getting so stressed and depressed listening to others that hand-make everything they use or wear and cook everything from scratch, rarely buying store-bought. They shop a ton of stores and catch all the deals every week. That’s just not me. I’m a wife, mom, and work 8-5 every day. I don’t have the time for all that. My 9 year old daughter is growing faster and faster everyday! She’s what’s important. Thank you for reiterating that time is money too!

  18. Alea says

    I tried homemade tortillas once – they were more brittle than storebought and wore out my arms rolling that tough dough! It took well more than 1/2 an hour to do all that. So not worth it in my book. But maybe I used a bad recipe?

  19. Lee says

    I can see where you are coming from, but being I bought two 50lb bags of flour for $4 each….I think that I’ll be doing homemade torrillias for a while before worry about which is cheapest.

  20. Stephanie says

    A local mexican food restaurant sells their end of the day tortillas in a pkg of at least 20 (we’ve gotten closer to 40 many times) for 1.99. They won’t sell them warmed up in their restaurant, so we get the best of both worlds. Also, it’s on the way home from my husband’s work. So he can stop and pick up a pkg without wasting gas! Fresh, homemade flavor and saves me time to spend saving money other ways or playing on the floor with my kids ;)

  21. Jen T says

    One of our local grocery chains sells a package of 80 count tortillas for about $1.50 . I think that’s pretty cheap!

  22. Amanda Y. says

    I have to disagree seeing as I’m out of work and haven’t been able to find ANY work. If I can save $1 or more an hour, that’s still money made. I know it’s different for those who work or blog for money or even have children to attend to maybe, but for those of us truly pinching pennies…it’s well worth $5 an hour–that’s the same as minimum wage after taxes.

    • says

      Absolutely! In different seasons, you have different priorities. However, even when you’re out of work and money is extremely tight, I think it’s still important to make sure you’re making your top priorities those things which will save you the most money or potentially earn you money. Now, whether that’s making tortillas or not is up to your own judgment and situation. :)

  23. Hannah says

    Have to make my own tortillas because the store bought taste and texture do not compare! Store bought are chewy, they’re soggy in enchiladas, and even have a kind of aftertaste. It takes me forever, but I make them only about once a month.

  24. says

    This is how I feel about most things related to sewing. But there’s always the satisfaction, for some, about making it themselves. I suppose some people felt that way about the tortillas. Homemade tortilla business anyone?

  25. Jenn Todd says

    I TOTALLY agree! I have a family of 7, and it takes about 20 tortillas per meal for us. I can buy 20 tortillas for $1-$2 at HEB. Or I can spend over an hour making them. Now- I will say one of my fondest memories is my grandma making fresh homemade tortillas- so I do now and then just because I want to keep that alive. She was MUCH faster than me, though! :) But I also agree about the sewing comparison. I make most of my daughters’ clothes. I can even often buy them cheaper than I can make them. But I don’t like the quality, and the don’t satisfy our modesty preferences. And they LOOOOVE wearing something that mama made. So it just depends on where your heart is. ;)

  26. says

    We make flatbreads/tortilla at home. If you can make it the right way, it’s 10x better than the store-bought tortilla. With practice, you can also save time. With the store-bought packets, I’m always worried about the preservatives they use on the packaging. I try to avoid that as much as possible. A kilo of flour usually costs me only $1 where I live and I can make MORE THAN 20 tortillas out of it.

    Btw, I use similar method like this: http://spoon-and-chopsticks.blogspot.com/2010/07/healthy-and-delicious-flatbreads.html

  27. says

    You’ve made some good points here, Crystal.

    However, I do make my own tortillas. It’s fun, and I can do it pretty quickly. Don’t know whether I’m saving much money (although they do cost around $5 here for a pack of 8), but they are certainly much more fresh and tasty than store bought. After growing up with the easy availability of Mexican food in Kansas, I’ve had to do a bit of adjusting–around here it’s almost luxury! (Would you believe it– I stock up when a tiny jar of salsa goes on sale for $2!)

    K.

  28. SRJ says

    Yes, it’s important to factor the “pay” for using a savings strategy. If I save $20 with a half an hour of work, that’s like getting paid $40/hr. If I save $1 making my own tortillas, but it takes me 1 hour to make them and clean up, my hourly wage is only $1/hr. I choose the activities that give me the greatest pay per hour and usually don’t have time for the others.