It is the time of year when gasoline prices go up, compliments of travel. Funny how we say that, even though they never go back down. Oh, wait, that is another post. Are you looking for a few ways to cut your budget? If you can stand to keep a few bills in your wallet, squirreled away for something delicious or fun, keep reading. If not, click share! Someone you know can.
We are willing to spend a minor fortune for convenience. We are especially prone to spending far too much in the grocery store for convenience, alleged healthy foods and mixes.
What if you could save up to 90% off the price of these things? Would you invest 15-30 minutes to save that much? It is a really good hourly rate.
Even if you are a confessed non-cook, recipe burner or designated reservation maker, you can permanently cross these items off of your grocery list.
Tomato Pasta Sauce
A jar of spaghetti sauce is one of the more vile inventions of the 20th century. Under glass, you get tomato products with very little seasoning and a load of salt, sugar and high fructose corn syrup. All of this will set you back between $2 and $6. You can make the equivalent 32 ounces of sauce for $1…minus the high salt and sugar content.
1 Large can of crushed tomatoes or
fresh tomatoes, rough chopped and crushed (peeling optional)
1/2 C red or rose wine or 1/4 C wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Chopped vegetables (optional)
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Over medium high heat, toss tomatoes and wine into a large skillet or four-quart sauce pan. Add your favorite herbs. Use all or your favorite combination of the following:
4 TBS fresh shredded/torn
or 1.5 TBS dried oregano
4 TBS fresh shredded/torn
or 2 TBS dried basil leaves
4 TBS fresh shredded/torn
or 2 TBS dried parsley and/or cilantro leaves
2 TBS fresh shredded/torn tarragon
or 1 TBS dried tarragon leaves
1.5 TBS fresh (stemmed, chopped)
or 3/4 TBS dried, crushed rosemary leaves
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
or 1.5 TBS minced garlic
or 1.5 tsp garlic powder
If you will not be adding vegetables, consider adding:
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 TBS minced onion
4 TBS dried sweet pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 dashes hot pepper sauce
Add in chopped vegetables. Use any of the following to add up to one cup for thinner sauce or two cups for chunkier sauce.
- Sliced or diced button, cremini, portabello and/or shiitake mushrooms
- Bell and/or banana peppers
- 1/2 to 1 jalapeño, green chili, tabasco or habañero pepper
- Grated, shredded or finely diced carrots
- Finely chopped celery, including tops
- Slivered green onions or shallots, whites and greens
- Finely diced white, yellow or red onion
- Sliced or crushed green or black olives
Bring sauce to a boil for one minute, stirring gently, but constantly. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour. Taste, adjust seasonings. If you choose, stir in sugar and salt.
Recipe easily doubles. Use one of those old jars to store sauce cooled to room temperature in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Can be frozen in a plastic zipper bag for up to two months.
Add more pizzazz to your sauce with the following upgrades:
- Completely coat fresh, crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves and a sheet pan with olive oil. Roast 20-30 minutes in a 425°F (215°C) oven, turning once. Use in recipe above.
- Add 1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese to the sauce for the last five minutes of cooking.
- Add quartered artichoke hearts to sauce in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
The more herbs and spice you use, the less salt you need. If you choose to use salt (or sugar), stir them in last, cooking an additional five minutes to evenly distribute.
Let’s be frank. Pre-formed, frozen hamburger patties are another vile 20th century invention. Let’s look at a few facts about them:
- More frozen beef has been recalled in the United States in the last ten years than fresh meat in the last 25 years worldwide.
- Frozen beef can be up to 15% pink slime, legally.
- 70% of all frozen beef contains pink slime.
- One patty can contain more than 80% the USDRA of salt.
- Average price per pound of frozen beef patties is $6.50.
- Average price per pound of fresh beef is $3.89.
- Frozen beef patties arrive in 350% more packaging than fresh beef.
Buying beef in bulk means big savings. Over pre-formed patties, bulk packages of meat are as much as $4 per pound cheaper. This means you get as many as five more quarter-pound patties for the same price as one pound of frozen ones. What is the real investment? Ten seconds.
It takes ten seconds to measure out a quarter pound of ground meat and form a circular patty. Now, if you are still convinced you are pressed for time, make a full family package of beef into patties and freeze the ones you will not use today.
Put each patty on a square of waxed paper. Wrap the patties in groups to feed your household. Freeze them in zipper bags (with the air pressed out) or wrap them in two layers of freezer paper. Including packaging, you are saving money and producing less waste.
When you make your own patties, you cut out all the added salt. Season them with a salt-free herb spice blend, a package of dried soup mix (salty choice) or ranch dressing packet. Add fresh onions and peppers or mushrooms for added flavor.
When it can taste better and still be cheaper, what are you really saving by buying prepackaged food?
Before you say it…
What is the number one excuse for not doing this? Cost of spices. If you do not have the spices readily available, it can be expensive to leap from jarred and frozen to fresh and healthier. Make the switch gradually. Each week, purchase one of the spices you see in the recipes.
Soon, you will have a well-stocked spice rack. As we continue this series, you will have many ways to use those spices. Within three to fours uses, a spice has paid for itself.
Make a difference for your own health and budget. You can be saving money your next trip to the grocery.
What is your favorite add-in for pasta sauce? Do you know what pink slime is? Are you going to make a difference to your health and wallet by dropping some of the convenience foods? Do you want more ways to start saving money in the grocery store?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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