Do Not Buy That

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.

Flavorless, salty, expensive...what's not to like?

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.

Easy Way

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.

Gourmet Version

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.

Gimme ten!

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.

Ten seconds!

Ticking Clock


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…

I have heard it all.

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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  1. Can’t I just drink the wine, and get sauced instead?

    You can buy a lot of spices in small quantities at the bulk store for only a few cents. Plus they tend to be fresher than jars that you have on the shelves for years.
    Binky recently posted..Extra Healthy WeightMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 18, 2012

      The spice packets are excellent.

      And when you cook with wine, you should always taste between measuring. Taste before (make sure it is not bad wine). Taste after you put in the pot. Taste again when you stir, check the temperature, stir again and before you take off the fire. By then, you have drunk half the bottle and could care less what the sauce tastes like 😉

  2. You’re absolutely right. What can I say? I’m lazy. Each year, I help 2 chefs teach a cooking class to pregnant teens (I’m their assistant). It’s always hilarious when we get to the “Cut Up a Whole Chicken” session. You’d think we were working on cadavers. It’s a great thing to know how to do, however.
    Barb recently posted..Where Is the CookBook?My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      Oh, that is funny! I did not have to do a lot of public speaking when I was in school, but we did have two assignments which were “how to” speeches. I chose two everyone should know how to do…change a diaper and separate/bone a chicken. Needless to say, I won for creativity and practicality. While I have used the first extensively, the second is where I am lazy. I buy my chicken with no bones…

  3. We now make all of our own sauces, salsas, all pickles, ketchup, HP sauce, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. We grow many of our own spices . It’s interesting how much better they taste. Food processors are out of control, it’s no longer quality, just profit. People must learn.
    Raymond Alexander Kukkee recently posted..Special Techniques in Bonsai: Grumpy UpdateMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      Mayonnaise is one of those things I have no idea why people buy. The children have just started a new herb garden. I love them as houseplants. The smell is great!

  4. I used to have a store in the centre of Middleton that did all the spices and ready mixes for anything from soup to cakes, but they went out of business because it was easier to buy frozen pre-made foods.

    These days I can’t get spices except from Aldi which I can’t go to because they don’t sell the frozen weight watchers ready meals which have helped me lose so much weight and EVERYTHING is either for two people or a family!

    I COULD do two shops, but my income doesn’t allow for such a luxury, so I have to grin and bear it…

    There is NOWHERE on Middleton where I can get raw ingredients, the shops simply do not exist…

    Love and hugs!

    prenin recently posted..Friday – Krazy sleepless night.My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      There are many places to buy spices on the web, although they are not as cheap as growing some of your own. Herbs make great house plants because they liven up a place and require very little care. Fresh herbs can help you with your weight loss! As for the family meals, you can always split them in half…one for today, one for day after tomorrow!

      I need to visit the Aldi’s in the next county. So far, I have heard some good things about them.

  5. Yuck, store bought pre-packaged anything, except canned tuna, salmon, beans or lentils.

    In Canada, we have Bulk Food Barns where you can purchase, in small amounts with a scoup, a zillion choices of spices and great number of other items: sugar, flour, rice, pasta, nuts, coffee, tea, beans, lentils, sweets etc. By shopping here, not only are your supplies always fresh because you only buy, for example, a teaspoon of oregano for about 10 cents. No extra cost for packaging.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Is This the Stuff Some People Eat or the other one?My Profile

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      Oh, I would love that place! A palette of choices of things I would normally not buy! The butcher shop where my grandmother shopped when I was little had spices available this way. I loved opening all the jars to smell the difference spices. Anything which reduces packaging is a good thing! Any chance BFB has a website?

  6. You know, I can never understand why anyone would contemplate trashing one of your postings Red as they are always very well thought out and genuinely helpful, such as this one that is offering lots of positive ideas to reduce the costs of everyday living.

    I always enjoy reading your take on everything and even though I do admit to missing some of your posts I certainly have the benefit of reading quality blogs on the one’s that I do comment upon and that is something that everyone that passes by here should feel appreciative of instead of the very small percentage of passersby being so negative about everything.

    Well that is what I think anyway…

    Have a wonderful
    rest of evening Red 😉

    Androgoth XXx

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      Thank you, Andro. All in total, the hecklers are but a mite under 4% of the feedback I get. Overall, I cannot complain. Most of the M3 Readers are supportive and lovely.

      If left to my own devices, most all of the posts here would be about frugal living and the revenge of happy living. And I am very grateful for the comments you do leave. Red.

  7. Funny, I don’t even think about gas prices anymore now that I’ve been a bicycle and Zipcar rider for two years.

    I still need that reminder to not buy those 78 dollar leather booty shorts, tho….


    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      LOL! I love it. Leave a link to your blog in the Green Room (top menu bar). You will find lots of others you will enjoy! Welcome to the pack.

  8. Another delightful food post.
    I keep a jar of tomato sauce in the closet for when I’m in a hurry, but my girl will make it from scratch when she is cooking.
    El Guapo recently posted..Beatnik Poetry Slam – Infinite MysteryMy Profile

    • Red

       /  May 19, 2012

      If you are truly in a hurry, you can make cheater sauce in 5 minutes in the nuke. Use tomato sauce instead of crushed tomatoes. Add spices, nuke one minute at a time until done. If using fresh onion, drizzle with oil and nuke for 1.5 minutes before adding to the sauce. Works like a charm.

  9. My child’s father refuses to eat homemade anything, he doesn’t want it if it’s not a heart attack waiting to happen. Then again he thinks it’s normal to have a huge chunk of naked spaghetti. I gave up on eating things I actually enjoy on a regular basis and just let him cook. It’s less annoying than hearing the whine without any wine to dull it.
    Laurie recently posted..Changes in Hope of SimplicityMy Profile

    • Eww. My children will eat spaghetti plain on really rare occasions, but that is a sensory issue. I am so ready for you to live alone. And you know I mean that with all the love in my heart. <3

      • A couple years ago he put turnips in my roast, apparently he was afraid the meat would taste like meat. 🙂 I asked around and apparently it’s not a yankee thing, that he didn’t recognize the stuff over it was gravy.
        Laurie recently posted..Changes in Hope of SimplicityMy Profile

        • In no way can I wrap my brain around any self-respecting southerner failing to recognize gravy, in all its beautiful forms. Never.

          Turnips? *shudder* Definitely NOT roast food.

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