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Cheapest isn’t always Cheaper.  When you are buying a Spaghetti sauce, take a look at the cost of canned tomato sauce – if you are paying much more, you may have just bought a very expensive teaspoon or two of oregano and garlic salt.

Ok, so you want to save money and you’re going to make a cheap dinner.  You’ve decided to buy a jar of spaghetti sauce.  Maybe you’re going dress it up, like my Mom did in the 60’s by adding ground beef, or maybe you’re just going to heat it up and serve it for a quick, easy, cost saving  meal.

Stop!  Put down that jar!  Let’s think this through.

  • First of all, does the jar contain a lot of preservatives or unknown items?  I swear you pay extra for this!
  • Secondly, what is the actual cost of that jar?  Take the price, divide it by the number of ounces.  Multiply that cost by 16 to get the price per pound.  If you picked up a Kroger’s spaghetti sauce on sale with a coupon for $1.29 for a 14 oz jar, that’s great.  It’s a good deal.  Stock up on five of them, like I saw in a blog today.  I’m happy for you, cause it wasn’t a big $ mistake.  That’s $1.47 a pound.  (Of course, maybe if you shopped carefully, you could have had steak at a $1.47 a pound, and certainly chicken breast for 99 cents a pound!)
  • Lastly, compare this cost to a quick homemade sauce (20 minutes) with canned tomato products.  (Well, it wouldn’t be fair, would it, to compare it to a fresh tomato product, since jarred tomato sauce is MOSTLY canned tomato products with a few herbs thrown in.)   You could make it for about 89 cents per pound, less if you bought the tomatoes with a coupon.

Want a sauce with meat?  The meat in the Kroeger’s is minimal, but if you got your hamburger on sale for $1.69 and used 1/2 pound, drained you’d have a final cost of  $3.34 for 50 ounces, or $1.04 per pound.  And it has more meat of much better quality than jarred sauce.

What’s the final savings?  She bought 4.3 pounds for a total of $2.89 more than if she would have made her own.  For the meat sauce,  the difference was 43 cents a pound, so she spent $1.83 more than I would have, and for an inferior product.

It’s not a HUGE amount, but when you are pinching pennies to feed your family it is. Saving money was the point of this young lady’s blog, and I’m guessing if she knew the prices and they were sitting side by side in the store, she would have picked my sauce without a backward glance.  And blogged about it, too!

One final consideration – In addition to controlling the ingredients and the flavors, another advantage of making your own sauce is you can store it in quantities you like to use with very little waste.  Portion it in ziplocs, label, date and throw it in the freezer.  (Lay it on something flat initially, and then you can stand them on end so they’ll take up less space.)  Just an FYI, a standard jar holds about three cups.

What do you do with that leftover jarred sauce?  Mine used to go in the fridge, come back as some kind of leftovers, then the rest was eventually tossed, much as I hate to admit it, because by then we were just plain sick of it.

Two of my favorite sauces:  Simple, Quick Tomato sauce, and another favorite, Quick Marinara from Cook’s Illustrated.  I like to double or triple the second recipe (takes a bit longer to cook and reduce) and freeze in portions suitable to my family.  The Quick Marinara (with wine) costs me between 60 cents and a $1.80 to make (six cups) and the Simple, Quick Tomato Sauce runs between 20 cents and 70 cents or so for three cups.  Both depend on the prices of the canned tomatoes.

Of course, all that being said, I’m like most people I know – I always have a jar or two around for those emergency occasions when I can’t or don’t want to cook – buy them on sale with a coupon!

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