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Reader Tip: A Frugal Replacement for Tomato Sauce


Kimber emailed in the following tip:

I have a non-frugal confession: I am brand-loyal about pasta sauce and I really don’t like the generic stuff.

However, I discovered a great use for the cheaper, store-brand pasta sauce… it’s a frugal replacement in recipes that call for a tomato sauce. Not only is it usually much cheaper than tomato sauce, the jars of pasta sauce contain more ounces than the cans of tomato sauce!

This might not be news to anyone but me, but I thought I’d pass it on anyway. I have some lentil soup simmering right now (using this tip) and just tasted it — fabulous!

So next time you see a great deal on store-brand pasta sauce, scoop it up and try using it in your other recipes that call for tomato sauce.

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  • Amanda says:

    I like to buy tomato paste and water it down to my liking. My Italian husband thinks I’m absolutely crazy, but the first ingredient in tomato sauce is water anyway, so why pay the extra? Just season to your liking.

  • Chelsea says:

    I would also suggest simmering roma tomatoes that go on sale and seasoning them to your liking… then mash or puree. Freeze extra if you have it. We haven’t bought any sort of jarred sauce in a long time… you can save a lot money that way and control sugar, sodium, etc. 🙂

    • Ambrosia says:

      I made some homemade sauce from homegrown tomatoes one time, it was sooo good! (After a friendly neighbor informed me I had to cook it…) I will be making more this summer and stocking up!

  • Roma says:

    This is a good idea but some generic brands taste sweet. Something I don’t like in tomato sauce.

    • Sarah in Alaska says:

      I tend to buy the Hunts no sugar added pasta sauce. It does have sucralose in it, but it does not tend to taste sweet.

  • Tammy says:

    Two summers ago I made and canned tomato sauce using tomatoes from our garden. When I ran out last spring I realized how lovely and tasty my sauce was and how tinny store sauce was. So I made sure to make a year’s supply of sauce last summer! I used roma tomatoes and it doesn’t take much simmering to get the right consistency!

    • Sissy Sweet says:

      This is the first year, that we are planning to can the abundant amount of tomatoes we get from our organic garden. In the past, they were frozen in large freezer bags for soups.

    • Ginger says:

      Can some of you share your recipes using the fresh tomatoes, and do you prefer to can or freeze it? Thanks!!

  • Melissa says:

    You can get the big bulk can of Hunts tomato sauce at Walmart much less per ounce than if you buy a normal size store brand can, and Hunt’s is yummy. Just freeze what you don’t need.

    • Jennifer says:

      I like your idea of the #10 can of tomato sauce because pasta sauces have too many extra seasonings in them for me to use in place of tomato sauce. A lot of my southwestern and Mexican recipes call for tomato sauce and I’m not going to want Italian flavors from pasta sauce getting in the way.

  • Jennifer Costa says:

    Would like to start canning my own sauce this summer, but unsure what kind of tomatoes to use? Are Roma the best?

    • Maria says:

      Any variety of plum/paste tomato is good for making sauce. They’re meatier and have fewer seeds and jelly. Roma is pretty easy to find. Last summer, I also grew Big Mama tomatoes–loved the size because it meant fewer tomatoes to peel.

      • Julie @ Logger's Wife says:

        I don’t peel tomatoes anymore. That got old and fast. I just cook the tomatoes down some, run through a food mill I got on Amazon, then finish cooking the sauce and can it.

        • Lisa says:

          I don’t peel tomatoes either but I dump the cut up tomatoes and put in the vita mix. Skins and all are in liquid form and then we get the nutrients from the skin as well.

    • leslie miller says:

      Yes, romas are the way togo when canning tomatoes for sauce:)

  • Kathy says:

    I buy the #10 can of tomato sauce at Costco and freeze in small freezer bags. I also make my red sauce from their #10 can of crushed tomatoes..add spices and let it simmer in the crock pot all day, then divide up in 3 cup portions and freeze. Much better than store bought sauce!

  • Ashleigh says:

    We but a #10 can if tomato sauce and add it two jars of pasta sauce for extra flavor and then divide and freeze. Works well and stretches our costs.

  • Suzanne says:

    I am also brand loyal when it comes to pasta sauce for the purpose of “fast food” at home. We use a specific Alfredo sauce, and one Basil, Garlic & Tomato sauce (with a brand preference). But, when we have spaghetti, I make my mother’s homemade spaghetti sauce with generic cans of tomato sauce and it is fabulous, because you add in all of the yummy stuff. I also use generic tomato sauce, juice & diced tomatoes in other recipes.

  • Susan L. @ Full Happy Muffin and Mama says:

    I love this tip and also the ones about making the sauce from fresh. We always have a few tomatoes left at the end of the season and could supplement with some store-bought. Thanks for the tips!

  • Tracy says:

    My favorite pasta sauce is made by a local company …….DelGrosso’s (I live in south central PA) and I recently found out from a friend that they make Weis grocery store’s pasta sauce! I only found out through a friend that works for the company but that might be something to check out! Maybe another favorite name brand is supplying another grocery chain?

  • Melissa Bowers says:

    My “secret ingredient” in ham-and-bean soup is salsa. It substitutes for a can of tomatoes and adds just the right amount of spices and “kick.”

  • Cathy says:

    We buy the #10 can from Sam’s or Azure Standard and season it to our liking. From Sam’s it is around $2.50, much cheaper than even the cheapest storebought pasta sauce around here.

  • beth says:

    never even thought of that! i am going to check that out today as I shop! Thanks for the tip!

  • Lisa says:

    I make sauce the way my Sicilian mom taught me, and it is frugal and a lot better than jarred sauce (which would’ve been considered sacrilege in my house growing up lol!)… one large can tomato puree (I believe it’s a 29 oz can), 1 to 2 small cans tomato paste + 1 to 2 paste cans filled with water (depending on how thick or thin you like your sauce). But first I saute a whole lotta garlic in some oil in the bottom of the pot (or, if you want meat, brown that first, drain it off, then saute the garlic, and then add meat back to the pot). And I add a palmful or so of dried basil, 1/2 tsp baking soda (to kill some acidity from tomatoes and sweeten the sauce), a little white sugar, about 1 tsp garlic pwd, and salt and pepper to taste, and let it simmer 1 to 2 hrs. It freezes beautifully, with or without the meat.

  • Debbie says:

    This does not work for us, due to the high sodium content. Processed foods contain lots of sodium and it’s addicting. And the food companies know that! Too much salt can contribute to health problems. We buy no salt added or make our own when possible.

  • Liz says:

    I was taught the diff between pasta sauce & tomato sauce was pasta sauce has sugar & spices. I never buy pasta sauce because they are too sweet. I buy the large boxes of Hunts canned tomatoes & tomato paste from SAMs club. They come in boxes like the size of a 12 pk of soda. If I need to add just tomato sauce to a recipe I just add a can of either depending on thickness. When making pasta sauce I sauté garlic, chopped peppers & onions ,then add 2 cans tomatoes & 1 can paste. Simmer for awhile then blend in the pot with an immersion blender. Add seasonings ( basil, oregano, salt) with a pinch of sugar to our liking then simmer a little longer. My family now refuses to eat jar pasta sauce because they love this so much.

  • Brandi says:

    I will also use tomato sauce (generic) instead of pizza sauce. It’s cheaper than pizza sauce. Sometimes I substitute pasta sauce, a lot of times it depends on what I have on hand. Never thought about trying to make my own-will have to try that, now that I have a freezer!

  • Charleen says:

    One day I was making lasagna using a jar of spaghetti sauce. Since I like more sauce than meat, I realized that I needed another jar of sauce. I didn’t want to go out to the store to buy more so I looked in my cabinets to see what was available….I used a can of Progresso tomato basil soup. It was absolutely delicious.

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