Thursday, February 15, 2007

Budget Stretchers

Yesterday for Wednesday night's crock pot dinner I had planned on heating up some previously frozen vegetable soup. Unfortunately, this particular soup did not do well in the freezer. It had lots of potatoes in it, and potatoes always freeze terribly. It also had cabbage in it, which gave the whole thing an off smell, and it just went down the disposal. So I had to scramble for something else for dinner. Soup still sounded good, but what kind of soup... Scrounging around in freezer and pantry presented something original and quite tasty. I won't share the recipe, because there really isn't one, but I did want to share about two of the components that I used.

The first one being bottled marinara sauce. I am a huge fan of bottled marinara, I am also a huge fan of homemade marinara when the fancy strikes me, but we almost always have jars of marinara on hand. And here's an example why. Last week, Andy made spaghetti dinner for himself and the kids. He used about 1/3 of a 32 ounce jar of marinara. The rest went into the fridge for another time. A few days later, Abigail requested pizza for dinner. Another portion of marinara served as the pizza sauce for homemade pizza. And then last night, as I am combining mystery ingredients for a decidedly Italian take on soup, I was looking for more of a punch of tomato flavor when I saw the remaining bottled marinara. In it went, contributing plenty of flavor to the soup. That was 3 meals out of one bottle of marinara that cost us about $3.00. There are plenty of brands out there to choose from, and everyone has their favorites, but in case any one's interested, our favorites are Classico Organic, Muir Glen, and Barilla brand sauces.

The second budget stretcher is a cousin to the marinara- and that is plain cheese tortellini. I've been keeping this wonderful pasta in the freezer- bought in bulk from Sam's Club. It really is extremely versatile. I've cooked it up and topped with either marinara, alfredo or bottled pesto for a quick dinner. I've also done like last night, floating a few handfuls into some soup for a complete meal in a bowl. Tortellini also makes a fantastic cold pasta salad during warmer weather, and for something truly special, try spearing pesto-drenched tortellini with toothpicks for a quick appetizer. At my Sam's, 3 pounds of tortellini is less than $6, and is guaranteed for at least 3 meals, more if it's used as a filler in a soup or stew. That really can't be beat. The initial sticker stock may take a second to get over, but it will be well worth it in the end.

So what are your budget stretchers? Is there something that you buy knowing that it will be used more than once? Please share, I'd love to know what it is!

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