Most of us know that planting a garden is one of the cheapest ways to provide your family with fresh vegetables. My husband is the chief gardener in our household, and since it is his domain, he gets to decide what to plant. Let me tell you right away that he loves fresh tomatoes. I, on the other hand, hate tomatoes and have not eaten a raw tomato in over thirty years. Imagine my amazement when he strategically placed 16 tomato plants in our garden! It gets worse, each of those plants thrived and grew over six feet tall! That's a lot of tomatoes! The kitchen is my domain, so it became my task to figure out what to do with his abundant harvest.
Now, I know I said I don't like tomatoes, but I do like spaghetti sauce, chili and soup. I could have canned the tomatoes for use in the sauces; but I hate canning. It's hot, messy and time consuming. We decided to try freezing the tomatoes. Together we peeled them and started dicing and chopping them in a blender. Then we poured the chopped tomatoes and juice into gallon-size freezer bags, labeled them and placed them in the freezer. Freezer bags work well because you can lay them flat and they don't take up very much room in the freezer.
Then we got creative and began personalizing each bag for later use. For chili sauce, we added fresh chopped onions and peppers to the tomatoes before freezing. For spaghetti sauce, we went one step further and added chopped garlic. Vegetable soup sauce became a mixture of tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs from our little herb garden. Sometimes we added chopped broccoli and other vegetables to the soup base.
We also make a garden salsa using the same methods, but drain the juice from the blended tomatoes. It keeps well, and we always have a fresh and healthy snack or dish to take to pot lucks, family gatherings, etc. Because we can season it to our tastes, we are sure to like it!
Ever since that time, I have never purchased a can of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sauce, or spaghetti sauce. There is always a sauce ready to go in the freezer. It also tastes much better than commercial sauces. We just pull it out and simmer, adding any spices or meat necessary. It is a healthy and inexpensive way to have dinner partially prepared!
After a year or two, I even figured out how to effortlessly and inexpensively make vegetable soup. Leftover dinner vegetables are drained and placed in a freezer bag, sometimes even adding leftover roast to the bag. Once the bag is full, I pull it out and grab a bag or two of our frozen tomato mixture, throw them in a pot, add seasonings, and soup's on! This is by far the easiest and cheapest homemade meal I have ever made! Try it and see if you don't agree!