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I don’t know about you, but I almost always have multiple cans of tomatoes in my cupboard. Even when my money is at its tightest and I put a big dent in my pantry, there are always tomatoes to be found, be it diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, or canned pasta sauce.
With it being such a versatile product, I often stock up when it’s on sale, and it’s also an item you’re very likely to get at the food bank. And, considering even canned spaghetti sauce contains a decent amount of vitamins A, C, and K, and a bunch of antioxidants, it can help make some relatively healthy meals that the whole family will eat, on a tight budget.
Pasta time with canned tomatoes
I think the most obvious use of canned tomatoes has to be spaghetti. Considering that over half of Americans eat pasta at least once a week (Spaghetti being the leading favorite), it’s no wonder it’s the first meal that comes to mind.
I’ve written before about ways to up-level your pasta dishes, whether you’re starting with canned sauce or plain crushed or diced tomatoes. If you have some spare time and want a fun way to spend an afternoon, you can even make some homemade pasta!
Did you say pizza?
I LOVE pizza. I’m not kidding; ask just about any person what my favorite food is, and they’ll tell you it’s pizza. I could eat pizza twice a day, every day, and still be totally happy to eat more. Canned pasta sauce, or even canned tomatoes with a few extra spices thrown in, makes for a fantastic pizza sauce. Whether you are using fresh dough, a bagel, a tortilla, or naan, pizza is definitely a great fun meal that’s tasty, fairly cheap if done right, and the kids can get involved in making. Personalized pizza nights were my favorite growing up.
It’s starting to get a little chili!
With fall well and truly starting (at least up here in Canada), it’s the perfect time of year to start making chili. This was a staple on those cold fall and winter days that was easy and cheap to make while also being tasty and filling. Among other things, I always do both a can of crushed and diced tomatoes. It’s a great set-it-and-forget-it crock-pot meal, and there are near endless ways to use the leftovers for other meals, too!
Stuffed Veggies for the win
The most common vegetable people stuff is probably peppers, but you can easily do this with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, and probably many others I’ve yet to discover. Whatever vegetable you’re using, scrape out the seeds, and hollow them out. In a separate bowl, mix rice, crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, beans or meat (make sure the meat is fully cooked beforehand), and any other veggies or spices you want to add in. As a bonus, you can top it with a little cheese in the last 10 minutes for a delicious finish.
Stuff your veggie boat of choice, and bake at 400°F until the stuffed vegetable is fork tender, typically 25 to 45 minutes.
Other deliciousness you can make with canned tomatoes
Honestly, there are endless recipes or creations you can make, but here are some other meals I make using canned tomatoes:
- Homemade Tomato Soup
- Sloppy Joes: Create a budget-friendly version of this classic by mixing ground meat with canned tomato sauce, onions, and seasonings. Serve on hamburger buns.
- Spanish Rice: Cook rice with canned tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers for a tasty and economical Spanish rice dish.
- Shakshuka: Create a flavorful Middle Eastern dish by simmering canned tomatoes with spices like cumin and paprika. Crack eggs into the sauce and cook until the whites are set. Serve with crusty bread.
- Perogies: Where I live, frozen perogies are always extremely cheap, and they were one of my favorite childhood meals. For an Italian twist, try baking them in crushed tomatoes, tasty spices, garlic, and onions or in canned spaghetti sauce. Add a little cheese on top.
- Minestrone Soup
- Goulash: A hearty and savory stew originating from Hungary, goulash combines tender chunks of beef (or sometimes pork) with onions, paprika, and canned tomatoes. It’s slow-cooked to perfection, resulting in a comforting and deeply flavorful dish.
- Cacciatore (Chicken or Vegetarian): “Cacciatore” means “hunter” in Italian, and this dish traditionally features chicken or a vegetarian alternative simmered with mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and canned tomatoes. It’s seasoned with herbs and often served over pasta or with crusty bread.
- Casseroles: With the frugal casserole formula, you can easily come up with hundreds of tomato-based casserole options.
What do you do with your canned tomatoes?
Honestly, I love tomatoes. Between the versatility and the price, you can’t beat them; they will always be a staple in my home. What are your favorite ways to use canned tomatoes? Do you own your own or buy store-bought? Are there any of these recipes you haven’t tried but plan to in the near future? Let’s discuss this in the comments!
About Chloe Morgan
Chloe Morgan grew up living with a tight budget. In her late teens and early 20’s, all the lessons she’d learned started to slip, like it does for many college-age students on their own for the first time with their first credit card. As she’s gotten older, she’s started to deal with the repercussions and has taken on a frugal way of living, keeping her costs low, as she pays off debt and saves for her future. Chloe lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, with her dog, Rhea.
Check out her work on TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com where she writes about food, frugality, finances, and self-reliance, or her work on Medium, where she writes about lifestyle, mental health, and writing.