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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Too Many Tomatoes? Opportunity Knocks...

 I got some really strange looks at the grocery store on Tuesday. And when I say strange looks, I mean strange, you know, the kind that makes people's eyes bug out of their sockets, and their mouths drop open. I kind of understand the reason I got all those looks; after all, I was piling 15 packages of tomatoes into my cart. In case you were wondering, that's 50 pounds of tomatoes. No, not a typo. Fifty. Pounds.
Am I crazy?
Or just ultra frugal, not wanting to miss an opportunity to save money, regardless of whether I get strange looks or not?

As she was ringing up my purchases, the cashier, trying to speak in as nonchalant a tone as possible, asked me "What do you plan on doing with all those tomatoes?"

I did answer her, but wanted to tell you as well. Why on earth did I buy 50 pounds of tomatoes, and what on earth am I going to do with them all?



Lately, the prices of fruits and vegetables even in my "favorite" grocery store haven't been too hot. No more 12 cents a pound loss leader veggies- the cheapest I can get veggies is 25 cents a pound, with a 5 pound limit on how many you can buy, and there's only one or two veggies for that price, the rest are much more expensive.

On Tuesday, when I was in the grocery store, I saw tomatoes for 12 cents a pound. But these weren't regular tomatoes; they were tomatoes from the reduced rack. The reduced rack is usually for fruits and veggies that are looking icky, one step away from the trash, but as I looked at these tomatoes, I couldn't figure out what on earth was wrong with them? They looked totally fine! (I realized when I got home that there was one thing "wrong" with these tomatoes- they were soft. But that's not a problem, so long as you plan on using them right away.)

Tomatoes. 12 cents a pound. Boxes and boxes of them. No limit to how many you can purchase.
What does someone like myself do?
Why, buy the lot of them.
Ok, I stopped at 15 boxes; there must have been another 15 there, but I think 50 pounds of tomatoes is enough.

When I got home, I washed the tomatoes, and cut off any icky parts (there were only a few icky spots in the whole 50 pounds.

I filled my huge pot (not sure how many quarts it is, but its quite huge- the size caterers often use) to the brim with whole tomatoes, stems removed. I didn't bother removing their skins or the section that attaches to the stem or the seeds; more work and more waste.
I put about a cup of water into the pot, covered it, and let the tomatoes steam. The tomatoes released more and liquid, and eventually the pot was filled with whole tomatoes in lots and lots of juice.
Once the tomatoes cooled off, I slipped their skins off (and put them aside to dry to make my dehydrated tomato skin spice blend), and put the tomatoes in small bags, knotted them, stuck them in a shopping bag. This filled an entire shopping bag with whole skinned tomatoes, which I'll use when recipes call for canned whole or diced tomatoes.



I left the juice in the pot, and then put more tomatoes in a blender, skin, seeds, and all, and blended until mostly smooth. In poured the tomato puree into my large pot, blended more tomatoes, poured it into the pot, blended again, etc, until the pot was entirely full.
I then put the pot on the stove, and started boiling it down. This will be my tomato paste. Usually for tomato paste, seeds and skin are removed, because it makes the texture more uniform, but honestly, I don't care about having a perfect texture, can't be bothered to do all that extra work (especially when we're talking about 50 pounds of tomatoes), and see no reason to waste that much of the tomato, so I use the whole thing.
Once the tomato sauce boiled down, I blended up the rest of the tomatoes (that didn't fit in the pot before), and added them to the pot, so they too could boil down. Its important to keep the pot uncovered so the water can evaporate so the sauce can thicken.


Here's the tomato paste boiling down. Watch out for bubbles- it'll likely splatter all over if the heat is on too high, and the splattering sauce can burn you.


Here's the sauce mostly boiled down. Right now its the consistency of loose tomato paste, but I want it to be as concentrated as possible, so I'll be boiling it down some more.
I'll also be adding a pinch of baking soda to neutralize some of the acidity.

 

Once ready, I'll be putting my tomato paste in bags and/or containers, and pack them into the freezer to use as tomato paste in any dishes that call for them.

I could also can this tomato paste and canned tomatoes, but I don't feel like doing that right now. The freezer works perfectly well. (See here how to water bath can with no equipment.)
So, why on earth did I buy 50 pounds of tomatoes?
To make "canned tomatoes", and tomato paste, because at 12 cents a pound, its much cheaper than buying canned stuff (even once you take into consideration all that is boiling away).
Because as a frugalista, when opportunity knocks on your door, you don't turn him away. You welcome him in with wide open arms, opprtunity and 50 pounds of tomatoes.

No, not "the crazy tomato lady". Just someone who doesn't want to pass up a really great deal.

If you saw good looking tomatoes being sold at 12 cents a pound, how many would you buy? Would anyone buy 50 pounds of tomatoes at a time, or would anyone else be willing to do that? Have you ever bought an insane amount of a certain food that you found cheap, which caused you to get lots of funny looks? What food was it? What did you do with all of it?
Anyone ever make their own tomato paste/sauce? Do you deseed or peel the tomatoes first?

Linking up to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

1 comment:

  1. Yes 40 pounds of bananas at 17 cents per lb. Sliced and dried most of them for use in granola cereal or pudding, froze some whole 3 to a bag for banana bread . Also froze some whole for banana milk shakes.

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