Weekend Cook-Ahead: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce


Okay, so it’s more labor intensive than opening a jar–but it’s also far, far richer in flavor, more nuanced in seasoning, and it will fill your whole place with an incredible aroma that will leave you hungry long before it’s ready.

This spaghetti sauce will be used to make lasagna tonight (about half of it, anyway) and then the rest will go on pasta for a quick meal this week. Bonus score: the leftover lasagna makes an excellent lunch or re-heat for Refrigerator Review.

Best news yet: no preservatives or weird chemicals. Be sure to compost the onion skins and garlic peels, if you use fresh garlic.


Recipe: Absolute Best Spaghetti Sauce

2 TBS Olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 LB ground beef

¼ LB sausage

8 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced OR 1 tsp garlic powder

2  28 Oz can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce (or  1-28 oz can of each)

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried oregano

1 TBS sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Peel and dice onions, add to the oil, and add garlic. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the meat and brown it in the garlic/oil for about 10 minutes, or until all pink is gone. Drain the excess oil.

Put the meat mixture into a slow cooker (or, if you wish, use a very large pan on the stovetop for one-pot cooking). Add the tomatoes/tomato sauce and the spices. Stir to mix and cook on low for 6-8 hours. If you’re cooking it on the stovetop, check it and stir it every hour or so to be sure it’s not burning or sticking. If it’s in a slow cooker, don’t open it!

Enjoy it with pasta, in a meaty lasagna, as a stuffing for ravioli or stuffed shells, or strain the meat and use the tomato sauce for chicken parmesan, reserving the meat and some sauce for super-meaty pasta.




Score du Jour: Tax-Free for Floridians


Hurricane season is here!

Florida residents, here’s your chance to prepare. The Tax-Free Weekend for purchasing hurricane supplies started yesterday and runs until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 4.

Here’s what you need to prepare for a hurricane (note: not all these items are tax free):

Drinking water: 1 gallon per person per day. Stock at least a three-day supply.

Batteries-Put fresh batteries in and stock 2 extra sets of batteries per device.

Car cell phone charger-If you don’t have one already, get it now.

Flashlights-1 per person, with 2 to spare.

Battery-operated radio/clock

Non-electric can opener

First Aid kit

Three day supply of non-perishable foods

Disposable plates, knives, forks, spoons

Baby wipes

Grill supplies: Propane for gas grills, charcoal/lighter fluid for charcoal grills. (If your power’s out, you’ll want to barbecue your meat before it goes bad!)


Got your hurricane kit ready? No excuses!

Friday Frugal Challenge: The Wonderful World of Resale!

clothing-842338_640 (1).jpg

If you’ve never experienced the joys of resale, you’re missing out. Your Friday Frugal Challenge: to explore the wonderful world of resale.

There are two sides to the resale coin: buying gently used items and selling your own items. This Friday, I challenge you to either purchase something used or to sell something of your own. When you buy used, you save money and save landfill space. When you sell something, you put cash into your pocket and you cut clutter.

This week, I’m looking for a food processor to buy used. I’m scanning Goodwill, garage sales, and I’ll check out Craigslist. In addition, I’m going to sell some nice work clothes that I just don’t wear any more and some DVDs we’ve had forever and never watch.

What will you buy—or sell—this week?

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Sparkle, Skill, and Super Low Overhead


The fresh air is a bonus.

Donna Colon makes, sells, and repairs jewelry. She spends her Saturdays at central Florida farmer’s markets, enjoying the sunshine while she meets and greets people. Donna reports that a friend taught her the tools to use and she went from there, teaching herself how to make jewelry. Her business expanded when people began bringing her broken jewelry, asking her to repair it.

“I also sell on LetGo,” she explains. She finds both a generous local customers for her creations as well as a world-wide market via the internet. By marketing on a shoestring, she puts her money into supplies for making her jewelry.

Donna’s business is a great example of a micro-business with easy entry for the potential entrepreneur. She notes that she didn’t take formal lessons in how to make jewelry, but lessons are available at many craft and fabric stores. The cost of her initial tools and supplies was low, and she saves money on business cards by making her own.

What business opportunities can you start without a major investment of time and training?

Follow-up on Friday Frugal Challenge–Grow Your Own

So a few weeks ago I posted this–an invitation to grow your food, in whatever amount you can manage in whatever way works for you. Today I’d like to update that post by sharing a recipe that uses the food I’m growing. Plus it’s delicious–who doesn’t like fried green tomatoes?? (Wait, what? You’ve never had fried green tomatoes? Time you tried it, my friend.)

I picked three green tomatoes from the plants in our garden. We grow Roma tomatoes, which are designed to be used for sauce, but they worked just fine in this recipe.


Three green tomatoes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

8 Ritz crackers (sure, you can substitute saltines)

2 eggs (thanks, Maisie and Maggie–our hard-working hens)

2 TBS butter

2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper


Green tomatoes from the garden!

On a paper plate or cooking parchment paper, mix together the flour, salt and pepper.

Crush the Ritz crackers. In a bowl, beat the eggs. Set the flour mix and the crackers up with the egg in between, like so:



Beat the egg. Slice the green tomatoes.


In a non-stick pan, melt the butter and heat the olive oil on medium heat.

Dip the first tomato slice in the egg, then coat it with flour. Dip it back into the egg mixture–get it nice and wet, even if flour comes off into the egg–and then dip it into the crushed crackers. When it’s nicely coated, put it into the preheated butter/oil mixture. Repeat until the pan is full.

Cook each tomato 2-3 minutes per side, flipping when the crust is nicely browned. I put the finished fried green tomatoes on a plate, covered with a paper towel for drainage, which went into the oven preheated to 170 degrees to stay warm while I cooked the rest of the tomatoes.

Enjoy with a remoulade sauce and some sweet tea. Welcome to the south, honey!




What To Buy This Summer–And When!


This summer, save money and get what you need. Here’s how to save each month:

June: Save on gym memberships–it’s a great time to negotiate for the best deal and then beat the heat working out inside. You can show off your hot summer-workout body in lingerie from Victoria’s Secret’s SemiAnnual style while you’re at it. June is also National Dairy Month, so look for deals on milk, cheese, and yogurt.  Be sure to mark your calendar for June 7, which is National Donut Day, to score your free donut.

July: Great month to buy summer clothing for next year, as the stores will deeply discount this month to make room for back-to-school clothes. My husband always stocks up on cola products in the weeks before July 4, and you can also find great deals on meat for grilling. Look for discounts on jewelry, as there are no major jewelry-giving occasions on the immediate horizon and jewelry retailers have to eat, too.

August: You’ll find major, drastic discounts on swimwear, so stock up for next year. Look for excellent deals on school supplies and office supplies as well as on backpacks, computer cases, and back-to-school clothing deals (here in Florida, we have a short tax-free period where we can purchase clothing and school items without paying the 6% sales tax–double score!) Also in August, look for home goods deals as stores sell dorm furniture, sheets, and decor. Lawn mowers, other lawn equipment, barbecue and patio equipment, and summer toys will be discounted in August, too.

So what’s your summer savings secret?

A Milestone in the 25 Percent Life




Today marks a milestone in the 25 Percent World. I quit my 9-to-5 as of Friday, and today I start my new life.

I’m not sure what it’s going to look like when all is said and done, but I’ve done everything I could do to prepare. Our expenses are decisively low. We have a hefty savings account. We have a little money coming in. We both have health insurance at a fairly decent price, though my deductible is huge (at least I’ve got the catastrophes covered!) In a pinch, we could rent a room in our house and cover the cost of our mortgage easily. We have a freezer full of food and a packed pantry.

I’m going to start where most people do, by doing what I know. I can work per diem as a hospice chaplain for my long-time employer. I can work when I want, as much as I’d like, and set my own hours. This is great because I also need time to write, to think, to recuperate from a toxic and painful situation in my life, and to plan my next moves. I’m about 2/3 through with my Masters Degree in counseling and it will be such a gift to give up the 15 hour days of full-time work followed by evening classes.

And I want to pursue wellness. I want to start running again. I don’t like running, but I sure love having run—the stress relief, the endorphins, the feeling of a nice cool shower after a hot, humid run in the Florida morning heat. I want to go to Saturday morning yoga in the park. I want to have time to attend morning Mass at my church before work. I can do all those things now. I want to work hours that allow me to beat the rush hour traffic.

And there’s more that I want out of life. I want to explore opportunities to write and to speak about things that make me passionate. I want time to run two or three little small microbusinesses out of my home, and to write about those. The times in my life when I’ve been happiest are those times I’ve designed my life consciously, and it’s time I do that again. Over the last 16 months, I gave up my designed-life for one of other’s people’s expectations. I ‘m too old and too independent to do that again. No more. Ever.

So here’s to healing. Here’s to life. Here’s to good friends and the time and energy to enjoy them. Here’s to growing. Here’s to the life I want to live! May you live the life you want to live, too.