We used to make Sloppy Joes with canned Manwich Sauce (bought on sale for 99 cents). A few years ago we started making them from the Beany Malone recipe, and we liked them pretty much except that I had to remember to keep a jar of chili sauce around. Later I modified the recipe (less chili sauce, no salt) to have a lower sodium content.
When I thought about making Sloppy Joes yesterday, I wasn't sure how long the half-eaten jar of chili sauce in the fridge had been there--that's how long it's been since we've made them. Then I remembered the Sloppy Joe recipe at A Year of Slow Cooking, which is also in Stephanie's first cookbook. It's a different style from Beany's--mostly spices and seasonings added to the browned meat, plus water and a can of tomato paste. I made it on the stove instead of in the slow cooker, and added in a chopped pepper, because peppers, after several weeks, finally went on sale for under a dollar a pound. Mr. Fixit, who sometimes has problems eating tomato-ish, onion-ish dishes, said that this recipe didn't cause him any aftergrief. I also noticed that it's very easy to control the sodium in this recipe--the amount of salt you add to the mix is up to you. No MSG or anything else nasty either.
So unless I happen to have a fresh jar of chili sauce on hand, we will probably keep making Stephanie's recipe.
Oh, and the frugal thoughts?
Just that if you had to go out and buy all those seasonings at once, you might not consider Sloppy Joes to be a frugal dish. But I already had everything called for, even onion flakes and celery seed, so for us the cost of the "mix" was very low. I think about it the same way if I'm making granola: the last batch I made (from the Common Room recipe here) had coconut, orange extract, wheat germ, almonds, and sunflower seeds in it; but those were ingredients I already had on the shelf and wanted to use up, not things I went out and bought specially.
A teaspoonful of spice is different from a cupful of coconut, of course. The trouble with buying spices, unless you scoop them in bulk, is that you have to buy a whole package or jarful in the beginning. (I buy both frugal-brand-in-a-bag and bulk seasonings.) But you do start to accumulate them after awhile, so putting a bit of paprika and cumin and cornstarch together to make Sloppy Joe mix barely registers in the cost of a meal. It's like starting a new hobby, something like folk art painting or knitting where you have to start out buying not only tools but every single colour of paint or yarn that you need; eventually you can stop buying so much and just use what you have, replacing only as needed.
Of course it costs the same in the end, since eventually I have to replace the ingredients used up (or maybe I don't bother for awhile). But if they're there on the shelf, you might as well use them.
P.S. Crayons wants to know if people make "Tidy Joes."
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