Stay Connected

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Making Budget Foods and Recipes User-Friendly: Saving on Homemade Pizza and Tomato Soup with Tomato Paste

Back to my weekend version of this blog -- basic frugal foods made easy. 

A lot of folks weren't raised learning basic frugal cooking skills. Instead, in their family homes of origin, a lot of foods that they consumed were what we'd recognize as convenience foods, such as boxed meal helpers. There's nothing at all wrong with that scenario. However, they now find themselves (through no fault of their own) on a very limited budget, unemployed or forced into early retirement due to this pandemic, struggling financially right now and looking for help so that they can help themselves. Enter Basic Frugal Foods Made Easy, my weekend version of this blog that goes back to the basics to help others make very delicious foods while sticking to a tight budget. Remember, once you learn a piece of information or a new skill, you own that information to use over and over again. 

Tomato paste is the unsung hero of the frugal pantry. If you have a can of tomato paste on your shelf, you can make pasta sauce, sloppy joe's, chili, pulled pork, hunter's sauce, ketchup, vegetable soup, pizza sauce, or tomato soup. 

In a cost analysis of tomato paste vs. tomato sauce, tomato paste is slightly cheaper in my area. Walmart's Great Value 12-oz can of tomato paste costs 92 cents, or 8.9 cents per 30 calorie portion. Walmart's Great Value 28-oz can of tomato sauce costs 87 cents, or 10 cents per 30 calorie portion. 

Tomato paste is also a simpler product than tomato sauce. Depending on brand, tomato paste contains either just tomatoes or tomatoes and citric acid. Tomato sauce contains tomatoes, salt, citric acid, and seasonings such as garlic, onion and spices. If tomato sauce is less expensive for you than tomato paste, then by all means, use tomato sauce in your own recipes if the added ingredients won't hamper your final dish. The other caveat is tomato sauce's relative thin consistency. User-review recommended pizza sauce for homemade pizzas indicates a thicker sauce prevents a soggy crust. Canned tomato sauce will need cooking down to reach that recommended thickness for a pizza sauce. 

In some ways, tomato paste is really a convenience food. If you can imagine the work that would go into making your own tomato paste from whole tomatoes -- cooking them down, pureeing, then straining to smooth texture -- you can appreciate having that done for you and for a lot less money than it would cost to buy the whole tomatoes and do the work yourself.

I have two super easy and quick recipes to share with you today -- pizza sauce and tomato soup. Both of these recipes have saved me money over the years, both replace common convenience products, and both require extremely little effort. 

sometimes I make pizza the traditional
way, on a dough crust then topped
with cheese and other yummies

Homemade Pizza Sauce

If you read the label on a bottle of Contadina Pizza sauce, you'll see that water and tomato paste are the first ingredients. Contadina's pizza sauce also contains sugar, salt, modified food starch (from corn), soybean oil, spices, garlic powder, carrot fiber, citric acid, potassium sorbate, and natural flavors. I'm not sure what some of those ingredients do for pizza sauce. But I can tell you this, my recipe is super simple and requires no cooking.

For a large 15 to 16-inch diameter pizza, I use about 2/3 to 1 cup of sauce. Leftovers can be frozen, or stored in the fridge for up to a week. 

Yield: about 1 cup
Cost: about 65 cents
Total time: under 3 minutes, start to finish

1/2 cup tomato paste (about 2/3 of a 6-oz can)
1 teaspoon crushed dried oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of water

Mix all ingredients in the same measuring cup used to measure the tomato paste. Easy-peasy, done. Spread onto pizza dough, split loaves of French bread, or pre-toasted slices of dense bread. 

sometimes I make pizza on
split loaves of French bread

For a price comparison: 1 cup of commercial pizza sauce costs between 60 and 96 cents. However, 1 cup of commercial sauce is thinner and less nutrient-dense, containing 100 calories. Whereas, 1 cup of homemade sauce is thicker and contains 122 calories, due to higher concentration of tomato paste, not food starches. If you prefer a thinner pizza sauce, you can thin the above recipe with an additional tablespoon of water.

and sometimes I spread pizza sauce on a
pre-toasted slice of homemade bread,
add some cheese and put under
the broiler for a pizza sandwich

Homemade Tomato Soup

The other recipe that I'll share today is for tomato soup, using canned tomato paste.

Tomato soup is simply tomato paste, seasonings and water. Let me show you what's in canned tomato soup. The ingredients in a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup are listed as follows: tomato puree (water, tomato paste), high fructose corn syrup, wheat flour, water, salt, potassium chloride, citric acid, natural flavoring, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), monopotassium phosphate, celery extract, garlic oil. Now, look at the ingredients in my recipe, below. See many similarities? And what do you see that is missing from my homemade version? My recipe is simple and pure. It also has 1/3 of the total sodium per same-size serving of Campbell's Tomato Soup (141 mg per 1/2 cup homemade vs. 480 mg per 1/2 cup Campbell's). 

Yield: 36 ounces
Cost: about 72-75 cents if I bought all of the ingredients at Walmart
Total time: under 20 minutes, start to finish

8 oz canned tomato paste
1  1/4 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
28 oz. water
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice (I use bottled lemon juice but fresh squeezed would be better)
1 teaspoon fresh (or frozen) minced basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon sugar 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon flour
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, optional

In a medium saucepan, mix together the tomato paste, onion powder, salt, and minced celery. Slowly mix in water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Stir in lemon juice, basil, and sugar. 

In a small bowl, mix oil and flour. Stir into the hot soup. Simmer for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust lemon juice, sugar, and/or salt to your preference. Add garlic powder, if desired. 

At this point, you can swirl in a couple of tablespoons of cream (for Cream of Tomato Soup) or serve as is. Garnish with shredded or crumbled cheese, sour cream, plain yogurt, minced herbs, croutons, or oyster crackers.

Leftover tomato soup stores well in the refrigerator for up to a week.

For a price comparison: Using Walmart Great Value Condensed Tomato Soup as a comparison, at 50 cents to make 21 1/2 ounces, GV commercial soup would cost 84 cents for a 36 ounce amount. Campbell's Tomato Soup would cost about $1.64 for a 36 ounce amount.


Could you use fresh onions and garlic instead of onion powder? Yes you can. Use 3 tablespoons of minced onions and 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic instead of the powders. Add at the same time as the celery.

Can you use herbs other than basil? Yes you can. Try rosemary, oregano, or parsley.

What if I want a completely smooth soup? This soup can be pureed after cooking using a stick blender or a pitcher blender to smooth out the bits of celery.

Can I make this fat-free? Yes. Instead of mixing oil and flour, make a slurry with 2 tablespoons of water and 1/2 tablespoon of flour, then whisk into the simmering soup and stir as the soup cooks 2 additional minutes.

Tomato paste is sold in 6 and 12-oz cans. What do I do with the remainder? Tomato paste freezes beautifully. When needed, thaw in the microwave in 30-second bursts or in the refrigerator overnight.

Tomato paste goes on sale periodically. Stocking up on a few extra cans when on sale is a way to reduce your cost on pizza sauce and tomato soup even further.

One of my missions, here, is to not only share recipes that put food on the table for less, but to put flavorful and nutrient-dense food on the table for less. Both of these recipes provide an end result that my family thinks tastes better than most commercial products while containing more of the nutritious ingredients and fewer of the questionable ones. 

Viva buona cucina!


  1. It's always fun to see what you have for us each Saturday. I generally make the ATK recipe for pizza sauce (sauteing garlic in olive oil for a minute or two, adding a can of crushed tomatoes and letting it simmer--the recipe doesn't call for added herbs but I throw some in). My husband really likes that sauce so I stick with it, although I think I tried yours years ago too and that was also good.

    We are definitely having soup weather here right now. It may be time to try your soup recipe!

    1. Hi Kris,
      I'm glad you have a recipe for pizza sauce that you like. I go for easy when it comes to pizza sauce. Although, I am willing to make a really great pasta sauce that starts with crushed tomatoes.
      I hope you had a good day with your mom today.

  2. Thank you for the reminder! Fresh tomatoes can be expensive and taking advantage of tomato paste is a great idea and reminder. I am thinking about Marlo Thomas on "That Girl" when she made tomato soup out of ketchup and water!

    1. Hi veggie girl,
      I've told my kids about that episode of That Girl, and we've joked about going into a restaurant and ordering a cup of hot water and a roll, plus lots of ketchup.
      I agree, especially during winter, fresh tomatoes can be an expensive version of tomatoes if you're just going to cook and puree them into soup.
      Have a nice evening, veggie girl.

  3. Two very good ideas! I have made the pizza recipe before and it is a good one. We make lots of soups but rarely have I used tomato paste since I have the luxury of having my own homemade canned tomatoes that I blend up and use as the base.

    It is soup weather here in Michigan and my daughter and I eat soup for every lunch. We have our favorites but would sure love some easy and new ideas. How about a blog on only soups? But only from your readers. I search the internet but would love some ideas from people who have tried them.

    1. Great idea! Some recipes sound good but when you try them, meh, they aren't that tasty.

    2. Hi Alice,
      My suburban garden is too small to grow a lot of tomatoes. We eat almost all of them fresh, so non to can at the end of the season. I'm glad you have enough to can, though.
      That's a wonderful idea, Alice. We'll do something like that focusing on soups very soon.

  4. I don't make tomato soup regularly, but made some a few months ago with end of the season tomatoes. This is definitely a simpler version. Does the celery get soft with the amount of cooking you do? Do you put the celery in mostly for texture or flavor? I don't have any celery, but I do have parsley and celery seed.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      tomato soup is one of my favorites, but only if I make it myself. Canned tomato soup has too much sugar/corn syrup for my taste. So, I make a large pot of this recipe for lunches often. The celery stays firm. You'd need to simmer it in the liquid for about 15 minutes to soften it a lot. I use it for both flavor and texture. Some flavor does come through. If you used celery seed, use just a small amount. I've used celery seed a couple of times and it has stronger flavor and can be bitter, if too much is added. Maybe 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon? Enjoy!

    2. My husband is not a big fan of celery, so I would probably microwave it before I added it. He would be okay if it were cooked thoroughly. I often do a little precooking of the veggies in the microwave that I add to other things to save time.

    3. Hi Live and Learn,
      then I would just leave the celery out. It's not so much flavor (just 1 stick) that it would be missed. I routinely add a stick of celery to tomato-based soups and sauces -- just my default. But if your husband wouldn't like the celery, I'd vote for skipping it. A tiny pinch of celery seed would add flavor. Or you could add slightly more garlic powder and go in that direction flavor-wise. I cook low-sodium most of the time, so I've found that I need to add extra herbs, spices, pungent veggies to compensate for the missing salt.
      Good luck!

  5. I am enjoying these weekend posts, despite being a more experienced (aka old!) cook! I have made pizza sauce from paste and it was very similar to yours. I prefer the thicker product to go on my pizza crusts. I had reviewed commercial pizza sauce and decided that I could definitely make it more cheaply. I like how you have actual amounts as I usually just "wing it". Thanks Lili.

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Thank you! I definitely prefer a thicker pizza sauce. I like to be able to really taste the sauce.
      Have nice evening, Lynn!


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post