Erin’s Chunky Spaghetti Sauce – $5 Dinner Challenge


When I first learned that Ryan did indeed have an allergy to dairy (after having suspected it for many months), I really started scouring labels. I knew for the most part what did and didn’t have dairy or milk, but it can very sneaky and often finds it’s way into a wide variety of processed foods. One of the items I quickly discovered that contained milk or cheese was jarred spaghetti sauce. There were/are a few that don’t have milk or dairy, but none that I liked!

So I had to start making my own. Not a big deal at all.

I quickly figured out that crushed tomatoes make the best spaghetti sauce with the right mix of garlic, onion, spices and pinch of sugar.

The boys have been so patient with me over these last few months trying new meal after new meal as I tested recipes for the One Dish Dinners cookbook. I ditched the meal plan last week and decided to make them one of their favorites…spaghetti.

But as I went to get the crushed tomatoes, there were none. No tomato sauce left either. Not even tomato paste.

*ruh roh*

I did, however, have plenty of diced tomatoes.

So I had to make do with what I had…and this was the result.

(We thought it was excellent for being an improv sauce, made on the fly!)

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Chunky Spaghetti Sauce

Yield – 4 servings

Preparation Time – 5 minutes

Cooking Time – 20 minutes


  • 1 lb. ground beef ($1.49)
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion ($.10)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed ($.05)
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes, undrained ($.40)
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning ($.10)
  • 1 tsp sweetener (I used honey while on my no sugar challenge) ($.05)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinchful of fresh herbs (garden)
  • Shredded or grated parmesan, couple pinchfuls ($.10)


  • In a large skillet or saute pan, brown the ground beef with the minced onion and garlic. Drain and return to skillet.
  • Ad the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sweetener, salt and pepper. Bring to bubbling, then reduce heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh chopped herbs and Parmesan cheese.
  • Serve my Chunky Spaghetti Sauce over noodles with side salad or spinach. Or corn. Or whatever.

Cost $2.29 for the meat sauce

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  1. says

    i always use diced tomatoes. I like to store the smallest number of ingredients. Diced works best for curries, etc. Anyway, you could try blitzing diced toms in a food processor. It’s a really good idea for picky eaters who might not want to see tomatoes in their sauce. The Splendid Table recommends chopping your ingredients together to meld the flavors better, so I add onion and garlic to my tomatoes before I start the food processor.

  2. Allison says

    I saw in your post tonight that Ryan has a dairy allergy. I wanted to let you know about Daiya cheese. It is completely dairy free/soy free/gluten free. I have a dairy allergy and this has opened up so many recipe options for me. It comes in three flavors and melts nicely. The only downside is that it isn’t super cheap, but it is worth every penny. I can find it at Kroger (in the Nature section) and at Whole Foods. Hope this helps.

  3. Sarah says

    I always used diced tomatoes in my sauce. I like to use the petite diced the best and then add some dried basil, oregano, garlic, garlic powder and some parm cheese and pinch of sugar. I never measure out, just taste test as I go. Sometimes I will thicken it with some tomato paste if I have it on hand.

  4. Carin says

    I make sauce similar this, I love it and my husband does too! When you start making your own sauce, it’s really hard to go back! It’s also fun to experiment with flavors. I love to put in diced carrots, a little bit of red pepper flakes (not much). I also add some sugar to calm down the acidity of the tomatoes.

    In the winter I used the canned, diced tomatoes. In the summer, I used garden fresh tomatoes! YUM!! I diced up one roughly and then put another one in the little food chopper to get a bit of a puree thing going on. It’s awesome!

  5. Karen Smith says

    The reason why sugar is added to the tomato based recipes is to cut the acidity. The small amount of sugar does not really add to the flavor. It more or less just balances the acids. You could make it without the sugar but people who have sensitive stomachs may not appreciate the effects later on.

  6. Wanda says

    Made this last night and it was “SO GOOD”. The hub and daughter were commenting on how good is smelled, I did however add a little ketchup and wocestershire sauce. I will never by spaghetti sauce again.

  7. Barbara says

    Uh… The recipe sounds tasty, but tell me where in America you can buy quality ground beef that actually has some BEEF in it for $1.49 a pound and I’ll stand on my head for you. Even ground round is double that.

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  13. SandraAnn Clark says

    Erin, here in TX a pound of ground beef runs about 3.88 and that’s the cheap stuff. Any suggestions?


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