When I was growing up, the day my mother “made the gravy” which some of you call sauce, was a huge deal. It was an all-day affair and included the cooking of both the meats (pork chops and meatballs) and the sauce. The house would smell incredibly good all day long and we knew that at the end of the day (literally, not figuratively) there’d be macaroni and meatballs for dinner.
The recipe was top secret. No one knew it and it was a combination of recipes from both grandmothers, according to my mom. When she was cooking the gravy you had to stay out of the way and not touch anything, not even the wooden spoon that sat in the pan all day. That spoon was part of the reason the gravy tasted as good as it did.
The gravy recipe yielded more than enough gravy for just one meal, and my mom would divide up the extras into “Newport Creamery” ice cream containers and freeze them that way for future meals. (Those of you in New England know what Newport Creamery is!) Then, on a busy night, instead of having to cook an entire meal from scratch, one of us could just take out a container of gravy and transfer it into a microwave bowl for reheating. Boil some pasta, make a salad, and there’s dinner.
My dad used to joke that he couldn’t “trade her in for a newer model” because my mom would take with her the secret to making the gravy and without that, he would never survive. That and a whole bunch of other things, but really that’s a whole other post.
When I got married and it was the day of my bridal shower (August 6, 1995) I received a small wrapped box from my mom; it hardly weighed anything at all. But, what was inside was worth its weight in gold, and more. It was….the recipe for the gravy, along with a card which read, “From me to you, one of the secrets to a good marriage. Love, Mom.”
Clearly, I can’t share the recipe with you. It’s top secret. I keep it in the original box, with her card and the box is labeled down the side because I store it like a cookbook with all my other cookbooks, and also because when I was working as a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator one day, I got a cell-phone call from my husband (who usually had to make the gravy since I worked weekends.) I whispered into my phone, “What’s wrong??” because he never called me when I was working. “I can’t find the recipe for the gravy,” he said. Hence the red Sharpie title down the side of the box.
For several years I made the gravy myself, but I did let him in on the secret when I started my Stampin’ Up! job so that we didn’t miss out eating it just because I was working. What I can share with you though is this: Making your own gravy and meatballs is a huge money-saver and so much more delicious than not.
The total cost of our gravy according to yesterday’s PriceRite receipt is as follows:
Crushed Tomatoes: $2.97 total for the three cans needed
Tomato Paste: $1.56 total for the four cans needed
Grd. Beef for meatballs: $12.72
Pork Chops for the sauce: $8.57
That amount of money gave us EIGHT meals. Our pasta is 88 cents per box so you need to add that into each meal as well, plus the cost of your salad that night if you make one.
So for about $5 per meal (that includes the salad and the pasta,) you get an AMAZING dinner that feeds five of us, and I mean amazing. There is nothing like a homemade macaroni and meatball dinner. That’s one dollar per person, per meal. Can you beat it?
There is the opportunity for the kids to help out if you’d like, when rolling the meatballs. The recipe makes for a ton of meatballs so once again, having the extra sets of hands does make a difference and their pride in being able to say, “We rolled all the meatballs,” as you take your first bite, is priceless. Some day our girls will each have the recipe as well, so it’s good to give them this experience early on.
So there you have it, the recipe I can’t share with you but the tip for saving money and eating well that I can. I hope that at least that part of it helps you in your meal planning and budgeting!