The Last Batch She Made

Lillian's Spaghetti Sauce.jpg

Saturdays are when I typically plan our family’s weekly meals. I don’t go ALL-OUT and plan for the month like a hair-net lunch lady because who would do that?

Confession: I would.

But my family rebelled against it when they couldn’t answer what they’d want for dinner on the fourth Thursday. So I spend my only sleep-late day, that’s not really late at all, with my cup of coffee, a grocery store flyer, my pen and legal pad and review all my coupons (paper and digital.) But this post is not about groceries, clipping coupons or crazy list making, so my opener is a little deceiving.

There are months that are harder than others to make ends meet. When it’s a struggle to pay all your bills, fill up your car with gas and still have money left for groceries. It’s like a weird tug-of-war with the hard pull of needs and the difficult review of wants. A WANT must be a legitimate WANT that lives super close to the border of NEED. Like shampoo. We don’t need shampoo, but washing our hair with bar soap gets old...and frizzy.

I’m exaggerating. A little.

So when it comes to planning a grocery trip, sometimes there are weeks when we have to be even more frugal than usual. Today was one of those days. There are ways I help curb the number of items landing in the buggy...by the way, do you call it a cart? I’m from the south, Greensboro, North Carolina to be exact and it will forever and always, amen be a buggy. Anyway. I have this thing I do which is pre-shopping in our pantry and freezer before I go to the store. I try and make as many meals as possible with what we already have. If no oddball meals can be generated then you must move to the second phase and try adding only one ingredient. It’s like a game. Say you have ground beef, sliced cheese, and condiments, but no buns or lettuce. This is a big win because a head of lettuce and pack of buns won’t be a lot of money. This method of meal planning takes a little longer, requires a bit of creativity and a lot of flexibility with what you serve your family. Because hey, we might be out of fries but enjoy a few Cheez-Its.

This post is STILL not about groceries so I need you to stay with me.

As I’m going through our current provisions, I dig deep in the freezer and find this Cool Whip Container, wrapped in a knotted Wal-Mart Plastic Bag, with a label that reads Danny’s Spaghetti Sauce. I think my God! I forgot this was in here! Danny’s mom made his favorite sauce. All I need is a box of pasta and I’ve got another meal. Mother-In-Law for the WIN!!!

Except.

It’s the last batch she made.

My mother-in-law recently moved into a skilled nursing facility and her days in the kitchen are over. My husband Danny, is her only son. She’s made his favorite spaghetti sauce a special way since he was a kid.

A couple of observations:

I never paid attention when she was making the sauce - and I should have - but then again - Danny should’ve too.

His mom is not Italian. As a matter of fact, she’s lived in the same small Appalachian mountain town her entire life. So this spaghetti sauce isn’t some generational hand-me-down sacred secret recipe but it’s what my husband grew up on and it’s a good memory.

I’m not going to use her frozen sauce hidden in a cool whip container, wrapped in a Wal-Mart bag anytime soon. I’ve tucked it deep into the freezer and we’ll save it for another day. Today’s not the day. We’ll find another way to save money and get creative with our meals.

And the next time we visit her, I think I might ask if she remembers how to make her spaghetti sauce. It’ll be good for her to try and remember and it’ll be good for my marriage if I can come close to her recipe.

What food would you love to have again? Who made it?