RE: tomatoes - there are alternatives - just buy organic, salt reduced etc etc. If you buying in a tin - make sure its BPA free or otherwise buy in a jar. I know there is a little plastic on the inside of the jar lid which may/may not be BPA free - but it is still better then BPA tins.
As mentioned we do make our own tomota puree each year, but it is a bit of effort and I think in the beginning it's not necessary. We mostly do it cos it is cheap and we are in a routine now. It works out to about 30-40cent per long kneck bottle - I think when we were buying the organic it was more like $3-4 bucks!
If we ever somewhere that we don't have our own stuff (it tends to be shared amongst our friends so normally someone has a bottle somewhere) but if we don't I tend to use fresh tomotoes - I don't bother to peel them or anything just chuck them in. It's not quite as nice, but it does the job.
we cook mostly from scratch now, once i got in the rythem and fine tuned some recipes it became as easy as using packet food. I thought it would take so much longer but am really surprised it doesnt seem to take longer at all.
As for stocking your pantry- we buy all our pasta, rice etc from big W. every now and then they sell bulk bags so we buy up big and keep them in a big storage tub under our kitchen bench. That way we always have some staples and it has worked out much much cheaper. One time I got pasta on special from big W $3 for a 2.5 kilo bag wooo
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