This is the first in a series of posts that explores cooking healthfully on a restricted budget. The hope is to show that even people who have limited funds can afford to feed their families quality food without relying on overly processed mixes or fast-food restaurants. The cost breakdowns are based on what my local grocery store is currently charging for a particular ingredient. For instance, below you’ll see whole-wheat flour as an ingredient. A 5 lb. bag of whole-wheat flour costs approximately $3 at my grocery store. There are about 20 cups of flour in a 5 lb. bag, so to figure out how much 2 3/4 cups of flour would cost I divided 20 by 2.75, which was about 7.3. I then divided 3 by 7.3, and came up with about .4, or 40 cents for 2 3/4 cups flour.
I know that this is more trouble than many people are going to want to go to on a Friday night after a busy week. The point is to show that it can be done, if you choose to take the time. I managed this after a full day at work, with two small children playing at my feet. My husband was stuck in typical Friday afternoon rush-hour traffic, so it was just me and the kids until he got home around 6:45. At that point, we all piled in the car and ate pizza and then drank hot chocolate while we drove around and looked at Christmas lights. It was an inexpensive evening, but it was quality family time and I felt good about what we were eating (well, except maybe for the hot chocolate).
As we drove around, eating our pizza and happily pointing out the twinkling light displays, I couldn’t help but notice that there were fewer this year than in years past. Whether it’s because people are trying to conserve energy or funds, I don’t know, but I suspect it’s more the latter. We did pass a number of houses with lines of cars out front, evidence of holiday parties in full swing. And we glimpsed quite a few lit Christmas trees peeking through parted drapes. The celebration and the true meaning of the season continue, even if the lavish light displays have been downsized. What I thought about most as we traveled the neighborhood streets was that couple, and the displays of generosity I’d witnessed sitting in my car in front of a different set of lights earlier in the day. And I was thankful.
yields: 2 12-inch crusts
1 teaspoon salt ($.01)
1 Tablespoon oil ($.10)
1 cup warm water ($.0)
Total cost: $1.02
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Combine 1/4 cup warm water and yeast and set aside for 5 minutes or so.
- Combine Flour, sugar and salt
- Add 1 cup water, oil and yeast mixture. Stir to combine.
- Turn dough out on floured surface and knead until dough forms a smooth, elastic ball
- Divide dough in half, form two balls, and cover with a damp cloth.
- Let rest for 15 minutes or so while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
- Roll dough out on a floured surface until it is 12-inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick
- Bake for 5 minutes on a lightly greased cookie sheet, just until crust starts to bubble
- Top with sauce and toppings of your choice, and bake directly on oven rack for 10 minutes more.
prep time: 0 minutes
cook time: 10 minutes
1/2 pint grape tomatoes ($1.50)
1 carrot, grated ($.30)
1/4 medium onion, diced ($.25)
1/4 cup water ($.0)
Total cost: $2.05
- Combine tomatoes, carrot, onion and salt in a saucepan over medium heat
- With a fork or a potato masher, crush the tomatoes
- Cook mixture until tomatoes start to release their liquid
- Add water. Using the fork or masher, mash the mixture until it is well combined and relatively homogeneous
- Remove from the heat
To assemble the pizza
- Spread thin layer of sauce on par-baked crusts
- Top each crust with 1 oz. of parmesan cheese ($.50 per pizza, total $1.00)
- Slice 8 oz. mozzarella cheese very thin, and space evenly on pizzas ($3.50)
- Top with 17 slices of turkey pepperoni (I actually used some homemade pepperoni that I had in my freezer, but turkey pepperoni works just as well – cost for turkey pepperoni: $.75).
- Thinly slice 4 mushrooms and spread evenly over top of the pizza ($.30)
- I added thinly sliced red pepper to my pizza, which would add another dollar or so to the cost if you chose to do that.
- Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, or until cheese is brown and bubbly and edges of crust are brown and crisp.