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Darn This Frugal Life! ( Or How Pizza Tastes Now)

My family took me out to for dinner for my birthday last night (it was a week later than my day since our schedule hasn’t really allowed for it any sooner). We went to one of our favorite places in town to try the pizza we’d been threatening to try for a while. We don’t go out very often. When we do it usually involves special occasions for us. We shared a really nice large salad and the pizza that we’ve been meaning to check out for a while. It was good.  It was lovely to be treated to a night off from the kitchen by my husband and my boys.

As we were leaving the restaurant it hit me. This frugal life has killed pretty much all restaurant pizza for me! It was good. It wasn’t great. It didn’t hold a candle to my homemade pizza at home, which, frankly is super easy to make and really inexpensive. I’m not sure how I feel about this! I’m now too aware of how much money we spend on restaurant pizza that is a far lesser quality than what I can produce in my own kitchen.

Our pizza adventures began back when my husband left the military. In spite of all our planning, saving, and preparing, we still experienced five full months of being without an income and living off of our savings. It was a trying time and it pushed my frugal living skills to a whole new level. One night, a couple of weeks into his unemployment, our oldest son said “Mom, can we please, please have pizza? Just once? It’s been a long time.” It broke my heart to have him missing such a simple delight. It was very difficult for him to understand our financial situation since he was only four at the time. I decided to make it into a fun DIY project for us. With a little quick online research I found a great recipe for dough and pizza sauce. We were on our way. As we measured and stirred our recipes I kept telling him how this probably  wouldn’t taste like “real” pizza from a restaurant, that the important thing is how much we were having fun doing it. When it came out of the oven and onto the table, each of us bit in. We all looked up to see a look of pleasant surprise on each others faces. This wasn’t just good. This was better than restaurant pizza. Why the heck had we never tried this before? And it was so easy (granted, I own an old Kitchen Aid mixer and this helps-but really-I’d probably still do it if I didn’t have one). These days I’ve perfected my sauce to our preference by tweaking the recipes here and there. I’ve also graduated to making a double batch of dough and sauce so I can freeze one set. This give us a super easy Friday night pizza on occasion since the work is mostly done.

So, while we had a lovely night out to dinner last night and enjoyed our meal a great deal, I’ve realized our frugal life has changed our enjoyment of pizza permanently. I’ve realized I’ve ruined us for restaurant pizza for good. We all got in the car and heartily agreed on one point: Moms’ is better.

If you’ve never tried homemade pizza before, trust me. Try it. It’s fantastic. You don’t need to go out and buy a pizza pan or stone-just use an old cookie sheet for now. It’ll work fine. Be warned though: this might just ruin restaurant pizza for you too.

Homemade Pizza:

Kitchen Aid Crusty Pizza Dough Recipe (note: I prefer to use whole wheat flour with this recipe and it works great. I also sprinkle cornmeal on my pan because I like to. But that’s a personal preference thing.)

Homemade Pizza Sauce (note: I actually use only the can of crushed tomatoes in this recipe so it intensifies the flavor and makes a nice thick sauce. I figured this out when I only had a can of crushed tomato on hand. I don’t alter the other ingredients at all. If you look at the comments below the recipe you’ll see that fresh tomatoes can successfully be used as well so if you have a garden full go for it!)

The Cheese: We hand grate ours and use a combination of 2/3 mozzarella and 1/3 cheddar. I get a pound block of each and then just eyeball it to suit us. Once you’ve grated your cheese add in 1 tsp of dried Italian Herbs. It’s much better this way.

Toppings: This is up to you! Go for it!

Our first homemade pizza. We've come a long way since then!

A Plate of Pancakes

One of our household favorites for eating on the cheap-breakfast for dinner! How can you miss with a mouse shaped pancake with a few chocolate chips tossed in? And yes, they were whole grain and from scratch. We don’t do box mix pancakes here-the ingredients are surprisingly simple and, most often better. And if you’ve got the makings for most any kind of cookie in your house I’m pretty sure you’ll have the makings for pancakes too! Most prepackaged food is strictly about convenience and convenience costs extra. The funny thing is-once you know how to make them from scratch you’ll be scratching your head over why you even bothered with a mix in the first place. So go ahead and pull out your trusty cookbook and dust that thing off. Spend that hard earned money on some honest to goodness real maple syrup instead! Your tasted buds and your wallet will thank you. (Don’t forget to save the leftovers! They freeze just fine and toast up nicely in the morning.)