4/30/2008

An Ode: The Frugality of the Frozen Pizza


Who doesn't like a good frozen pizza? Cheap, easy, and tasty. I'm sure you or your family had a favorite growing up. For us, Tombstone was the pizza of choice. Crispy crust,above-average sauce, and decent toppings. All for around $3. Total bang for the buck. Not that there were many options back then. Freschetta, DiGiorno, Wolfgang Puck, and California Pizza Kitchen were non-existent. For the most part it was Jacks, Tombstone, and Red Baron - then the store brands, which were pretty crummy looking.

While we were still clueless and in debt, we were eating rather high on the hog. We tried all of the 5, 6, and 8 dollar frozen pizzas - self-rising crusts, pseudo-deep-dish, brick-oven-this, cheese-in-the-crust-that. And they were good. Some of them were very good. Some of the toppings were so tasty, that it made you forget about those delivery places that we still called from time-to-time (ya know, when we were out of frozen pizza and still too lazy to cook). The modest frozen pizza had come a long ways and we were loving it. But all this had to change - for our wallets and our waistlines.

While getting out of debt, the food budget was slim. Fortunately, those cheap frozen pizzas were still around. It's hard to beat cheap. With both of us working and a little one starting to eat big people food, there was more than enough added pressure to prepare and have a meal ready in a timely fashion. That was when we started pizza night. Mondays were rough enough as-is. Now after working late, I have to come home and figure out what to make for dinner.... and then make it? Monday was the obvious choice for pizza night. Most other meals were made from scratch. This was our one reprieve.

But there was a problem. We had gotten used to those 'fancy' frozen pizzas and all of their flavorful goodness. How could we downgrade to such bland, pathetic excuses for pizza? This was not going to be easy. In the end, we got on quite well. Friends and family who had long labeled us as 'foodies' were shocked (shocked!) to find plane-jane, store-brand frozen pizzas in our house. "Do you really like these?" "You haven't had them the way we make them." Below, we will conclude our ode to the frozen pizza with our 5 favorite ways to dress-up a $2.50, store-brand frozen pizza. They got us by. We ate like no-one else, and now we can eat like no-one else.
  1. Reclaim it for Italy. It's supposed to be an Italian dish, right? Yet I don't taste anything Italian-ish here. Pick up a container of pizza seasoning, some oregano, or crushed red pepper. A light smattering before going in the oven will do the trick.
  2. Accessorize. I'm not sure what that stuff is that some of these places try to pass off as sausage these days, but it's pretty terrible. Try browning, seasoning, and freezing your own Italian sausage. Buy your pizzas sans-sausage then add your own before cooking. Or, dice and freeze red onoins, or chicken breast, or bell peppers, or pineapple, or ....
  3. Three words: Bee. Bee. Que. Just as most people have a favorite frozen pizza, many have a favorite barbecue sauce. I prefer Stubbs Spicey. Full bodied with just enough pepper for a kick. Drizzle some on before cooking and you'll have quite the treat. Works best with pepperoni.
  4. Cheese, glorious cheese. That grated white stuff on top of the cheap pizzas resembles cheese in looks, but thats about it. Just as simple as the previous tip and equally vast in variety. A dusting of Parmesan cheese? Some chunks of Gouda? Slices of real mozzarella di bufala (a budget buster for sure)? Finely grated Romano (finally, it's grated....)? How can you go wrong?
  5. Cook directly on the rack. No matter what those silly directions say. Put a baking sheet on the rack below it if you must, but but don't let it touch the crust. I've tried it both ways with lots of pizzas and I was never satisfied with that droopy, undercooked crap that was supposed to be my crust. All because the directions recommended a baking sheet. I'll deal with a few stray toppings in the bottom of the oven, thank you very much.
Give these a try - preferably not all at once. Tell us what you think. If you have a favorite way to dress-up a cheap pizza, then hit us up in the comments. We'd love to hear about it.

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4 comments:

Meg from The Bargain Queens & All About Appearances said...

My husband used to live off pizza to the point where it got a little embarrassing. Seriously, I was around the corner in the hallway one night when I heard the delivery driver say, "The bachelor life, huh?!" when he saw the stack of pizza boxes.

The thing about frozen pizza is that with a good coupon or special, the take out pizza around here is about the same price as a good frozen pizza. And while I totally love adding topics to pre-made pizzas, it's easy to not factor in the increased cost.

Making your own pizza from scratch is really not much trouble, though. The crust is easy and cheap to make, then you just add sauce and toppings. In the oven it goes and out comes pizza just like you like it for super cheap.

Still, when there is a really good sale on decent frozen pizzas, we do snag a few because they are perfect for those evenings when friends go, "I'm hungry, let's eat out." None have turned down hot pizza on our dime yet -- and it saves us all money.

(BTW, I love love love banana peppers on mine.)
Of course, with some friends, making the pizza from scratch may be an evening of fun in itself. And you can use flat bread, pitas, English muffins, etc. instead of making pizza crust dough if you want to save time and have those items on hand.

Kathryn said...

We always have a few frozen pizzas for quick meals. We purchase them when they are loss leaders and then doctor them with finely diced onion, bell peppers, thinly sliced mushrooms, extra herbs/spices, and cheese.

It sounds like I'm spending a lot more/pizza by adding all my items; however, it really amounts to using extras leftover from that night's salad.

Emily @ Taking Charge said...

Yum. This makes me think of college. But I was never smart enough to think of adding all these things!! Great idea.

Debt Free Revolution said...

Oh dude, ditch the frozen stuff! YUCK! Find yourself a nice little independent pizza shop and work for them part-time :) I get my pizza free that way ;)

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