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Posted on Tue, Jan 5, 2010 : 7 a.m.

Enjoying Greek salad pizza

By Mary Bilyeu

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I belong to an online group known as the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers, a feisty and fabulous bunch of women that not only writes about a topic near and dear to my heart -- food! -- but which gathers to exchange cookies, to make homemade vanilla extract, and to go on field trips ... oh, and to take on Wal-Mart, too.
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Greek Salad Pizza, made entirely with ingredients from the People's Food Co-Op for less than $2 per serving.

MLFB member Mlle. Noelle issued a challenge after watching one too many commercials in which Wal-Mart claims that you can feed your family for less than $2 per serving by shopping at their store; but the items featured tended to be frozen lasagna and bottled salad dressing, rather than fresh (and preferably local) ingredients.

And so, an idea was born: can people shop at local markets, purchasing fresh vegetables and cooking wholesome food, and feed nutritious meals to their families for as little as $2 per serving? Or is it necessary to depend upon pre-packaged and processed foods from corporate monoliths to facilitate living within a budget??? These were the basic criteria for the challenge:

- $2 per serving for an entire meal (dessert optional)

- No processed ingredients allowed, and no trans fats, preservatives, or high-fructose corn syrup

- Nothing too unusual, using readily-available ingredients

- A time limit of 1 hour, though crockpots were welcomed (to acknowledge that Wal-Mart is trying to serve busy families with limited time)

- A bonus for using local ingredients.

Well, from the minestrone to the chili with cornbread, from the beef and vegetable stir-fry to the roasted vegetables with marinated tofu, and from the pasties to the garlic shrimp pasta, my MLFBers proved that good food can be enjoyed without a) spending a lot of money, b) investing a lot of time, c) buying processed foods high in fat and salt and sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, and d) shopping at Wal-Mart.

In the midst of Chanukkah and cookie baking and the extraordinary joy of spending time with Tom, who warms my heart and my soul by telling me he loves me "more than peanut butter" (and whose love is better than both ice cream and chocolate), I did not meet the deadline of posting my response to the challenge by December 31. I tend to run 10 minutes late ... I guess sometimes that can stretch into a few days!

But here, finally, is what I made with the $2 per serving notion in mind: Greek Salad Pizzas. I did my shopping exclusively at the People's Food Co-Op, where I had so many ideas and options that it was really hard to narrow them down. But pizza is a food that virtually anyone will eat (and I happened to be feeding both Jeremy and his friend Zach that night ... teenage males are a ready audience for this particular item!). Using whole wheat pita breads as crusts and Muir Glen tomatoes for sauce provided a quick and easy base for toppings, which I must admit I resorted to "convenience" items for ... the convenience of the Salad Bar, which offered crumbled Feta and shredded Parmesan cheeses, Kalamata olives, sliced red onions, parsley, and any number of other fresh vegetables and tidbits that I might also have chosen.

If you count my one serving along with Jeremy and Zach splitting the rest of the food, then I failed the challenge; but if you consider that I actually made enough to feed 6 (non-teenage male) people -- including carrots on the side -- then I would have served a wholesome, nutritious and fun dinner for $1.68 per serving:

$1.99 Oasis Whole Wheat Pita Breads $1.49 Muir Glen Fire-Roasted Crushed Tomatoes $4. 96 Hot/Cold Bar topping items $1.69 Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Carrots

Total: $10.13

Now, I admit that I have actually set foot into Wal-Mart, though not since 1999. (We were in Alaska, and it was the only thing in town if you wanted to eat or buy fishing supplies or buy a jacket.) And I have been to both Costco and Sam's, in addition to having used my Kroger card so many times that it wore out and fell off my key ring. So I would be a hypocrite to bemoan the fate of society and tout myself as someone who only eats local and/or organic food bought from family farms, although this would be a lovely ideal. But just because the behemoths exist doesn't mean we have to rely upon them exclusively, or buy the hydrogenated poisons on their shelves when plenty of vegetables -- fresh, frozen and/or canned -- are available, along with whole grain breads and pastas and fruits. This challenge was merely a reminder that we should be careful how we nourish ourselves.

Wishing everyone a joyous 2010!!!

Greek Salad Pizzas

4 whole wheat pita breads 1 14.5 ounce can Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes 3/4 pound items for a Greek salad (Feta, onions, olives, etc. -- pit olives or chop items into smaller pieces, if desired)

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Place 2 pita breads onto a baking sheet. Spread half the tomatoes over the pita breads, then cover with half of the salad items. Bake for 7-8 minutes until the cheese is melting and the edges of the breads are golden. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Cut pita breads into quarters and serve hot.

Serves 6.

Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures as she tries to win prizes, feeds hungry teenagers and other loved ones, and generally just has fun in the kitchen. The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured next to the blog's title) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15, and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here!

You can contact Mary at


Mary Bilyeu

Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 5:26 p.m.

Local, healthy and affordable absolutely all go together! And the salad bar was the perfect place to get a little of this, a lot of that, and really tailor the pizza the way I wanted it without -- as you say, Ed -- inundating my pantry and my refrigerator with all the leftover quantities for the sake of a few ingredients....

Lynn Liston

Wed, Jan 6, 2010 : 12:25 p.m.

The MLFB is a fabulous idea, and thank you, Ladies, for sharing your $2/local food challenge. The pizza sounds really good, so does that white chicken chili. Walmart cannot compete with a community that thinks healthy, local and affordable go together! :)

Mary Bilyeu

Tue, Jan 5, 2010 : 1:14 p.m.

The chili sounds amazing!!! (I even have some beautiful red, yellow and orange peppers at home that might just find their way into a batch....) You're right -- the dried beans not only promote our state's bounty, but they're inexpensive and nutritious. No one needs to rely upon junk, even if money and time are both issues....


Tue, Jan 5, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

Mary - great article. There are so many inexpensive ways to feed a family healthy food. I, too, cringe at the adds promoting high fat, high salt, processed foods as a way to feed a family on a budget. One of my favorite economy recipes is white chicken chili using dry great northern beans (Michigan grown of course). I like to add some color and nutritional benefit by adding roasted red and yellow bell peppers.

Black Francis

Tue, Jan 5, 2010 : 9:37 a.m.

What a great idea! Convenient doesn't have to come from a can. This looks really good and fresh.