Saving Pennies or Dollars is a new semi-regular series on The Simple Dollar, inspired by a great discussion on The Simple Dollar’s Facebook page concerning frugal tactics that might not really save that much money. I’m going to take some of the scenarios described by the readers there and try to break down the numbers to see if the savings is really worth the time invested.
Melissa writes in: I’d be interested in knowing if its economical to make your own pasta. I did it the first time the other day to make noodles for my chicken noodle soup because i didn’t want to run to the store. The noodles were far superior, but it did take a bit of time as opposed to dumping a bag of egg noodles in the pot.
This is fairly hard to quantify, actually. Making your own noodles can be surprisingly inexpensive. All you really need are eggs and flour to put together noodles at a lower cost than what can be found in a store, and, as you mentioned, they are just fantastic noodles. Once you start using them, it’s really tough to go back to purchased noodles because the quality difference is immense.
The challenge here is time. To make your own noodles, you’re going to have to invest some significant time in making the dough, rolling it out thin enough to make noodles, then cutting it up.
Just to measure the time, I made a batch of egg noodles in my own kitchen recently. You just take four cups of flour, plus four eggs, plus enough water to make the volume of the eggs equal a cup (if needed, it might not be depending on your egg size). Knead the eggs and flour together until it makes a dough, then roll it out flat repeatedly, folding it over, and rolling it out again on a floured surface, then cutting the noodles and leaving them out to dry. This is about $1.20 worth of ingredients, and it took about forty five minutes to convert all of the dough into noodles working at a steady pace.
I then went to the store and found a pound of extra wide egg noodles for $2. In terms of cost, I saved about $0.80 on the batch, but the noodles I made were light years ahead in quality.
If you’re doing a strict cost comparison, I saved about $1 per hour of work making the noodles from scratch in a typical home kitchen environment. If you’re making them from scratch just to save money, it’s not worth it.
The problem with that simple conclusion, though, is that you’re not quite comparing apples to apples. The quality of homemade noodles far surpasses what you’re ever going to buy in a store.
If you really value the food you make at home, then making homemade noodles is going to be worth it. It’s enough to turn a regular meal into a memorable one and a great meal into a fantastic one. It’s the kind of thing that will leave your guests truly enjoying the meal you prepared and leave you with a satisfied mouth and stomach.
It’s also going to be healthier, because you control the ingredients. If you want to use whole wheat flour and egg whites, you can. If you want to make your own specific flour mix, you can. If you want to use farm fresh eggs, you can. You control it all. There’s no hidden ingredients or preservatives or mysterious industrial processes or anything else.
Such value, though, is incredibly hard to quantify because it comes down to the value you hold in such things.
If it were all about the dollars and cents, you’d probably never make your own noodles.
But sometimes, it’s not about the dollars and cents.