Saving Money with Homemade Pizza and Family Movie Night

It’s kind of a Friday night tradition for our family to have pizza and watch a movie together. For our family, the regular plan is to make or order two large pizzas so that we have plenty of leftovers for weekend lunches. This typically costs somewhere around $30 if we buy it at the store. However, if we make it at home, the price drops to somewhere around $10 for both pizzas combined. That’s a $20 savings, and thus it’s well worth discussing here as a cost saving measure.

It’s worth noting that we don’t make pizza every single Friday; sometimes we do order it when we’re under a particular time constraint. Sometimes there are activities late Friday afternoon or early evening that interfere with actually making the pizza, which does take a while. Having said that, if one plans ahead, you can definitely make a pizza ahead of time and store it in the fridge, to be popped in the oven when needed.

I thought it might be interesting to run through our pizza preparation process, digging into exactly how much it costs, and offering up a simple procedure you can follow yourself.

Let’s dig in.

First of all, the only pieces of equipment you really need to make a homemade pizza are a large bowl of some kind (even a small pot will do), an oven, and a pizza pan. Pizza stones are nice but I don’t find them necessary to make a very good pizza.

My preferred pizza pan is this AirBake 15.75″ non-stick pizza pan that features a bunch of small holes on the bottom, which seems to help make the crust firmer on the bottom. I rarely run into uncooked crust in the middle with this pan (with one minor exception, which I’ll note later).

My basic recipe for one very large pizza that covers that whole pan has the following ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 1/4 cups flour (see note below)
  • (Optional) 1-2 tsp. each oregano, basil, garlic, black pepper, or other seasonings, to taste
  • Sauce, toppings, and cheese of your choice

I’m honestly not sure where I originally found this recipe, but it is my standby recipe. It’s worth noting that I usually make two crusts at the same time, so I double the recipe and divide it in half just before baking.

A note on the flour: all purpose white flour works just fine for this, but you can certainly use other kinds or mix flours together. I like to use about 1 cup of rye along with 3 1/4 cups all purpose white flour.

I start by just pouring the warm water into a bowl, then adding the olive oil, salt, yeast, and sugar and stirring it a bit. If I’m using seasonings, I add them now. Then, I add the flour and stir until everything turns into a wet dough. It should hold together in a single wet ball, but be really sticky.

At this point, I ask myself what kind of crust I want for the pizza. Do I want a thick, almost bread-like, doughy crust? If that’s the case, I stop stirring the wet dough and just leave it as it is. I simply cover it and let it rise in the bowl for about three hours, then I put it in the fridge.

If I want a thinner crust, I’ll add enough flour so that it just barely sticks to my hands, then I knead it for a few minutes and return it to the bowl and cover it. If I want a really thin crust (it’s not cracker-thin, but pretty thin), I immediately put it in the fridge (still covered); if I want kind of a medium crust, I let it rise for an hour or so, then I put it in the fridge (still covered).

Regardless of the crust thickness I want, I take it out of the fridge half an hour before I intend to start baking and let it sit on the table to rest and rise just a bit and warm up to room temperature. As soon as it comes out of the fridge, I punch down the dough thoroughly if I want it to be thin and punch it down a little if I’m aiming for medium; I leave thick crust alone.

I preheat the oven to 450 F, then I stretch out the dough into a round pizza shape on the pan. I bake the crust alone for just a couple of minutes if I want a thin crust, four minutes if I want a medium crust, and six minutes if it’s really thick. Then, I cover the pizza with toppings and return it to the oven, baking it until the top of the pizza is just starting to brown in spots, which usually takes about 16 minutes in our oven. I take it out, let it rest for maybe five minutes, and then slice it and serve. This pizza usually has a crisp bottom, and is breadlike on top if you’re aiming for a thick crust.

If you want, you can assemble the whole pizza in advance, even the night before. Just do everything except for the final bake, then put the pizza directly in the fridge, still on the pizza pan, covered in foil or plastic wrap. Pull the pizza out about half an hour before you want to bake it, if you can.

This pizza recipe turns out pretty great every time I make it. You can make the dough in advance or the full pizza in advance according to your needs.

So, what does it cost?

1 3/4 cups warm water – free, for all intents and purposes
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil$0.06, as a 750 mL container of olive oil can be bought for $5.99
2 tsp. kosher salt$0.01, give or take, as a 26 oz. container of salt can be bought for $0.89.
1 1/2 tsp. dry yeast$0.20 to $0.35, depending on the yeast brand and quantity
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar$0.01, as I can find it for $0.72 per pound
4 1/4 cups flour$0.40, as this is about 1.25 lbs. of flour and I can buy all purpose flour in a 25 pound bag for $7.76.

The total cost of the dough for a very large 16″ pizza is about $0.70.

What about the toppings? It’s going to vary widely depending on what you buy.

For pizza sauce, you can mix a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, a 15 oz. can of tomato sauce, and whatever seasonings you like to taste (oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and basil will cover it; you only need 1/2 tsp of each, but you can add more if you like more flavor). The total cost of ample sauce for the pizza is less than a dollar, based on prices from my local grocer.

For cheese, I strongly recommend buying a solid piece of the cheese you prefer and grating it yourself. Not only does it taste better, it’s usually cheaper, though you should always check the prices. My estimate is that I use two cups of shredded cheese on one of those 16″ pizzas, which ends up costing about $2.

So, for a 16 inch homemade cheese pizza, the total price is about $0.70 for the crust, $1 for the sauce, and $2 for the cheese, or $3.70. This would be a large or extra large pizza at most places, and you can easily make a thick crust version of this to make it super filling.

Additional toppings – whatever you desire – are going to cost more. We usually have one cheese pizza and then one pizza with additional toppings, whether it’s pepperoni or sun dried tomatoes or a mix of things. Let’s say those extra toppings cost $2. In that case, our two large pizzas, huge enough to feed a family of five both for dinner and for lunch the next day, costs about $9.40 to make. Yes, it might cost a little more than that depending on your toppings, your cheese quantity, and so on, but that’s roughly what it costs us.

In my town, I could not get anything approaching that quantity of pizza for less than $25. If I were to go to a neighboring town and try to get pizza I liked as well as my homemade, I’d be spending at least $35 (two pizza joints I really like pop into my mind, and I think the cheaper of the two would get me to an equivalent of my homemade pizza for $35).

Thus, by my math, I’m saving somewhere around $20 by making my homemade pizza versus buying pizza from somewhere else every single “pizza and movie night.” My homemade pizza usually generates more leftovers because it’s more filling, but I’ll still call it a wash.

Here’s the truth: Unless there’s a scheduling reason why I can’t make homemade pizza, that’s going to be our option for pizza night. It tastes so much better and costs so much less than the pizza available near us.

If you regularly have a “pizza night” at home, try making pizza yourself using this recipe. It’s pretty easy to do and is far cheaper than buying it elsewhere. One of these pizzas will easily feed two hungry adults and generate a lot of leftovers for future meals.

Good luck!

Read more by Trent Hamm

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