Updated on 10.30.11

Saving Pennies or Dollars? Making Your Own Noodles

Trent Hamm

saving pennies or dollarsSaving 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.

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  1. edenz says:

    Also keep in mind that if you enjoy making homemade noodles and this is something you do often, getting a pasta maker would cut the rolling time in half.

  2. Kyle says:

    This is great advice to restaurants that want to distinguish themselves by having high quality food. Fresh food is so much better than pre-made, frozen, or dried food.

  3. Cheryl says:

    You should be comparing FRESH purchased noodles to your homemade ones, not dry packaged noodles. Then you see the real price difference!

  4. Rebecca says:

    Whether it costs more or less, home made noodles in venison broth with chunks of meat and veggies are far superior to store noodles! The sheer comfort food aspect alone outweighs any extra cost, IMO.

  5. Steven says:

    When doing these calculations, do you factor in the time it takes to go to the store, shop, checkout, and come back home? I still feel like quantifying your time cost when doing regular household chores like cooking is irrelevent. You have to eat.

  6. MP3 says:

    Oh wow! Homemade pasta is the best.

    And the fun of making it with my husband is so great. We talk and talk while rolling and cutting the pasta and thinking of the terrific meal we are planning.

    I am sure it’s cheaper to purchase dry pasta on sale but some things you simply can’t quantify. The fun of making the pasta, the freshness of your meal.

    It’s the same with pizza. We make our own every Friday night with home made whole wheat pizza dough from scratch. We think of different toppings and different cheeses to try. I roast garlic for the base underneath the sauce – it adds such flavour. And it takes us forever. The first pizza comes out of the oven about 8:30 pm and the last one about 10 pm…but the taste. We’ll never go back to take out or frozen.

  7. AnnJo says:

    A pasta maker (like an Atlas) cuts the time factor down a lot, and if you have kids around, they usually love to do the rolling out. I can make a batch of fettuccini or egg noodles in about 20-30 minutes, assuming I don’t have to set the machine up and disassemble it every time I use it. It’s worth it if the noodles are the star of the show, and they cook in a quarter of the time it takes for dry, but still, it is a fair amount of work.

    For some dishes I actually prefer to use dried pasta: Some baked pasta dishes seem to hold up better if you use dried.

  8. Joyce says:

    If you’re fortunate enough to have a KitchenAid mixer, or similar, you can make up a batch of noodles almost as fast as it takes for the water to boil. I wouldn’t buy one just to make noodles, but if you already have it, and can beg or borrow the pasta attachment, you’ll never go back. Though, the manual one is good for back up in case the power is out and you NEED home made chicken and dumplings.

  9. DivaJean says:

    You have also not considered that noodles/pasta items are quite often the loss leaders for supermarkets. Stocking up on them when they are at a certain price point- and then adding a coupon- we have gotten noodles for about 50- 75 cents a pound.

  10. Tom says:

    These S.P.O.D. articles are really inconsistent in their analysis. How come you didn’t analyze the $/hr effort as you have in the past? Why are you equivocating that this penny-saving activity is worth it for the flavor?

    (Kevin, I think in the past Trent has called the trip to the grocery store insignificant because you need to go there for anyway, regardless if its for flour and eggs or dry pasta)

  11. Johanna says:

    Is there any reason to be more suspicious of “hidden ingredients or preservatives or mysterious industrial processes” in dried pasta than in flour? Unless you’re growing your own wheat and grinding your own flour, you need to trust *somebody* that the food you’re buying contains what they say it does.

  12. Gretchen says:

    Mostly inconsistent because this is the first one that talks about flavor/quality.

    the quality of my salsa is way more important to me than the quality of my pasta. (Full disclosure, I don’t really eat pasta.)

  13. Priswell says:

    Sometimes the point to doing it yourself is not that you save money, but that you can live better on the amount spent than if you bought it. Store-bought noodles? Fine. Home made noodles? Luxurious.

  14. Joanna says:

    Sure, sometimes it’s better to just spend more for quality. But this is a blog about personal finance / saving money. The fact that Trent is a bit of a foodie leaks into posts regarding food quality, and he advocates spending more in order to eat better tasting food.
    Why is that different from spending more to get quality in other areas?
    We all know how to spend more. We’re here for advice on the opposite.

  15. Vivianne says:

    I’ve heard that dried pasta actually has fewer preservatives than storebought fresh pasta. The dry version is not as microbe-friendly. I agree that homemade is tastiest, and my kids love cranking noodles; my pasta roller was $5 at a garage sale. But then you get into homemade ravioli, “four hours to make and 15 minutes to eat” according to DH

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