Everyone loves pizza. If you don’t love pizza, then I will need to question your humanity. There are thousands of types of pizza, so if you can’t find something you like, you may just be wrong.
Pizza(Wikipedia article on pizza) is classified as toppings upon a doughy flatbread, baked to perfection. Pizza originated in Italy as a way of using leftovers again for a new meal.
Just press out some dough and add the leftovers to the top, bake and enjoy.
Pizza has become one of the most popular foods in the world, and I personally believe it is the best concoction of food ever devised.
You may be seeing a little bias in my writing here, but let’s explore pizza and how to get it as often and as cheaply as possible.
A personal finance website discussing pizza as a topic may come as a surprise, but when pizza is so integral to our lives, why are we not discussing it?
In all seriousness, pizza can be expensive, and when folks pile on delivery charges, it can be ridiculously expensive.
This is the guide to all things pizza, so you can enjoy the savory treat on a budget. I have made a lot of mistakes in the past, usually attributed to blowing money on dinners, so I wanted to see if we can keep pizza within our budget.
There are tons of places to buy pizza, you can make it at home, or there are ways to get your pizza fix for very little money.
The key is to find the deals that work, while still maintaining quality.
The first stop on our frugal journey is with homemade pizzas and the glorious outcomes you can create with a little knowledge and practice.
To make the best pizza at home does take some money and a good understanding of how pizza is made, but after the initial set back of cash, you can make pizza relatively inexpensively.
The items that I would recommend having before starting the glorious road to pizza at home is:
- Pizza Cutter
- Oven Stone
- Pizza Peel
- A great recipe
Don’t get me wrong, none of these items is essential to great pizza, except maybe the recipe, but they are an investment in your pizza future.
Having these particular items at home will lead you to forego eating out, and in the long run that will save you a ton of cash.
You could cut pizza with any ‘ole knife laying around, but the pizza cutter makes the process quick and easy. A good pizza cutter will set you back about $5-$15 depending on the size and quality.
Here is an example of a great pizza cutter on Amazon for very little cash.
An oven stone simulates the brick oven experience of the great restaurants. This stone is placed within a cold oven and heated up as the oven does. It makes sure that your fresh dough is cooked evenly and thoroughly, with a crisp exterior and a fluffy interior.
The pizza peel is probably the least essential of these accessories, but it does help a lot when dealing with fresh dough. It can be difficult to get that dough onto the pizza stone without the help of this handy tool.
It also makes you look like a legit pizza-pro too.
The recipe is what will set your pizza apart from the mediocre attempts we have all had in the past. A good recipe is not just about the ingredients, it is a step by step guide to pizza perfection.
No matter what type of regional specific pizza you like, start with a great recipe.
The Big Chains
Almost every town in America has at least one of the big four pizza chains luring in their midst. These chains serve up acceptable pizza at less than acceptable prices.
The big chains will skimp on quality, but you will get a homogenized experience in almost any of their franchised stores.
In other words, you’ll know exactly what to expect from each location.
These chains do have specials, sometimes even worthy of our patronage, but they have laid a lot of traps that you need to avoid before buying.
- The Bread Trap– The sides offered up at these establishments are there to upsell you into unnecessary items. These items, such as breadsticks, are extremely overpriced and serve to pad the store’s bottom line and your waistline with useless filler.
- Delivery– Get off your ass and go get your food. The chains charge at least $3 for the privilege of someone bringing you your food, and that does not include a tip. By getting your own food, you are saving at least $6-8 in excess lazy fees.
- The Meal Deal– It looks enticing when you are ordering, but the meal deals are a complete rip-off. Adding a 2-liter soda and bread means that they get an extra $10 out of you. These meal deals package everything together to make it look like a great deal for the whole family, but you end up spending more for things you don’t need.
These are just a few examples of the ways they want to separate you from your money. While I agree that leftovers may be a good thing, and that money does go further, leftover bread and side items are not the leftovers most people generally want.
Our thoughts on the big chains:
- Pizza Hut– The biggest and oldest of the pizza chains has had a long and bumpy road to get where they are today. Their tried and true hand-tossed regular pizza isn’t bad per se, but Pizza Hut is always looking for ways to make gimmicky pizza concepts that either work(stuffed crust) or fail miserably. They do have good deals on occasion, so make sure you find either coupons or specials online.
- Domino’s- Domino’s is the chain that started the revolutionary idea of delivery. Their claim to fame wasn’t great pizza, but the way you received that pizza. This led to stratospheric growth because we are lazy, and the chain grew across the entire nation. Domino’s ran into a seriously rough patch at the start of the 21st century, which they addressed with new pizza recipes, that brought them from edible cardboard to acceptable.
- Papa John’s- Papa John claimed that fresh ingredients made a better pizza, and he is right in that regard, however, you may not like his brand of pizza. Along with being arguably the most expensive of the large chains, the recipe is very bready and the sauce overly sweet. Papa John’s does have a good variety of different pizzas though, and you can find deals, especially if you sign up for their rewards program.
- Little Caesars- The frugal king of this list, you can get a pizza for as little as $5 with their hot and ready program. However, that low cost brings with it some drawbacks. I would not call Little Caesar’s great pizza, but it does work in a pinch. Basically, it is pizza for pizza’s sake.
The local pizza joint is usually where you can find the highest quality pizza. Family-owned establishments with long-held secret recipes are great sources of wonderful pizza.
The problem is that these great pizzas cost a lot. Like, a whole lot.
While you can find places that will sell you a slice for $3, most of the time a full pie is very expensive.
Quality costs money, we all know that, so be very cautious when eating at these places.
Look for specials and deals that help you get pizza at a reasonable cost and you can still enjoy the fabulous pizza.
I especially recommend these places, because they are the staple of our communities. Without our local family-owned places, we may be trapped in a world of just the big four chains and a spattering of other chains.
Don’t break your budget, but make an effort to give them your patronage. Not only is the pizza better, but you are helping to foster community.
Strange But Good
Believe it or not, there are some strange places to get good pizza for way less money. Places like Costco serve a great pizza at a minuscule price. The aforementioned by the slice method is always a great way to get good pizza for little money.
Costco has a lot of food items that they offer their shoppers, and if you are there buying in bulk and saving money, you might as well go for a slice. Last time I was there, a slice and a drink was $2.50.
Frozen pizza is another way to get a decent pizza at lower prices, too. Don’t head straight for the Digiorno though. While they are a decent pizza, they are overpriced relative to the store brand that still has a lot of the same qualities, such as rising crust, at a much lower price.
I will always recommend fresh pizza over frozen, but they can work if you need them to.
A recent trend I have been seeing is the popularity of take and bake pizza. Basically, they make the pizza for you out of fresh ingredients and then you take the pizza home to cook it your self.
A chain like Papa Murphy’s makes a good pizza for quite a bit less money. You can also put your pizza stone at home to work or use the pre-made foil pan that they send the pizza home in.
Keep an eye out at flea markets, farmer’s markets, or other such bizarre places for pizza. With the popularity of pizza, you can find great pizza in very out of the way places. Often for very little money at all.
The fun part is hunting down places that are out of the way and rely on word of mouth to find an audience.
Good pizza is always worth discovering.
What To Look For
The fact that we must eat to survive, means that we to be cost-conscious and frugal with our decisions is important. Eating out is expensive, hence why I recommend a home-cooked meal at least 95% of the time.
But there are those times when home-cooked isn’t quite going to hit the spot, or you aren’t up to snuff on a certain recipe.
So how do we find good, cheap pizza?
Good question. Primarily, we want to focus on the good part of that equation. Good pizza can be a lot more expensive than bad pizza or big chains.
Just because we can get Little Caesars for 5 bucks, doesn’t mean that we should or have to.
If you can find a local deal for a large for $8, that should feed you and your family fairly well. If it isn’t quite enough food, prepare some homemade sides to go with the pizza.
A salad before the pizza makes for a well-rounded dinner.
Cheap isn’t the only option. Make your choices on eating out as more of a treat that the family can enjoy, and not an exercise in punishing them to save money.
Pizza Can Be Expensive!
Pizza by itself has turned into a relatively expensive proposition. The combination of fresh-made dough, quality sauce, and freshly made cheese add up to a relatively expensive dish.
Eating out, in general, has become prohibitively expensive these days.
To be completely fair with you, even homemade pizza has a very good sized cost associated with it. Especially if you prefer a lot of toppings on your slice. Each added topping is an added cost to the overall pizza.
So how deep is your love of pizza?
Is it worth the home-cooked effort, or do you treat it as a bonus night with the fam? Let us know below.
Different Is Good
While we haven’t delved too deeply into what toppings do go into a pizza, we wanted to highlight the extremely diverse types of pizza that exist today. If it can go on a flat circle of food, it can be considered pizza.
Buffalo Chicken Pizza- This is one of the oldest modifications to the traditional pizza format and brings a distinct, spicy flavor to the mix. This particular iteration isn’t any cheaper than regular pizza, but it does offer up a spicy differentiator.
Barbecue Chicken Pizza- A slight variation to the chicken theme, this pizza is also a very old stem from the pizza tree. I think this one and the buffalo version both come from the fact that chicken needs more flavorful sauces to truly satisfy.
Gluten-Free Pizza– Great pizza dough is chock full of gluten, so those of us that are allergic or choose to avoid gluten have been given a lot of options in recent years. The pricing on these pies has been relatively equal to regular pizza too. I have not had the opportunity to try these pizzas, so I won’t comment on their quality.
Paleo Pizza- By avoiding any kind of wheat flour, you can create a “Paleo Pizza”(Paleo recipe). This pizza uses cauliflower or even cheese as the basis of the crust. There is also a recipe or two out there that use something like almond flour. If you are avoiding carbs at all cost, here is your saving grace.
Explore your options and you’ll see that pizza makers are finding ways to keep everyone happy. I personally can live with just pepperoni pizza, every day, but I do really enjoy some variety in my food choices.
Healthy and Conscious
A standard dough, sauce, and cheese pizza is not a particularly healthy option for most folks. The more veggies and meat we add does help, but it raises the cost considerably.
The ultimate problem is the amount of bread in the standard pizza. One way around this is loading up the toppings on a thin crust or flatbread type of pizza.
This can help to overcome the overload of calories from a standard pizza crust. Learn to make very thin pizza at home and load it up with fresh meat, cheese and your choice of veggies. Or like I mentioned before, grab a side of healthy to go with your pizza.
Don’t treat pizza night as a free pass on being a healthy eater. Make the pie fit into your healthy habits (Our article on fitness and finance).
Your Pizza, Your Way
No matter which way you slice it, pizza is a favorite of billions of people around the world.
What we need to do to enjoy it fully, is a cost-conscious, healthy, and family feeding recipe that we can do at home.
This may take some effort to research and learn how to make your own recipe. Pizza can fit into any lifestyle or dietary need.
I will always recommend making your pizza at home, with as close to fresh ingredients as possible.
Not only are they less expensive, but they will make a better-tasting pizza in general. When you buy pre-packaged ingredients, there is a markup for the preparation that has already gone into it.
Bring your family into the kitchen and make pizza. Not only is it fun, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity to teach and spend time with them. And everyone loves pizza, if they’re human.
- If buying from the big chains, find a deal that includes pizza and a substantial side like chicken. A lot of chains offer 2 for $6 each type deals for multiple food types. A pizza and chicken can make for a great meal for less money.
- The less prepared your food is, the less it will cost. Make your own dough.
- Do not buy pre-shredded cheese. An added ingredient to those cheeses is there to keep them from sticking together in the bag, and it makes for less appealing and melty cheese on your pizza.
- Experiment in the kitchen with different flavors and recipes. There are thousands of recipes that you can draw from to make the perfect pizza.
- Some pizza buffet places have good pizza for less money, like Cici’s Pizza, but you need to watch your total caloric intake. These places also have salad bars, use them.
- Have pizza on the nights other families are not. The best specials are usually Monday thru Wednesday because the pizza joints are not getting as much business then. Friday and Saturday are the absolute worse for deal seekers.
I want to know what you look for in a delicious, inexpensive pizza. Do you have a recipe that you have to recommend to the rest of us? What about how you save money when eating pizza out? Let us know!