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Cheap Pizza - - Saving Money on Your Favorite Food
Pizza in its many forms
Neapolitan, thin crust, deep dish, hand-tossed, margherita, disc of sausage, white pizza -- my favorite food comes in so many delicious and delectable forms. I could wax poetic about the melange of sauce, crust and cheese:
Under those mozzarella cheese dimples
Canned tomato sauce bubbles over
Dancing on the gluten-free wheat crust floor
Admittedly that poem is awful, but you get my drift. When I was in high school and college, i went through every decadent food i could get my hands on, and I ate until I had to buy larger pants. And as many good burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken, barbecue brisket, pulled pork, paella, burritos, quesadillas, and kimbab I ate, I would always get sick of eating it and move on to a new conquest. Except for my dear friend pizza.
Surely you can appreciate the merits of a food that tastes as good cold as it does warm and hot. Or how it is equally merited in its many levels of crust and variety of toppings. It just never gets old, even when you're eating the bad stuff.
But that then leads to an issue. I'm eating a lot of pizza and paying a lot of money for it! Is there no better way? Can I not have my pie and eat it too?
So I began a very unscientific journey to look at pizza and try to quantify maximizing the value of it so that a $5 Little Caesars or 7-11 pizza would then be measured against a 13" coal oven pizza from down the street, or when I make one at time. Ultimately, what I set out to understand and to reap was the idea of hacking my favorite food so that I could enjoy it to the utmost without throwing losing my shirt doing it.
Lovely Deep Dish Pizza
Harkening to my high school roots, I started with what I expected to be the most convenient and cheapest pizza route: the frozen pizza. I grew up on this stuff and I never seemed to think of it as inferior when I paired a Freschetta with a 2-liter bottle of Pepsi, so what's changed in all these years?
As I walked down the frozen food aisle that i frequent, I grabbed a few different pies that piqued my interested. I grabbed a DiGiorno, a Red Baron, a Freschetta, and a Tombstone for old times sake (I really wish they didn't stop making those Tombstone commercials. Is it insensitive to ponder someone wanting a Tombstone pizza as their last meal? Anyway!),
Being the cheapskate I declare myself to be, I had coupons for 3 of the 4 pizzas and ended up paying about $4 per pizza which isn't bad. If I'm not shooting for variety and playing within the ongoing sales at the grocery store, then I can get a "large" frozen pizza for about $3. So it's cheap and that's a good start.
Of course, when you buy a frozen pizza, you have to consider the time and process of actually cooking the pizza. Between the need to pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes, cook for 20 minutes and the fact that the end product isn't nearly on the level of a Pizza Hut or Papa John's, it makes you really question the value.
For my own records, I've decided to move away from frozen pizzas for the most part. It's more work and time than it should be (Why can't it take 10 seconds like in Back to the Future 2?) and the resulting pizza is usually undercooked, overcooked or only mildly appetizing. Did I mention that the nutrition facts on these pizzas is scary?
Viva Frozen Pizzas
How Do You Prefer to Obtain/Buy Pizza?
How Do You Prefer to Obtain/Buy Pizza?
Making Pizza at Home
My second foray a week later was to bring pizza home and make a pie on my own. Well, actually make several pies as I tried to figure out what would be the best use of my time with the best results.
Version 1: Tortilla based pizza or pizza quesadilla
The easiest option I could think of consisted of flour tortillas, tomato sauce, shredded cheese and fresh basil. Surprisingly, this guy was tasty! While the texture was awful when cooked in the microwave, my baked version only took a couple of minutes to make and was better than cheap, small frozen pizzas (think Elio's or Tony's).
Version 2: Pre-made pizza crusts
I then decided to make a "real pizza" by buying pre-made pizza crusts which I would then top as I pleased. The good news is that compared to a tortilla based pizza, this version actually has a viable crust so it feels more like pizza. The bad news is that I don't like pizza crusts for the most part, and strictly based on taste, I prefer the tortilla. Nonetheless, I still get some of that health feeling so I can recommend pre-made pizza crusts as an option.
In short, I'm keeping some tortillas, sauce and cheese on hand permanently because given how easy it is to make tortilla pizza, and that it tastes as good or better than its frozen brethren, I'm cutting back on frozen pizza and making more by hand!
Pizza How, Why, Grade
Make At Home
Greasy but delicious
I Love It So Who Cares!
Let's face it: Pizza is awesome in so many ways. Here are some of my favorites:
- Super thin crust white pizza
- Authentic neopolitan pizza
- Stuffed crust pizza with mushrooms and green peppers
- Papa John's pizza with garlic sauce
- Domino's Brooklyn style
- Uno's Chicago Style pizza
- My tortilla pizza
Buying Pizza: To Chain or Not to Chain
Pizza is at its best when emerging from a hot oven with the cheese and sauce crying out to be tasted. The bubbling pies that you can get from a local pizza shop or a national chain just have a different texture, scent, and atmosphere than what most people are capable of making at home. And frozen pizzas don't stand a chance.
I won't spend much time getting into whether you should be supporting your local businesses or going with trusted brands that give you some level of quality assurance. As a consumer that's careful with every dollar, I often reward those who offer me the most. I have a local pizza shop that has Monday night specials with a large one-topping pizza, wings and a 2-liter bottle of soda for $14.99 which is pretty damn good. And then I've got Dominos offering 2 medium pizzas at $5.99 apiece so I tend to have good options.
The question is never whether these pizzas with real cheese, real crusts, sometimes handmade, and coming from a commercial oven will taste better -- the question is whether restaurant pizza offers a greater value for your $$. And fortunate or not, this gives a big edge to national or regional pizza chains.
Let me share with you some different deals I've seen online just by looking for pizza coupons:
- 50% off weeks at Domino's Pizza for any regular price pizzas. Since they have a nice variety of crust options and toppings, Domino's is a must during these weeks.
- Papa Johns 50% off local coupon. Based on how well the local sports teams do, I'll get emails from Papa Johns for 50% off the entire order. While I'm cooling on their pizza as a whole, I like getting additional breadsticks and sodas at 50% off and having it delivered.
- 20% off at Pizza Hut stackable coupon. Not only can I get the best deal currently offered on the website, but I'm also getting an additional 20% off which brings the beloved stuffed crust pizza to the $8-10 range. Pound for pound it's a tough pizza to beat.
At these prices, I've been enjoying pizza whenever I find out about a new 40% or 50% off.
Love Money Pizza
Don't Forget Why You're Doing All This
Bottom line: When you've got limits on how much time you have, how much money you can spend, and how much you can eat, you really have to make the most of your resources. Whether it's pizza, housing, credit cards, or Christmas shopping, let's make the most of what we have and enjoy every moment.
I believe that being frugal and making smart money choices is like any other exercise. As we continue to practice good habits in saving money where possible, finding deals for what we want, and having a good time at it, then we become better at dealing for a living.
I'm committed to sharing my experiences with getting the most out of using credit cards, saving and spending tips, and I might even add a slice of perspective without trying to be a psychoanalyst like some other personal finance folks out there.
Please let me know what you think and if you'd like to hear my take on a specific topic.