We Love Pizza Night
Like most families, our family loves pizza night. Not only is the pizza delicious, but designating our Friday nights as pizza night has ensured that our busy family gets at least one night each week to spend time together. For my wife and me, this night also serves as our “cheat night.” During the early stages of our weight loss journey that started a few years ago, having pizza night served as motivation to make it through the weak with intentional and disciplined eating.
In fact, we love pizza night so much that there was a year-long stretch between 2018-19 where we spent just under $5000 at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza & Wings. Most nights, we would order 2 pizzas, 2 beers for my wife and me (they have a great IPA selection), and 2 drinks for the boys. As time went on, we started expanding out into the occasional order of wings, side bread, and some meatballs here and there. As can happen, our pizza night lifestyle started to inflate. We would even invite others to our pizza night and often pick up the bill. Anthony’s basically became our spot, and we acted like we were cooking at home and hosting guests.
At the time, I put everything on my AMEX Gold card. I clearly remember the day I received a statement from them detailing our expenses by category, vendor, etc… When I saw what we were spending on dining out (I wrote another post about this. Click here to read), specifically pizza night, I knew this was no longer sustainable. At that moment, my wife and I decided to change. Originally, we decided to “cut back.”. We started going every other Friday at first. But very quickly, we eliminated it.
Eating at Home vs. Eating Out
As we made the transition to having pizza night at home, the benefits were clear. We quickly noticed the following positive pros and cons:
- More “real” quality time with family.
- No travel. Save on gas and time.
- Way cheaper food and drink (more on this later).
- Able to experiment with different toppings, flavors, crusts, and apps.
- Easily combine it with game night, movie night, or something else.
- No waiting for a table…ever.
- No tipping!
- Satisfaction in knowing we made it ourselves.
- Our kids seem to enjoy it much more!
- No restaurant atmosphere.
- It lacks the treat of “going out.”
- Anthony’s makes delicious pizza (so do we!)
As you can see from my two lists, the reason we made a move from “cutting back” to “no more” is obvious. We enjoy having pour pizza night at home more than we liked going out. And honestly, a few years later, that belief continues to grow as we iterate and optimize the experience for our family.
Hacking Pizza Night
So how do we save 85% compared to what we spent before? For easy math, we will use $100 as our weekly dining out expense before us eating at home. As I mentioned above, this largely consisted of pizza and drinks before we started inflating it (we also got a little fatter during this time). Also of note is that we are making full-size pizzas, not small individual pizzas. We use different pans, including a baking sheet, deep dish, cast iron circle, pizza stone, and regular circular pizza pan. Each pizza is consistent with a typical 12″-16″ pizza from a local pizza joint.
We make our own dough. You can buy pre-made dough from the grocery store to save time, but that costs anywhere between $1.50 and $2.00. That is still way better than going out for pizza, but it is 3X as much as it costs me to make our dough. In addition to cost, the other great thing about making our own is that we get to experiment with different flavors. We have done plain, wheat, and sourdough. They are all delicious, and they each cost about 50 cents per pizza. Our homemade dough is at least 66% cheaper than buying it.
Until recently, we were buying the store sauce. This normally costs about .99 cents per jar. No big deal, and it tastes great. I recently discovered that I love meatballs and the sauce my wife makes with them (the meatball thing is a story for another time). With this new knowledge in hand, my wife and I decided to start jarring and freezing that sauce to use on our pizzas. She has been tinkering with the recipe, and it is soooooo good! Each jar of sauce that we make at home costs about .84 cents (we use half of a jar per pizza). It’s not a huge price difference, but it tastes way better, and it is still a 15% discount from the store-bought sauce.
Cheese is the most expensive thing on a pizza. I was buying our shredded mozzarella in bulk for a long time, breaking it up into smaller bags, and freezing it. The best price I could find for pre-shredded pizza cheese was $3.20/lb. We use about .5 pound of cheese per pizza (sounds gross, just saying that). Another recent revelation for me was the benefits of a food processor for issues just like this one! We now buy the full blocks of mozzarella for $2.50/lb, and we shred it ourselves. It takes about 5 seconds, it’s fresh, and it’s 22% cheaper.
The toppings are where it gets fun for us. One of the pizzas is always cheese (for my youngest son). The other pizza toppings change week to week. My wife does a great job food prepping every week. As the week goes on, we go through most of the prepped food, and we make new food along the way that always results in leftovers. We use the leftovers along with veggies for our toppings. Some examples include chicken (different forms), sausage, bacon, hamburger, and more. We use herbs and veggies from our own garden during the nice weather, and off-season, we use store-bought. Using this approach, our pizza each week is delicious, different, and cost-efficient.
Friday night is pizza night, but it is also IPA night for my wife and me. We love a juicy IPA. Luckily we live close to many great breweries, including Treehouse and Spyglass, along with many more. These are all within driving distance for us, so when we can, we stock up, so we have our beer ready for Friday nights. Craft beer IPA’s range in price, but generally, we are looking at $4-$5/can, and we each have one. Our kids usually have water, milk, or seltzer water. Two beers and two sodas at Anthony’s would cost us around $15. By drinking at home, we save 33%.
On the high end, our total cost for two pizzas and drinks comes out to be $16.32. I actually believe it to be close to $15, hence the 85% OFF title (plus it sounds better than 84% OFF). We went from spending $100 every Friday night to spending $16.32 or less. To break it down even further to show the value of eating at home from pizza night, our cheese pizza cost only $2.16. A cheese pizza at Anthony’s cost $14.50 (12″) or $17.50 (16″). That works out to be an 85% savings for the 12″ and an 88% savings for the 16″.
We Can Do Better
You are probably thinking, “how on earth can you do better?”. Maybe you weren’t, but I was hoping you were. I used to think we were doing great with store-bought dough, sauce, and pre-shredded cheese. Clearly, we have improved upon that. I firmly believe that there is always room to iterate and improve. I am also a big believer in the Pareto 80/20 Principle (80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs). In our case, I would apply this to the biggest cost of our pizza, the cheese. My goal in the future is to get the cost of our cheese pizza down below $2/pizza. I will do this by using less cheese, no cheese (which is delicious with great sauce), or cheaper cheese. We also continue to explore new toppings, crusts, and sauce versions to make our pizza night as delicious and optimized as possible!
Does your family have pizza night? If so, send along your suggestions and experiences in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.