When I was 16, I celebrated National Pizza Day 2007 by eating an entire large Papa John’s pizza by myself. So you might say I’m a fan.
Pizza is so much more than a cheesy disc; it’s rich in both flavor and history, stretching back way farther than you might think. Plus, modern-day pizza can be surprisingly affordable if you look in the right places.
So how can you save money on pizza today and throughout the year and who’s offering deals on National Pizza Day? And is it more cost-effective (and healthier) to make pizza at home? Finally, where did pizza come from, and how did it become part of a global diet?
Let’s talk about pizza!
The price of a slice: fun money facts about modern pizza
From humble beginnings feeding working-class Italians, pizza has quickly blown up into one of the world’s favorite foods. Before we talk about dollars and cents, I want to highlight one of my favorite aspects of pizza that nobody really talks about.
Pizza: the great equalizer
On National Pizza Day, I think it’s worth celebrating that almost everyone can still afford good pizza. Yes, there are pizzas out there that cost the same as a used car (more on those in a bit), but you can still get a delicious, authentic slice in New York for $1, or an entire 12” Mama Cozzi’s pizza at Aldi for $2.
And we shouldn’t take this for granted because that hasn’t always been the case with a popular dish – like lobster – in America. Lobster used to be a cheap source of protein given to slaves and prisoners in the 19th century. But once the upper class realized how delicious it was, they artificially drove prices up until it became a “delicacy.” By WWII, almost nobody could afford lobster like they used to.
You can’t find $1 lobster anymore, but you can still find $1 pizza!
Funny enough, while pizza has remained affordable, the most expensive pizza has become a lot more expensive than lobster…
Who sells the world’s most expensive pizza?
Anyone visiting Nino’s in New York might feel certain that they’ve found the world’s most expensive pizza. At $1,000, Nino’s priciest pie pizza features creme fraiche, six different kinds of caviar, and Maine lobster (there’s irony in there somewhere).
However, even priced at a grand, Nino’s is practically fast food compared to a certain pizza found in Scotland. Glasgow’s Domenico Crolla restaurant offers a 12” pizza they call the Royale 007. Inspired by James Bond, the Royale features caviar soaked in Dom Perignon, lobster soaked in cognac, and 24-karat gold flakes. The price? $4,200.
OK, that’s $525 a slice. How can a 12-inch pizza get more expensive than that?
Well, the world asked, and Italy answered. The country that invented yet held no interest in pizza now offers the most expensive pie in the world.
Adorned with a rather fitting name, the Louis XIII pizza is prepared by Master Pizza Chef Renato Viola and costs an eye-watering $12,000. You must order well in advance because the crust alone takes him 72 hours to prepare.
While Viola works his pizza magic, a custom set of cutlery and plates designed for the meal arrive at your home, along with bottles of Remy Martin Cognac Louis XIII and 1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil champagne. A sommelier also attends the meal for reasons I’m probably not rich enough to understand.
The $12,000 pizza itself is surprisingly “tame”, with 8 types of cheese, prawns, caviar, shrimp, and lobster. As you finish your last bite, you can enjoy reflecting upon whether it was worth the price of a used Camry.
How much do Americans spend on pizza?
Now that we know how much billionaires are spending on pizza, how much does the average person spend on pizza per year?
Well, that exact statistic doesn’t seem to exist, but I did find a few others that can lead us to an estimate.
According to pizza blog slicelife, the average American consumes 46 slices of pizza per year. On any given day, 13% of the American population eats pizza. In fact, Americans eat so much pizza that according to the USDA, a full 27% of our caloric intake comes from pizza alone. Which means this country was built on pizza.
Looking back on that 46 slices figure, we can roughly estimate how much we’re spending on pizza. Considering the average cost of a frozen pizza is ~$7 and a takeout pizza is $16, let’s assume that the average pie costs $12. Divide by 8 and we have $1.50 a slice.
However, a lot of folks buy pizza by the slice and pay a premium for the convenience. For that reason, let’s bump our estimate to $2 per slice. That would mean that the average American spends 46 x $2 = $92 or roughly $100 per year on pizza!
$100 per year isn’t much, but you can still get those numbers down. Since this is Money Under 30, let’s investigate ways to save a few bucks on your pizza habit.
How can you save money on pizza?
With so many chains and restaurants competing for your dollar, there’s a myriad of ways to save on pizza. To start, who can offer you the best deal on National Pizza Day?
Where can you get discounted pizza on National Pizza Day?
USA Today did a complete spread on where to find free and discounted pizza, but here are a few highlights from national chains:
- Sbarro is offering its loyalty members a coupon for a free NY XL slice with beverage purchase on Tuesday.
- Einstein’s Bagels is offering a Family Pizza Bagel Box for just $5, or half off the regular price. The box includes 8 pizza bagel halves (4 cheese, 4 pepperoni) so if you can make 8 meals out of it, $5 is a pretty darn good deal.
- Your local pizza joint is likely hosting some kind of National Pizza Day promotion – check their social media page!
Surprisingly, Domino’s, Papa Johns, and Pizza Hut don’t seem to be participating in National Pizza Day at all. They don’t even mention it on their websites. It’s a strange omission, and I can’t make sense of it.
However, despite their vexing disinterest in their own holiday, these global pizza chains offer some of the best deals throughout the calendar year. So how and where can you save on pizza regardless of the date?
What are some of the best pizza deals all year long?
I eat so much pizza that most studies probably eliminate me as a “statistical outlier.” I’m also frugal, which means I’ve spent half my life hunting down the best overall deals.
Here are some of my favorite evergreen pizza deals:
- Best cheap frozen pizza: Mama Cozzi’s Original Thin Combo Pizza, $2 at Aldi. Sure, this 12” pizza may only be a 5/10 on taste, but it’s two bucks. It satisfies a pizza craving for less than $1 per serving and packs 54 grams of protein.
- Best carryout deal: Domino’s large three-topping for $7.99. Pizza Hut can’t match this deal and Papa John’s only offers an $8 pie sometimes. Plus, if you haven’t had Domino’s since 2009, you should know that they scrapped their mediocre old recipe and their new pizza is the shiz.
- Best upscale pizza: The Louis XIII pizza, $12,000. Nah, just kidding. My favorite spot for “fancy” pizza used to be Mellow Mushroom, but their prices have risen so high recently that I’m instead going to give the crown to Blaze Pizza. The CA-based chain lets you pile on fresh ingredients until you wonder how they make money and frequently offer discounts and deals on top of that.
Lastly, if you’d like up to 10% cash back on pizza, download Dosh. Dosh is an app that tracks your credit card purchases and automatically gives you 4 to 40% cash back on purchases made at over 15,000 retailers and 600,000 hotels. Pizza Hut is a confirmed Dosh partner, and I’m sure other pizza chains are in there as well. Dosh is free, secure, and we scored it a 9.5 out of 10.
Is it cost-effective to make pizza at home?
Most meals are cheaper and a little healthier if you can make them at home. Does pizza fall into that category?
Possibly! It mostly depends on how you like your pizza. If you prefer healthy, organic, or gluten-free ingredients, you’ll almost certainly save money (and calories) by making your own pies at home. Remember that pizza started out extremely simple: just bread, oil, and toppings. All three are super cheap at the supermarket, so pick up some ingredients and experiment!
If you’re a pizza fiend like me, you might even consider investing in a pizza stone to put in your oven which you can get for $35-40, or an actual pizza oven. The average outdoor pizza oven costs $8,000, but you don’t have to go quite that far. Instead, you can invest $55 in a top-rated countertop pizza oven like the Presto Pizzazz. If you can start cooking Mellow Mushroom-quality pies at home, the Pizzazz will pay for itself in mere weeks.
The surprisingly extensive history of pizza
When you bite into the cheesy, carb-y goodness of a modern pizza, you might not realize that you’re sharing in a human tradition that’s older than the pyramids. While the modern pizza may only be a few centuries old, its roots trace back nearly as far as civilization itself.
Early pizza was part of a prophecy
Virtually every ancient civilization had its own version of pizza. When grains and bread are a staple of your society’s diet, it doesn’t take long for someone to figure out that you can put delicious stuff on the bread.
As early as 6700 B.C., Persian soldiers used to bake flatbreads on their shields, topping it with cheese and dates. The opposing Greeks would top their pizzas with herbs, cheese, onion, garlic, and sometimes even meat. So if you ever wondered how 300 Spartans could hold off 150,000 Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae, it’s probably because their bellies were full of far superior pizza.
In the Latin epic poem The Aeneid, the Harpy queen Celaeno prophecies that the Trojan soldiers would not find peace until their desperate hunger drove them to “eat their tables.” Later in the poem, the exhausted soldiers are so famished that they eat the hunk of stale bread serving as the table underneath their other food, “accidentally” eating pizza and fulfilling the prophecy.
Modern pizza is more American than you think
Fast forward a few millennia, and the origins of modern pizza as we know it can be traced to 18th century Naples. The working poor needed a cheap, filling meal they could eat on the move, so Neapolitan street vendors began selling flatbreads with tomato sauce, cheese, anchovies, oil, and garlic.
Despite its deliciousness, pizza didn’t catch on in the rest of Italy at all. Queen Margherita loved it (hence the “Margherita Pizza”) but pretty much everyone else considered it to be the instant ramen of Italy: cheap, unhealthy junk food.
Due to its ignominious reputation, pizza stayed relegated to a few neighborhoods in Naples for nearly 150 years.
Americans, unsurprisingly, were much more receptive to the idea of pizza. In 1905, Neapolitan immigrants opened G. Lombardi’s in Manhattan, and passersby in the street would follow their nose to this exotic new food. The popularity of pizza exploded overnight, with pizza joints popping up all over New York, New Jersey, and Boston.
Even America’s upper crust fully embraced pizza, experimenting with all kinds of bougie toppings like salmon and barbeque chicken. In a way, we have one-percenters to thank for all of the crazy varieties of pizza we enjoy today!
By the end of the 20th century, chains like Pizza Hut and Domino’s had begun exporting pizza to over 60 countries. It had taken over a century, but the working class snack from seaside Italy had finally received the global praise it deserved.
Hawaiian pizza is Greek, Canadian, and Chinese, but not Hawaiian
The 20th century marked a “Pizza Renaissance,” during which culinary artists experimented wildly with all kinds of toppings and flavors on pizza.
The Michaelangelo of the Pizza Renaissance might as well have been Greek-born Canadian chef Sam Panopoulos. Chef Panopoulos had years of experience making sweet and savory Chinese food, so he tried transposing those flavor profiles onto pizza. He achieved this effect by replacing pepperoni with Canadian bacon (ham) and adding pineapple. His creation, Hawaiian pizza, got its name from the brand of pineapples he used.
Hawaiian pizza was wildly unpopular… until it wasn’t. For some mysterious reason, Hawaiian pizza finally caught on and has become a source of heated debates in college dorms for over 50 years.
Pizza has way more crazy history than this, but I hope you’ve enjoyed these highlights.
On National Pizza Day we celebrate a delightful and affordable food that’s been available to the masses for millennia. Stiff competition among national chains means you can get delicious pizza for around $2 per serving, and if you’re concerned for your budget or your waistline, you can always make pizza at home with healthier, cheaper supermarket ingredients.
What’s your favorite affordable pizza or pizza recipe? Let us know in the comments!