Gourmet Pizza for Less than a Buck


I’m a pizza fanatic. I will never turn it down. Ever. While living in Omaha, I looked forward to lunches with my coworkers at the closest Zio’s Pizzeria. For about $6, you could get two slices of your favorite gourmet pizza and a soda. Sure it was a zillion calories, but it was something I just couldn’t live without.

Then I moved to a small town about 50 miles away from Big O-town. With only 1800 people in the community and less than $20,000 a year to live on, gourmet pizza was a forbidden dream at best. Looking for ways to find an affordable and easy gourmet pizza recipe close to that hand-tossed idol I came to know from Zio’s was next to impossible. But after some very frugal adaptations, I came up with the following scheme:

Since Red Baron or Tombstone was always 3/$9 at one of the grocers in the county, they were a constant supply of mediocre pizza meals. Occasionally, you could even get a better brand rising-crust variety or a brick-oven type for less than $4. Paired with choice toppings and a better cheese, it was quite possible to get a gourmet knockoff for less than $5 a pie. Split the creation with 4 friends (because 900 calories really is enough) and add a salad or fruit, and you have a meal. The pizza will not cost you more than $1 a person!


Here are my favorite recipes based on the $5 limit. While it may cost more to purchase a unit of the toppings, you can make 2-3 pizzas per item (can of artichokes, for example) and keep your $1 a slice formula.


Greek – Cheese pizza with 1 cup shredded frozen or fresh spinach, 1 small can sliced black olives, and ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese.


Linsey’s Special – Pepperoni pizza with ½ cup chopped artichoke hearts (canned work best), ½ cup baby bella mushrooms, and ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend.


Fajita – Cheese or hamburger pizza with small amount of shredded chicken seasoned with taco or fajita seasoning, ½ sliced green pepper, and ¼ small diced white onion.


Cobb – Any variety pizza with 2 slices cooked crumbled bacon, 1 sliced roma tomato, and ¼ diced red onion.


Asparagus, shrimp, salami, meatballs, zucchini, broccoli, eggplant, pineapple, green olives, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, jalapenos, pesto, and anchovies also make great toppings in the combination that works best for you. Even if you were add a bit of your own extra pizza sauce, with the money you save on pizza, you can put the savings toward that cheap bottle of shiraz you were eyeballing!

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Rockin' post! David and I LOVE gourmet pizza and love experimenting with different kinds at home. We have a recipe for bulk homemade crust mix and try to make it if not once a week, at least a couple of times a month. (In fact, we just made breakfast pizza today - yum)

I think what's cool about having strategies for making great pizza at home is that it's a food item most people like to indulge in when they have the cash. Making some great versions at home really makes you feel like you're living large.

And boy, do I hear you on the wine. It's what we run out of instead of milk at our house. Can't wait to try your Greek toppings idea. Good job!

Jessica Okon's picture

Just teasing! I always doctor up frozen pizza. I'm going to have to try out some of your suggestions. Good post!

Paul Michael's picture

...but when I lived in London, a very cool pizza place called Pizza Xpress (it's more swanky than it sounds) would crack an egg over the pizza 7 mins before it was due to finish cooking. The result is excellent, it gives the pizza some extra flavor and the yolk melts into it, making it very moist and delicious. I dare anyone to try it. Who knows, you may love it like I do.

Guest's picture

We make home made crust, but sometimes you just don't have the time. I have found Pita bread works great for a quick crust that pleases everyone. One local grocery sells 6 x-tra large pitas for $2.19. These crusts baked in the oven to melt cheese will get crispy and be a sort of thin crust. We eat a variety of types of pizza such as a light spread of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, garlic and cheese the pizza is great. Great home made pizza sauce also tastes great with pepperoni, veggies, meatballs, or whatever you have onhand. The trick is quality toppings on the simple crust.

Barb C.

Guest's picture

I love homemade pizza! Friday nights are pizza nights at our house, and the kids make the pizza. I hardly ever have time to make homemade dough, plus I've never found a recipe that turns out very well. Our grocery store sells fresh pizza dough for 98 cents, so we use that instead. It's really tasty, and making pizza is really easy if you have the dough already made!

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm a sucker for artichokes. You can put them on anything, and I'm happy.

My sister taught me the art of the spruced-up pizza. I've used the fresh dough sold at various stores, and that does work really well. Smells good, too. I've found that you can acutally get away with making a healthy pizza, too. Just go easy on the cheese and chop and drain all the other ingredients well so that they stay on.


Guest's picture

I generally don't trust food advice from the Internet but this one is especially awesome. thank you wisebread!

Guest's picture

The dough never comes out right, and the cheese never melts right. I've given up on making my own pizzas. And anyone who starts with giving me lists of esoteric equipment and ingredients, spare me. The old time pizza makers didn't have any of that stuff.

Guest's picture

We do pizza all the time at home. Tastes better, and better for you! The secret for good pizza at home is a pizza stone, and the oven cranked to the highest setting for at least a good 20min before you put the pizza in. 

We make double-sized batches of dough, cook what we need and freeze the leftover balls for later. Pizza night just means dough to fridge before work, and putting it out on the counter to finish thawing when we get home. The stretching and assembly is the fun part!  
Guest's picture

Sprucing up frozen pizza's works awesome. From Jalepeno's, tomatoes, to artichokes, mmmmmmmmm.

Guest's picture

I always make my pizza at home. From start to a quick finish, I can do it now in 40 minutes, including baking time. Here's what I do:

1. Measure the following: 240g of filtered water, 375g of all purpose flour, 6g of kosher sea salt, 1 pack yeast.
2. Heat water in microwave for 30 seconds, and it should be about 110deg F.
3. Mix flour, yeast, salt water together, and it helps to use a KitchenAid mixer. Let dough come into a ball. Ideally, let stand for a few hours at room temp with a wet cloth on top. This will allow it to proof.
4. Stretch out dough really thin, place on olive oiled pan
5. Heat oven to 400deg F
6. Plut ketchup or tomato sauce on top, really thin, and then very sparingly some cheese and some pepperoni
7. Put in oven, and then bake for 10 minutes until cheese browns a bit.
8. Cut into slices immediately, and EAT and ENJOY! Yummy!

Guest's picture

This is a great way to work your magic on pizza to take it to another level.
I say if it tates good to you, then, it's perfect.

I have to disagree a bit with the $1.00 per serving concept. This may work for light eaters.

However, with pizza, I find it hard to control myself. I can't just eat one or two slices.

pizza on earth,
albert grande
Make pizza, stay happy!.

Linsey Knerl's picture

It can be higher, especially if your toppings are more exotic.  But I like to use lots and lots of piled high cheap fresh veggies... You can fill up fast that way!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture
Miriam Ottawa

If you live in a big city that has an Indian restaurant, go and buy some Naan bread-it is a flatbread baked over coals and usually pretty cheap-I pay $1.75 for 1 piece and if you buy a bunch the restaurant might sell them to you more cheaply.
I usually use that for my pizza and add tomato sauce and vegatables,cheese ect.

The bread freezes well also and it only takes 5 minutes to melt the cheese in the oven and you have a fire roasted taste to the pizza.
I try and stay away from the store bought pizza as they contain too many preservatives I can't eat.