Make-at-Home Vs. Takeout: Pumpkin Pies

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Homemade Pumpkin Pie for ThanksgivingI don’t know about your house, but around here, pumpkin pies are a fall and holiday staple. My husband and son could eat their weight (and some years, I swear they do!) of this dessert. Sadly, I don’t share their love of this Americana fan favorite, which could be one of the reasons I’ve shied away from attempting to make the amber-colored treat from scratch. But that all changed this year!

We entertain almost weekly, so in any given fall season, I purchase five or more pumpkin pies. I started thinking a standard pie at my grocer costs a little too much. Could making this treat at home be more cost-effective for my holiday budget? So I set out to perform a make-at-home test with pumpkin pies as the subject matter.

Baking has always intimidated me. And even though I’ve yet to face a meal, side or snack recipe that scared me, the thought of baking quickly reduces me to a gooey mess of nerves faster than melting sugar.

But in the name of the test, I faced my fear of all things flour and made a pie crust (my grandmother would be so proud!). For that I needed:
• A 5-pound bag of all-purpose flour (I only needed 2 cups, but grocery stores frown on you opening up the bag and doling out flour by the cupful)
• 1 pound of butter
• Salt and cold water — both I had at home

I also needed:
• One 15-ounce can of pumpkin
• Ground cloves
• Allspice
• Ground ginger
• Vanilla extract
• Evaporated milk
• Eggs

You may have some of these spices in your pantry, and truth be told, I generally have a couple, too. But I was out of all of them, so I had to plunk down the change to stock up.

The cost of ingredients (including tax): $27.55.

The variables: If you’ve ever baked a pie, you know you need your mixer, food processor and oven. To account for heating the stove or oven, powering appliances, etc., I’ll add $1 for utilities to the cost of making this treat.

My family and friends typically eat pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. But because that’s both optional and a personal preference, I didn’t factor that cost into this test.

The total make-at-home price: $28.55.

The takeout version: There’s no beating around the bush here. Making one pie at home cost more than double the price of picking one up at the store, even if you factor in my time and gas to get there (although, I typically buy one while doing weekly shopping). But that doesn’t mean baking pumpkin pies at home isn’t budget-friendly.

The heaviest part of the make-at-home bill comes from the spices. And because you already have those on hand, as well as the flour and eggs (if you bought a fresh dozen), if your holiday revelers love pumpkin pie, you might as well bake a few at once. You’re using the same electricity and gas to power appliances. And when you spread the cost of the larger portion ingredients out over a couple of pies, the cost to make at home dips well below the store-bought price (even after buying a few extra cans of pumpkin and evaporated milk).

The store-bought cost (including tax): $10.83.

The bottom line: Even though the store-bought won this challenge, it’s hard to put a price tag on conquering your baking fears. And if you happen to be a pie pro (man, I’m jealous), the smile your homemade treat puts on your family’s faces is well worth the time spent on a batch of pies.

What’s your family’s favorite meal or main course entrée to eat out, grab at a drive-thru or take out? Wondering if you can make it for less at home? Drop me a line and suggest a make-at-home price test. You just might be surprised to learn which option truly is cheaper.

Photo credit: Getty Creative

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