Bread, Pizza and Coffee Economicslandscape

pizza oven fire

Cooking in a wood-fired pizza oven is one of life's true pleasures. Few things compare with the experience of firing your oven, watching the flames heat the oven dome, feeling the heat of the oven on your face, and cooking some of the world's best pizza, bread and roasts. We think you will find that your pizza oven quickly becomes the focal point for your family entertaining, and even weekday cooking. We know pizza oven owners who say they have not lit their propane grill since they installed a wood-fired oven.

Now if this is not enough to convince you to install a pizza oven, or you want to do it, but need to convince a second party, I have another line of reasoning. My background is the computer industry, where we talk a great deal about the "cost-of-ownership," so I tried to apply that thinking to pizza ovens. Bear with me for a minute, and I can show you how a pizza oven will actually save you money -- perhaps enough to send your kids to college for a year or two.

I have always thought that an interesting characteristic of the American food landscape is the vast difference between high-end and low-end products -- both in quality and in price. Take three staples: bread, pizza and coffee. While basic American supermarket bread and coffee, and chain-store pizza, are relatively inexpensive, they are pretty much inedible. On the other end of the spectrum, you can buy a pretty good Cafe Latte at just about any coffee bar, and the micro-bakery revolution has made good bread readily available in many parts of the country. Of course, we still need many more wood-fired pizzerias.

One problem with these high-end products is the price, which over time can add up. In fact, the cost is so high that with the savings from making your own Cafe Latte, Ciabatta and pizza you would send your child to college for a year or two. Here's the math:

The cost of the ingredients you need to make a wonderful loaf of bread is about $.50, and a great cup of coffee is less than $.30. Your own wood-fired pizza costs less than $2.00. If a good bakery Ciabatta costs $3.50 and a Cafe Latte costs $2.50, that means the cost of a micro-coffee/micro-bakery habit is about $6.00 per day, of which $5.00 goes to a store owner -- or $35 per week. About $25 of your $30 pizza and glass of wine goes to the restaurant. That's roughly $60 per week, or about $3,000 per year. Over an 18 year period, that adds up to over $50,000 -- a couple of years of tuition, room and board at a good college.

So we say make your own coffee, your own bread and your own pizza. You can enjoy great food, and still save for our children's' college fund. Seriously, this is not a critique of the great companies that are working hard to create wonderful products. We know who they are, and we are lucky to have them. Still, if you need a good argument for why you should install a pizza oven, give it a try.