Food Lab: Pumpkin pie (from scratch vs. store bought)

Pumpkin pie was on sale this week for $3.99/pie. Even I have to admit that this is a good deal. I have done pumpkin pie taste tests in the past but it was comparing frozen pie crust vs. from scratch and canned pumpkin pie filling vs. pumpkin puree. I decided to take the pumpkin pie taste test one step further and compare a store bought pumpkin pie versus one prepared from scratch.

For this experiment I made a simple pumpkin pie using the recipe that was on the label of a can of E.D. Smith’s pure pumpkin.

Pumpkin pie (Homemade)

Price: $5.09

2 eggs
398 mL (1/2 can of 796 mL) of E.D Smith Pure Pumpkin
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
3/4 cup (175 mL evaporated milk
1 (9 in/23 cm) unbaked homemade or frozen deep dish pie shell

Beat eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Add pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Stir until well combined. Blend in milk. Pour filling into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 F (180 C) and continue baking 30 to 35 min. longer or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool.

Homestyle Pumpkin Pie (store bought)

Sale price: $3.99 (Regular price: $6.99)

Okay. for $3.99 the price of a store bought pie cannot be beat. However, let’s see the break down of how baking a pie from scratch compares to the store bought pie at regular price – $6.99.

2 eggs = $0.50
398 mL (1/2 can of 796 mL) of E.D Smith Pure Pumpkin = $1.49
1 cup packed brown sugar = $0.66
1 tsp ground cinnamon = $0.14
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground nutmeg = $0.10
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground ginger = $0.10
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt = $0.01
3/4 cup (175 mL evaporated milk = $0.60
1 (9 in/23 cm) unbaked homemade or frozen deep dish pie shell – $1.49

Total cost: $5.09

Just from looking at the ingredients, you will save some money if you made it from scratch. The cost of the raw ingredients work out to $5.09 in total. This would be even cheaper if you made the pie crust from scratch as well. So it is cheaper (naturally) to make a pie yourself when it’s being sold for regular price ($6.99). However, if it goes on sale for $3.99 that price is hard to beat.

In terms of appearance, the two pies looked very similar. However, the store bought pumpkin pie (on the left) had some variations in the texture of the filling. This is probably due to the fact that these pies are kept frozen and then thawed out on the grocery store shelves once they’re delivered.

Left: Frozen pumpkin pie / Right: Fresh pumpkin pie

So for a simple pumpkin pie, you will be paying a bit more for the convenience of having it already made (which makes sense). But when it goes on sale (especially during Thanksgiving or Halloween) you’re actually better off picking up an already made one on sale. You can’t beat the price of $3.99/pie. However, if your family has a favourite pumpkin pie recipe, or if you’d like to make a pumpkin pie with some variation, or if you need more than one pumpkin pie for dinner you’re better off making it from scratch. Making things from scratch allows you to be more flexible with the ingredients and allows you to have more variation/creativity with the recipe (plus you’ll know exactly what’s in it) and if you make more than one pie the savings will quickly add up. Plus there’s something to be said about enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie with the satisfaction of knowing that you made it yourself.