Kitchn Love Letters

The $1 Grocery You Should Always Have in Your Pantry (It Regularly Saves Dinner in My Home)

published Jan 17, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Various brands of baking ingredients on store shelf in Village Grocer Store. Village Grocer is the coolest fresh premium supermarket in Malaysia.
Credit: TY Lim / Shutterstock

I recently came across a box of Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix at my local Winco during my regular weekly grocery run, and I impulsively grabbed it as I walked by. The opportunity to use it came sooner than expected when I found myself facing the same set of leftovers three days in a row. I thought for a brief second, “Hmmm, maybe I’ll order pizza,” when the lightbulb went off.  

Credit: Merlin Douglass

At my house, pizza is always on the menu; we are inordinately fond of it. I used to pick up the refrigerated dough and freeze it — but until I tried the Jiffy mix, I didn’t realize that homemade pizza could be a last-minute decision.

Credit: Merlin Douglass

What’s So Great About Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix?

Where the once-defrosted refrigerated dough had to warm up for an hour or more to work with it, the Jiffy mix is ready to bake in less than 10 minutes. It’s well-seasoned and sturdy, with a chewy, springy crust — and that, my friends, sealed the deal. 

Unlike most products on grocery shelves these days, this one is less than one dollar. I picked up this little cardboard-enclosed miracle for only 84 cents (although it is slightly more online). Could I make it cheaper from scratch? Probably, but I’d have to proof the yeast, mix the dough, wait for the rise, and, well, you get the picture. Ripping the top of the little blue box is much easier and takes much less time, and I know everyone will love it. Dinner trifecta.

Credit: Merlin Douglass

And, for your ever-expanding knowledge base, here’s a fun fact: The Chelsea Baking company, which makes Jiffy baking mixes, holds a unique place in culinary history. During the Depression when Americans were stretched to their limits, Mabel White, daughter-in-law to the founder, Harmon Holmes, created the very first baking mix to be commercially marketed in the United States. She called it Jiffy Mix to emphasize the time-saving nature of the product.  

It was a huge success and has spawned many imitators. In the intervening years many companies have marketed mixes for crackers, cornbread, cakes, pancakes, and more, but somehow, the original still holds its ground. It’s reassuring to me to find a simple, useful, inexpensive idea developed by a woman almost a hundred years ago that still offers a quick trick to solve the age-old problem of what’s for dinner. 

Now comes the one caveat: It isn’t a big pizza crust. At about 12 inches rolled out moderately thinly (the way we like it), it’s plenty for me and my husband to have a meal with leftovers. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you’re going to need more than one. Good thing it isn’t hard to pull together. 

Credit: Merlin Douglass

What’s the Best Way to Use Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix?

Once you’ve added warm water to the mix, it takes just five minutes for the yeast to activate. Then it’s time to roll out the dough. I do it the old-fashioned way — I push the dough outwards to the edges of my 12-inch pizza pan with my fingers and palms. Easy-peasy.

Credit: Merlin Douglass

The package recommends a two- to three-minute blind bake before adding toppings. Here’s where we hit game-changer status, because now you have some options: Hamburger didn’t defrost? With cheese and veg on hand you are still good to go. Kids having someone over for dinner on the night you have one sausage left? Slice that baby thinly and scatter it with abandon over the pizza top. Doubt your children will ever know a vegetable beyond corn? Put sweet peppers and cherry tomatoes on a pizza (or, better yet, have them do it) and watch them devour it. 

After the toppings are set, it’s back in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes before your pizza emerges as its cheesy, savory dinner-saving self. 

Buy: Jiffy Pizza Crust Mix, $0.98 for 9 ounces at Walmart

What budget-friendly staples are you stocking in your pantry this winter? Tell us about it in the comments below.