Save Money by Baking Your Own Bread
Baking your own bread is an excellent way to provide fresh, delicious food for pennies. When you compare the price of bread at the supermarket which typically runs from about $1.08 to $3.99 a loaf, the savings add up quickly.
Why bake your own bread? Advantages for making your own bread include:
- Cost. Home-baked bread can be made for as little as 25 cents up to just under a dollar.
- Freshness. Nothing beats bread right from the oven.
- No preservatives.
- You can control the source of fat, thus preventing hydrogenated fats (substitute butter, oil, or non-hydrogenated spreads for margarine or shortening).
- You can control the amount of salt.
- Selections of add-ins like nuts, seeds, or raisins.
- The appetizing smell of baking bread wafting through your kitchen.
Controlling Cost. Two factors affect the cost of making bread: ingredient cost and energy use. Ingredient cost is the biggest factor in how much bread costs to make. In general, simpler recipes with few ingredients will be the most cost effective options. Flour is usually the biggest contributor to cost, because of the amount used. All-Purpose flour is the least expensive flour. Recipes which call for it will be less expensive to make than recipes demanding specialty flours. In the price calculations for this article, the All-Purpose Flour assumes a price of $1.98 for five pounds. You can reduce this by buying in bulk. If you are trying to make the least expensive bread possible within a category of bread type, look for a short ingredient list. Choose breads using All-Purpose Flour, white sugar if the bread requires a source of sugar, oil for the source of fat, no add-ins, and eliminate the salt. When using all these cost trimming methods, you can expect to make yeast bread for about 35 cents and flat bread for about 30 cents.
Energy use is dominated by baking time so that is the factor considered in this article. The shorter the baking time, the less expensive the bread. Flat breads are great energy savers. In the rough cost estimates provided here, you will see that breads with longer cooking times can be very economical.
Yeast Bread. The least expensive yeast bread to make is sourdough bread without using the shortcut of commercial yeast. This is because the yeast is grown from the yeast present on the flour (not from the air as commonly claimed) and no purchase of yeast is necessary. However, sourdough starters take time to develop and maintain. True sourdoughs are fun for experienced bakers and often a trial for beginners. If you are interested in learning more, search on "starting sourdough cultures". If you do not have the time to create and maintain a starter for sourdough, for a few cents more, you can make a traditional white bread.
Traditional yeast white bread uses only a few ingredients and is simple to make. You can make a traditional white bread for about 30 to 35 cents. Breads which require specialty flours like whole wheat, pumpernickel, and rye will cost more (usually between 37 to 75 cents), but are still much less expensive than buying an equivalent bread at the store. Adding seeds, nuts, or raisins also increases the cost of a loaf slightly. These ingredients are used very sparingly (usually two tablespoons to as much as a quarter cup), so the additional cost is low.
Although you will find many specialty baking utensils for sale, you do not need fancy equipment to make bread. You only need a large bowl, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a dish cloth, and a cookie sheet or a loaf pan. A wooden spoon is nice for when you start mixing the ingredients, but you can do it by hand. It takes between 3 to 4 hours to make yeast bread because there are two rising periods. Heavier flours require longer rise times in order to achieve the proper lift and will produce loaves which are denser and lower in profile than a traditional white bread. Making bread by hand allows the baker to adjust flour and water levels to get the elasticity in the dough just right. You can use All-Purpose flour because you can lengthen the rise time if needed. After mixing the basic ingredients together, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean dish cloth, and set in a warm place to let the dough rise (usually an hour for the first rising period). Once the dough has doubled, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface to reduce the size of the air bubbles, then place the dough on your cooking sheet or in a loaf pan, cover and let rise again (usually a half an hour for the second rising period). When it has doubled in size, bake. More detailed instructions and recipes can be found by searching for "non-bread machine recipes".
If time is tight for you, consider investing in a bread machine. Bread machines vary in price and features. Prices range from $45 to around $300. Most bread machines offer a "delay start" feature. You can put the ingredients in and set the machine to start such that the bread finishes right at breakfast time. Bread machines are programmed to run according to a specific time allotment for each process of kneading and rising. Pay careful attention to ingredient selection and their measurement. Although you may get a light loaf using All-Purpose flour to make bread manually, in a bread machine, the result will be denser. Use "Better for Bread" flour which has a high gluten level and thus rises the correct amount during the strictly timed rise periods allotted in the bread machine's programming. Breads which use denser flours like whole wheat will result in a lower profile bread. This is perfectly normal. Every bread recipe has its own characteristics, but a recipe made in a bread machine multiple times should turn out the same way every time.
Other options for home-made bread include quick breads like corn bread, Irish Soda Bread, Bannock Bread, or flat bread.
Corn Bread. Corn bread uses baking powder for leavening. The bread starts to rise as soon as the baking powder gets moistened by the liquid ingredients. This action continues during baking. Corn bread usually bakes in 20 to 25 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Packages of pre-mixed corn bread normally cost between 40 to 50 cents. Making corn bread from scratch costs about 25 cents. A simple recipe is printed on the canister of corn meal. If you need to shave a few cents off the cost of making it, substitute one cup of water for the cup of milk. It changes the texture of the crumb by making it slightly drier. The baking powder contains sodium but you can lower the sodium in the corn bread by leaving out the optional salt called for in the recipe. If you like a moister, cake-like corn bread look for recipes with buttermilk, butter, or an additional egg. Consider buying powdered buttermilk if you do not normally use buttermilk in your cooking. Add four tablespoons of dried buttermilk and a cup of water to your mixture instead of a cup of milk. The search term "corn bread recipe" will give more recipe options. Remember, additional ingredients ups cash outlay.
Soda Bread. Soda breads use baking soda instead of yeast to provide leavening. Soda breads require the acid in buttermilk to react with the baking soda in order to achieve the leavening. An authentic Irish Soda Bread includes only flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. Many other recipes for soda breads include butter, an egg and, perhaps, an add-in like raisins. These taste delicious and make for a smoother, moister crumb, but if you want to make the bread as inexpensively as possible, use the recipes that do not include these ingredients. Due to the amount of buttermilk required, soda bread is the most expensive of the simple breads, usually close to a dollar a loaf. These breads rise faster than yeast bread and, therefore, take less time to make. The baking time for a soda bread is usually between 30 and 35 minutes with no rise periods before baking. You can usually turn it out within an hour. Search for recipes using the search phrase "Soda Bread".
Flat Bread. Flat breads are another inexpensive and easy bread to make. Flat breads can be whipped-up in about 20 minutes. Mix the ingredients together, roll out the dough, cut into sections, and cook on a hot griddle for about 5 minutes. A batch of flat bread will cost around 30 cents.
Bannock Bread. Another quick bread requiring few ingredients is Bannock Bread. This bread is frequently made by campers because it is an easy bread to make over a campfire. It is a type of flat bread, but produces a single "loaf" instead of individual portions. It can be cooked in a skillet or in a Dutch oven. To make it at home just use a skillet on your stove top. Find recipes by searching on "bannock bread". Bannock bread costs roughly 30 cents.
Making your own bread is a terrific cost-effective way to feed your family fresh, nutritious loaves. Put on your baking cap and save some money by baking your own bread.