This Monday series checks out whether something that sounds like a good deal — or takes a bit of extra work — is a good deal. We’ll look at cost and benefit — with everything filtered through my individual experience. Please chime in with your take.
A couple of months ago, I realized that if our cherry tree keeps on growing (we planted it last year), we’re going to have cherries. We also have a bird feeder and a lot of birds. The cherries are for me, birds! So, I went onto Craigslist and found a woman who was moving away and selling her bird netting.
What does this have to do with bread? The same woman was also selling a bread machine for $8. I bit, I bought.
The cost breakdown:
- 2 cups of bread flour = $0.09 (based on prices for a 25-pound bag bought at Costco for $4.79 — we keep it in our chest freezer and refill our big canister in the kitchen)
- 1.5 cups of whole wheat flour = $0.01 (based on flour bought at $1/5-lb. bag)
- 2 tablespoons of butter = $0.13 (bought on sale with a coupon for $2/lb.)
- 2 tablespoons of yeast = $0.05 (again, bought at Costco at $3.39 for 32 ounces — we keep this in the freezer, too)
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar = $0.04
- 3/4 cup of multigrain cereal (organic) = $0.60
- 2 cups of water = $0.00 (based on our water costs of $.00186 per gallon)
- Electricity = $0.26 (three hours at just under $0.09 per hour)
Total: $1.18 per loaf
In my deepest bargain hunting days, I’ve bought bread for $1 a loaf if I feel like driving several miles to the bakery outlet store (and putting up with what I find there). I love to eat toast for breakfast, though — and I love to know it’s giving me something besides just carbs. The bread I usually buy is Milton’s at Costco, at a cost of $4.69 for two loaves ($2.35 each). For these calculations I’ll go with a middle-ground price for me: $2 a loaf on sale with a coupon at King Soopers. Compared to the $2 loaf, homemade saves 53%.
The winner: Homemade, hands down. Especially because when I timed my last bake session, it literally took me 5 minutes.
The priceless factors:
- I can use organic ingredients if I want to (haven’t, mostly, in the interest of price).
- I can add in whatever I want – the nine-grain cereal I’ve been using; ground flax seed; nuts or other seeds; any type of sweetener.
- No additives or preservatives.
- It’s definitely fresh.
- No packaging.
And compared to baking bread in the oven, there are many advantages:
- No burns (I tend to bump the side of the oven).
- Lower energy cost ($0.26 vs. $0.34 for the gas oven).
- Cleaner energy (our electricity is all wind power, vs. natural gas for the oven).
- Keep the kitchen much cooler than turning on the oven.
A couple of caveats:
- Uh … you have to buy the bread machine. But every time I go to Goodwill, at least one bread machine is on the shelf.
- Oh, and mine tends to collapse on top, so each slice of bread looks a bit like a giant tooth. I’m fiddling with the amounts of yeast to try to normalize the rise. (Our current loaf is mostly eaten, so I’ll update with a photo when I have a new loaf.)
Not going back anytime soon.