How To

How Much Can You Really Save Making Your Own Bread?

Domestic kitchen during bread preparation

I loathe bread makers. I’ve never come across one that turns out edible bread. Each loaf, no matter how I manipulate the settings, is hard as a dog biscuit–clunk. A brown hunk of broken promises.

But handmade bread, that is the way into my heart. Which is why, with anything I’m tempted to fall in love with, I must know the dollars and cents. Does making your own bread really save money?

The price of store bought bread varies widely, but $2 is what we typically pay for a hearty loaf on sale. Let’s use that as a base price for store bought bread.

(You can buy a flimsy loaf of generic white bread for closer to a $1, but I’m guessing if you’re considering making your own bread, you want a more substantial loaf.)

How much does it cost to make your own bread?

Let’s do the math.

I flipped to the American Sandwich Bread recipe in my favorite all-purpose cookbook, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (third edition, 3-ring binder). The recipe calls for whole milk, water, butter, honey, bread flour, yeast, and salt. Basic bread ingredients.

Using Peapod.com, I calculated how much each ingredient would cost. Note, I did not include the cost of ⅓ cup water because it is negligible.

  • At $3.69 per gallon of whole milk, the 1 cup of milk called for costs $.23
  • At $2.99 for four quarters, the 4 tablespoons of butter costs $.37
  • At $3.89 for 12 ounces of honey, the 3 tablespoons of honey costs $.49
  • At $5.49 for 5 pounds, the 3 ¾ cups of bread flour costs $1.23
  • At $.50 per package, the 2 ¼ teaspoons of yeast costs $.50
  • At $.99 for 26 ounces, the 2 teaspoons of salt costs less than 1 penny

That brings the total cost of handmade bread to $2.83. Yowza!

So who wins the cost comparison?

Store bought bread wins! At $2 a loaf, store bought bread saves $.83 over the recipe I crunched the numbers for.

Of course, some loaves cost more in the store, and some recipes are cheaper to make at home. (Nix the honey and butter, for starters. Buy flour in bulk for seconds.)

I’m still shocked. I think of bread ingredients as very cheap. But as I say on BargainBabe.com, it’s the little things that add up. And the economies of scale tip the price war in favor of grocery stores.

How often do you come across a DIY project that actually costs more to make than buy?

Didn’t happen with brewing beer, making ice cream, or sewing your own clothes. But there was that unfortunate butter incident.

Julia Scott founded the money and coupon blog, BargainBabe.com.