The Cost of Homemade Bread
I make bread at home for a lot of reasons: I like how it tastes, I think it’s fun to make, I get to control what goes in it, and I feel connected to generations throughout history, across all classes and creeds, who in making bread daily expressed their humanity (yeah!). But the nagging question in these “trying economic times” ( 🙄 ) is, does it save money?
It was pretty easy to break down the costs for my standard bread which is from a recipe published in the March & April 2006 Cook’s Illustrated and yields two (~1.5#) loaves:
|Ingredient||Amount||Cost/Oz ($)||Total Cost ($)|
|Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal Mix||6 1/4 oz||.1272||.795|
|Boiling Water||20 oz||Free!||Nothing!|
|Unbleached All Purpose Flour||15 oz||.080625||1.209375|
|Whole Wheat Flour||7 1/2 oz||.074375||.5578125|
|Unsalted Butter||2 oz||.243125||.48625|
|Instant Yeast||.275 oz||.243125||.06686|
|Table Salt||.76 oz||.018846||.014323|
That’s $1.93/loaf or about 8 cents/oz of bread. A recent trip to Cub revealed the white Wonderbread can be had at the price of 2 for $3 for 20oz loaves. For good quality multigrain bread it’s probably a lot more; I haven’t bought bread in so long that I don’t know. Looks like baking bread at home saves a little money.
Saves money, that is, if you leave out the cost of labor (not to mention gas to heat the oven, electricity to boil the water, and cost of the water reflected in rent). Assuming my time is worth $16/hour counting just the active time for making this the bread costs more like $6 a loaf. For a lawyer to bake bread would cost much more! But baking bread is fun and fulfilling–it makes you human. And if you refuse to commodify your time, you are definitely saving money on the ingredients.
Obviously I’m not the first person to think this way. For a historical perspective, check out this letter to the NYTimes from 1916. Prices were also going up in the writer’s time: $1.10 for 24# of flour!
Finally, for those of you curious about the process behind this bread, it is very simple. First, pour the boiling water over the cereal and let it soak for one hour. After that, you mix in all the other ingredients and knead for ten minutes. Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl for an hour and a half, then divide it into two pieces. Shape the pieces into cylinders and proof in loaf pans for another hour, until they are bursting out of the pans. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes. Bread! For a more detailed explanation, check out Cook’s Illustrated #79, March-April 2006.