Until the end of this week, we're sharing “audition” pieces from folks interested in being new staff writers at Get Rich Slowly. Your job is to let us know what you think of each of these writers. Pay attention, give feedback, and after a couple of weeks we'll ask which writers you prefer. This article is from long-time GRS reader Sarah Greesonbach. Her first audition piece was about surviving student loans.
Here at GRS, we've briefly covered different daily tasks that are cheaper to do yourself, but sometimes the frugal-minded want some dollars and cents to tie to these decisions.
Today, I'm going to take a look inside the heart of the frugal home, the kitchen, and at a few delicious staples for the average foodie. I'm going to compare prices for making food yourself versus buying it in the store. Unless otherwise noted, these average prices were retrieved from the website of Vons, a West-Coast grocery chain, so prices may vary in your part of the world!
Which is Cheaper: Homemade or Store Bought Bread?
For those of us raised on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made of thin, white, butter bread, discovering the world of thick, crusty baguettes and pungent ryes might have been something of a life-changing experience.
Since there are literally hundreds of different types of bread, both to buy and to make, our recipe is for your average simple yeasted white bread. It also does not take into account extra purchases like bread-making machines that might lessen the time burden but increase the base cost.
The Common Shopper: Store Bought Loaf
Safeway Butter Top Wheat Bread 22 Oz – $1.99
Natures Own 12 Whole Grain Bread 24 Oz – $4.99
Open Nature 100% Whole Wheat Bread 24 Oz – $1.99
The Alternative: Homemade Bread
Milk 2 Oz — $.16
Butter 2 Oz — $.48
Sugar 1 Oz — $.07
Flour 24oz — $1.44
Salt ½ Oz – $.02
Dry Yeast – $2.19
Total cost approximate 28oz – $4.36
Which is Cheaper?
Winner: Store Bought! Though as you can see, the price ranges on bread are wild. Your bakery might have better specials, so price it for yourself and gauge the final cost according to how much free time you like spending in the kitchen. If you have a few hours and some yeast on hand, make yourself some delicious cheap bread. I guarantee it will improve your sandwiches!
Which is Cheaper: Homemade or Store Bought Yogurt
Yogurt is an incredibly versatile food that is palate pleasing for breakfast, a snack, and —in a pinch—a creamy sour cream replacement that can do wonders on tacos and in mashed potatoes in its unsweetened plain form.
So imagine how exciting it would be to be able to make gallons of it at a time that, in its cultured state, will last for weeks in the fridge. Yum!
The Common Shopper: Store Bought Yogurt
Dannon Light N Fit Vanilla Yogurt 32 Oz – $4.99
Chobani Greek Yogurt Plain 2% Fat 32 Oz – $5.99
Mountain High Plain Yogurt 32 Oz – $4.19
The Alternative: Homemade Yogurt
Milk 32 Oz — $2.49
Starter Yogurt 6 Oz – $.80
Total cost 32 Oz – $3.29
Which is Cheaper?
Winner: Homemade Yogurt, especially if you consider the ease at which you can double or quadruple your recipe without an extensive cost increase. If yogurt is a snack or breakfast staple, you can greatly reduce your costs by preparing it at home by the gallon. Find a recipe that works for you and get cookin'!
Which is Cheaper: Scratch Cake or Store Bought Cake
Queen of birthday parties and weddings, the traditional cake might not be a daily or weekly treat, but for the sake of your emotional happiness you might want to incorporate one into your diet at least quarterly.
For the purpose of keeping it simple, our homemade scratch cake is a simple white cake with white icing.
The Common Shopper: Store Bought Bakery Cake
8 Inch, 2 Layer White Cake – $15.99
8 Inch, 2 Layer Carrot Cake – $9.99
The Alternative: Homemade Scratch Cake
Sugar 8 Oz – $.56
Butter 4 Oz – $.96
Eggs 2 – $.55
Vanilla Extract ½ Oz —$1.43
Flour 12 Oz — $.72
Baking Powder ¼ Oz — $.06
Milk 4 Oz – $.32
Butter 8 Oz: $1.92
Powdered Sugar 32 Oz: $2.79
Total cost 12 Oz – $9.31
Which is Cheaper?
Winner: Scratch cake! But even without doing the math, I think we all know the cheapest method of all: boxed cake mix. That said, if you like control of the ingredients and want to get a lot of compliments, making a cake from scratch might be the way to go.
Which is Cheaper: Homemade or Store Bought Granola
The basics of granola are simple, but the magic that happens when combined in a bowl with milk or yogurt is far from ordinary. So, you'd think that lightly-sweetened baked oats plus combination of fruit or nuts would be the cheapest thing around, right? Read on!
The Common Shopper: Store Bought Granola
Bear Naked Fruit And Nut All Natural Granola 12 Oz – $3.99
Open Nature Granola Cranberry Nut Goodness 12 Oz – $3.00
Cascadian Farm Organic Granola Fruit And Nut 13.5 Oz- $3.99
The Alternative: Homemade Granola
Honey 2 Oz – $.41
Coconut Oil 1 Oz – $.74
Vanilla Extract ¼ Oz – $.72
Dried Apricot (Fruit) 2 Oz – $1.26
Butter 1 Oz – $.24
Quaker Oatmeal 10 Oz – $1.30
Total cost 13 Oz – $4.67
Which is Cheaper?
As you can see, a batch of homemade granola falls right within the range of purchasing it in the stores. But much like yogurt, it is easy to exponentially increase the prepared granola, especially if you have a simple homemade granola recipe to follow. This one is a coin-toss.
You can tweak any recipe to be cheaper or more expensive depending on where you source your ingredients, but if cooking is not a fun recreational experience for you, you might also factor in how much money your time is worth.
Overall, it would appear that store bought food is right on trend with the cost of homemade preparation. But if you take it a step further and take into account production costs, packaging, and advertising, it becomes clear that the cost of the food in the package does not go right into the food itself. Homemade food items have the benefit of being fresher, (usually) more delicious, and full of ingredients you know and love.
The choice is yours in the kitchen: homemade or pre-made, and especially if you use items that are on sale, both appear to be frugal options.