Which is cheaper: In the kitchen

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
The 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

The Icing:
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.

Final Thoughts

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.

More about...Frugality, Food

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Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago

When we have done the bread calculations we have come out the other direction. I think the main problem is you are including the start-up costs for bread-making in what should be a per-loaf cost. Yeast just does not cost $2.19/loaf. It even becomes a free marginal cost if you keep a starter in your fridge. Heck, there are places you can get sourdough yeast for the cost of a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope. (Like the Oregon Trail starter.) (Also: the brands you picked out for your whole wheat options are nowhere near as good as homemade… Nature’s own is… Read more »

Wil W
Wil W
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

I agree with Nicole regarding the yeast for the bread. Perhaps the calculation was bad using the super expensive packets that they sell these days at most grocery stores?

Anyway yeast at a Costco or Sams or Amazon should run about $5 a pound. (Amazon is at ~$3.50 right now http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003Z7VYXW/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=without-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003Z7VYXW )

Anyway keeping the opened 1lb packages in a ziplock in the freezer will keep the yeast good basically forever.

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

Me too, yeast and flour are much less expensive than what’s listed (at least for me). The more costly part for me in making bread is the time — and the heat from the oven. But there’s no beating home-made bread for taste. It’s…. priceless. 🙂

Becky
Becky
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I agree, the numbers seem hinky because you’re not calculating them per-loaf. Also, there is a huge range in the cost you pay for raw ingredients based on whether you buy them in bulk, the quality of the ingredients, coupons, etc. I make a tasty oatmeal bread that is dairy free and costs less than 1/4 of what is quoted here for each batch, and that makes two loafs. Same with cakes and cookies, my calculations show the costs as about 1/4 of what is listed and the time for all of those is not much at all (especially once… Read more »

Amy F
Amy F
8 years ago
Reply to  Wil W

Yes! I buy yeast for $4/lb from a bulk dry goods distributor. I’m not sure how much a tablespoon of yeast weighs, but it comes out as far under $2.19. Even if you paid $4 for the little jar, a loaf wouldn’t use more than 25 cents worth of yeast.

PigPennies
PigPennies
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

I was wondering about this, and was pretty sure I’d find an answer somewhere in the comments. I haven’t bought yeast in bulk yet, but with the cost of the little packets I couldn’t quite figure out how everyone was saving so much money making home baked bread! Thanks for everyone’s feedback!

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

Three packets joined together cost about $2.19 (not at my local grocery, but that seems to be about what they cost online) if you buy yeast the most expensive way you can, but you still only need one little packet to make a loaf of bread.

Stephanie H
Stephanie H
8 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

If I were to buy yeast in bulk, how long would it keep?

Joyce
Joyce
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

My usual overnight-rising bread recipe uses whole wheat flour, water, oil, salt, and just 1/4 tsp. of yeast per loaf. Using a yeast weight/volume conversion I found online, I figure my yeast expense per loaf is under 2 cents (like others, I keep a pound bag of yeast in the freezer). On the cake recipe, is two pounds of powdered sugar being used to ice one cake? I rarely make iced cakes, but that seems like a lot of powdered sugar. I have had success freezing extra starter yogurt for later use. I freeze it in an ice cube tray,… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Joyce

Good point on the powdered sugar… no, it usually only takes 16 oz to frost a layer cake and you end up with way more frosting than one of those pre-fab containers. It also keeps for a long time, so you’re not throwing half of a two lb bag away even if you don’t bake much (or you could get a 1lb box instead).

Sheryl
Sheryl
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yeah, I found a lot of the prices to be off. If you’re going to regularly make any of these things at home chances are there’s some bulk buying going on and you’ll pay far less.
The vanilla price for the cake also seemed particularly ridiculous – I can buy a bottle of pure vanilla for $6 and I don’t use a third of that in a cake.

Ann marie
Ann marie
7 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Exactly–where are you getting your costs for yeast?? I get it for pennies a pack!

You have to remember, hardcore people that will make their own cake, bread, and granola–they are generally super shoppers who would not pay anywhere near “typical” prices for the ingredients, so they’ll always come out ahead making stuff by scratch. 🙂

Patti
Patti
8 years ago

This is the premise of a book called “Make the Bread Buy the Butter” which compares the cost of making items at home vs buying them in the grocery store. If I had the time, I’d bake bread every week, the result is so superior and the process is really fun. I always get a special sense of accomplishment from baking bread, although my boyfriend is the better baker. I use my mother’s honey wheat bread from Recipes for a Small Planet, a battered weathered version from the 70’s.

Liz
Liz
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

I was just going to mention this book – it is GREAT, fantastic recipes and very funny besides. Well worth it.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Liz

For all sorts of whole-grain bread, The New Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book is wonderful as well.

Malcom
Malcom
8 years ago
Reply to  Liz

Another great book along the same subject is the Tightwade Gazette. This book has been mentioned before on this blog.

Emmy
Emmy
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

I was just going to mention this! I read that thing cover to cover; it’s a great resource for considering the “hassle” component of doing anything yourself.

sarah
sarah
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

Another vote for this book, I was just coming over here to post a mention if no-one else had! She has done all these cost comparisons, in many variations and great detail. it’s a fantastic resource, and by it’s nature far more accurate than this article ($2.19 for yeast? $2.49 for 32 oz milk? I live in NYC and those sound like ridiculous prices.)

Grad Student
Grad Student
8 years ago
Reply to  sarah

I live near Boston and I was thinking the same thing. I pay $2 for a half gallon.

Maybe the milk was organic? That stuff costs an arm and a leg (and my roommate buys it by the quart).

stellamarina
stellamarina
8 years ago
Reply to  Grad Student

Just to give a view from the other side of the county. Here in Hawaii we are looking at $5 a gallon for CA milk and $7 a gallon for HI milk. Bread runs around 4-5 dollars a loaf. My daughter-in-law, with five kids, keeps 2 bread maker machines going in her kitchen.

PigPennies
PigPennies
8 years ago
Reply to  Grad Student

Typically $4.99 at Safeway in Seattle for a gallon of organic milk, $2.49 for non-organic. I used to be able to find for $1.99 on sale regularly, but that became a lot less frequent before I decided to switch to organic permanently.

Maybe the author was confused on how many ounces in a gallon? I haven’t seen anywhere on the West Coast that is that expensive.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

Thanks for mentioning the book! I’ll have to look that one up.

I really enjoy the comparisons on http://www.squawkfox.com — she does homemade versions of products like Lunchables, Starbucks lattes, etc. (The prices are Canadian, but you get the idea!)

Rosa
Rosa
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

All her results are super local, though. Where we live there are a ton of great local bread bakeries; we pass one on our way home from school right at the time french loaves go down to 2/$1 (and usually the counter person gives my kid one for free.) So for us, it’s buy the bread and buy the butter. A lot of her other calculations had those kind of local differences for me (for example, I get apples & eggs for free a lot of the time, which makes producing my own eggs useless but making my own applesauce… Read more »

Jessica
Jessica
8 years ago

Where on earth did they get that number for the yeast? I bought 1 pound of it at Sam’s Club for $4.29 and it lasts me for a good 6 months of bread and pizza making. Also my homemade granola is cheaper than store bought. Butter? Who puts butter in granola? My recipe is as follows: 6 cups oats 1/2 cup honey 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 cup “goodies” (chocolate chips, raisins, seeds, whatever you want) 1 tablespoon cinnamon Microwave the honey and oil for 1 1/2 minutes. Pour over dry ingredients although leave out chocolate chips if using those.… Read more »

Stacey
Stacey
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Yeah, my granola is a lot cheaper than store-bought, too (it’s pretty much the same recipe as yours, Jessica), mostly because I buy the supplies in bulk – a 25-pound bag of oats from WinCo for about $14, a 6-pound container of honey from Costco for about $14, and a gallon of vegetable oil from any store for about $7. And those supplies make 2-3 months’ worth of granola for me and my husband.

Ross Williams
Ross Williams
8 years ago

I don’t think the bread recipe is remotely accurate for one loaf. As already mentioned, the flour and yeast costs are way out of line. I also don’t know of many bread recipes that require a half stick of butter for one loaf – which is 2 oz of butter. In fact, basic white bread only requires flour, water and yeast. If you buy flour on special, you should be able to get the cost under $1 per loaf. If you are making bread regularly, you don’t need to pay anything for yeast. Nor do you need to maintain a… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Ross Williams

I like the starter method better than the old dough method, but it is definitely less effort if you don’t make bread once a week because you can freeze the dough. (But you’re right, it does take longer to proof… that’s probably made up for by not having to feed the starter.)

Man, I miss being able to eat bread.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Ross Williams

Thanks for the tip! Do you have a recipe you use regularly?

I prefer sourdough bread, but I’m often away and don’t want to deal with a starter.

AMW
AMW
8 years ago

While I like the idea of this post, I am a foodie and a pastry chef by trade, and always have a hard time with these comparisons. I think the yogurt(sort of) and granola on track. The bread and the cake aren’t because you are not really comparing apples to apples. You don’t end up with the same product. Partially because the bread and cake you buy at the grocery store are pumped full of air and made in a factory with so many chemicals to keep it from going stale. Now, that being said, 90% of the time I… Read more »

Zach
Zach
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I like your comments AMW, but thought I would go further. I think the drive to save the most amount of money on food is part of the reason weight and health is an issue in North America! Have you been to Wal-Mart recently? Their own brand of anything is obviously cheaper than name-brand stuff, but the ingredients are complete crud. Lots of salt, HF corn syrup, chemicals, etc… Perhaps I’m a minority in the PF world, but I would willingly pay *more* for quality food, because I believe it will save me money in the long term with health… Read more »

celyg
celyg
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Totally agree that it’s not apples to apples. Store-bought, processed food is simply not as good for you as homemade.

Liz
Liz
8 years ago

Great piece – I would like to see more pieces on GRS about “making do” creatively, and (potential price inconsistencies aside) this is a nicely-written and helpful article. Thumbs up on this audition.

Ross Williams
Ross Williams
8 years ago

I look at the cake recipe and have a similar reaction to the bread. Where does sugar cost $1 per pound, its closer to half that? It seems that these comparisons are based buying ingredients in very small quantities at very high prices. I haven’t actually used a boxed cake mix in a very long time, but I doubt a boxed cake mix is that much cheaper. You still have the cost of eggs, butter and frosting. The mix only gives you the dry ingredients. The yogurt costs also seem to be out of sync. To begin with, “Greek” yogurt… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Ross Williams

Those are all really good points.

It would be really neat seeing a break-even cost listed given the start-up costs. Even a bread-maker may be worth it in the long-run. And as previous people mentioned, time costs and heating costs (except in the winter!) shouldn’t be ignored either. Although making bread by hand is a really good way to diminish stress for some folks. That kind of thing is intangible.

Erin
Erin
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

If you make a lot of bread at home, a breadmaker is soooo worth the price. We only rarely use ours to bake bread (breadmakers make loaves of one shape and size, which isn’t always what you want), but we us it constantly to make our own pizza dough, ciabatta bread dough, dough for rolls and hamburger buns… And if you do want bread, it’s not only easy, it’s a great way to keep the temperature down when it’s hot out, since you don’t have to heat the entire oven. Energy saver! The cost for a loaf of bread is… Read more »

Leah
Leah
8 years ago
Reply to  Erin

Another alternative is to buy a Kitchenaid mixer. The lower-cost mixer only works for small loaves and pizza dough (that’s what I own), but I have friends with families who swear by the industrial strength mixer. That way, you get your dough mixed nicely, and you also have a mixer for all your other baking projects.

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Get the bread maker at a thrift store or yard sale and you really save on it.

Ann
Ann
8 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Or make the no-knead bread–mix it all in a bowl, throw it in the fridge, pinch off as needed. No mixer or breadmaker needed.

Jacq
Jacq
8 years ago

I bought my breadmaking machine at a thrift store for $5 about 10 years ago. Something to keep an eye out for.
Here’s the bread recipe book I use – it’s great:
http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Machine-Magic-Revised-Edition/dp/031230496X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341666742&sr=8-1&keywords=bread+machine+magic

Good post overall, agree with others on the calculation issues.

Tori
Tori
8 years ago
Reply to  Jacq

I also got my bread machine at a thrift store – $6.50 and it works great. I only use it through the first rise though. Then I put the dough in a regular loaf pan for the second rise and baking. I like the shape better that way. This was a great concept for an article, but I agree with all the others on the inaccuracy of the calculations. There is no way my bread costs over $4 a loaf, and I make honey wheat bread. But even if it was more expensive than a similar store-bought bread, I would… Read more »

Tina
Tina
8 years ago

I’m a bit confused by what seems like a mixed-message in this post. The bread comparison indicates that a home-baked loaf costs $4.36 but it also links to an article from J.D. indicating that his home-baked bread costs about $1.50 per loaf. J.D.’s article is from 2008 and food costs have certainly increased since then, but have they nearly tripled?

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
8 years ago

Does the author make her own bread and granola? If so, how about comparing her real world costs to the Vons prices to add a “here’s real life” angle to the piece– love to have seen that. I don’t walk away thinking that I’ll save money on any of the foods discussed, except maybe the yogurt, which I’m on! Overall, the content does feel a little unresearched (yeast costs how much?, …).

MOR
MOR
8 years ago

What in heaven’s name kind of yeast are you using to get $2.19 a loaf? That’s nuts! In fact, almost all of the prices on the homemade ingredients are extremely high for may area. I was just at the grocery store and paid $2 for a pound of butter, which is about half the cost of your estimate and I paid $3.23 for a gallon of milk, which would equal $0.05 for the 2 oz you calculated at $.16. That said, I love to bake bread, and I have no doubt that the bread I bake at home is better… Read more »

Andy
Andy
8 years ago

Making food at home is far healthier and cheaper than buying it anywhere else. These are facts. I can’t tell you how much healthier I am compared to 3 years ago simply by preparing food at home. And I’ve saved thousands upon thousands of dollars. It takes time, yes, but it’s more than worth it.

For bread, I make fermented sourdough. The only ingredients are wheat, salt, and water. I priced it out and a huge (14″ diameter) round loaf was under $1.50. And it’s healthier than using straight flour because it breaks down the phytic acid.

Marcia
Marcia
8 years ago

Neither here, nor there,

A friend of mine who is a food purchaser for a large, quality supermarket, says that cake mixes really sell when the economy is weak.

About homemade bread: I can’t keep my hands off it–I eat way too much, it’s really good. So, I don’t make it often at all!

Avistew
Avistew
8 years ago

I know US recipes include these ingredients, but I’ve made bread for many years, and I’ve never included milk, butter or sugar. Also, if you use baking soda in place of yeast, you don’t need the salt either. The ingredients then are flour, water and baking soda.
Much cheaper than store bought then.

Adult student
Adult student
8 years ago

THANK YOU for…living where you live, I guess! I usually see posts like these and tear my hair out, because there is nowhere where I live where I can buy a loaf of bread for $1, a gallon of milk for $2, a pound of ground beef for $2.50, 10 oz of spinach for $3, etc. Grocery stores are just not that cheap. (And with gas costs it’s not worth it to drive an hour to the nearest Costco, either.) Sometimes storebought foods are cheaper than homemade. And sometimes you live in an expensive part of the country, so no… Read more »

Lori
Lori
7 years ago
Reply to  Adult student

I agree. I think the costs are realistic for someone starting to experiment and compare the costs of homemade vs store-bought. I don’t think I’d invest in 20lbs of yeast at 10cents a pound until I knew I’d be willing to commit to making my own bread regularly. Anyway the costs are not so unreasonable, in my opinion. Like Adult student said, sometimes it’s more of a pain to drive to the nearest Costco (never mind dealing with the ridiculous people buying gallons of mayo). You can’t blame the author for using location-based costs, if you’re doing the same thing…… Read more »

Carol
Carol
8 years ago

Wow! This writer needs to come grocery shopping with me. I am in expensive Fairfield county, CT BUT, I have many tricks to keep my food costs down-and I am an almost 100% scratch cook. There are 2 main issues with the cost comparisons given: 1-you can’t compare Greek yogurt (always at least 2 X’s more expensive than regular) to reg. yogurt. you CAN compare purchased Greek yogurt by brands, organic vs non and a homemade version. 2-the prices for ingredients are way off base and ingredients listed are in some instances not usual for the food item such as… Read more »

Barbara
Barbara
8 years ago

I think there is something else that should be considered when looking at home-made vs store-bought, which is the health aspect. Home-made food is often a lot healthier than store-bought, because you know exactly what’s in there, and you certainly know that you are not putting any chemicals and preservatives in it. Also, you can control how much sugar, butter etc you put in your food. I had stomach problems for a long time, and ever since I starting making practically all the food I eat at home from scratch, I haven’t had any more issues. So I think not… Read more »

Erin
Erin
8 years ago
Reply to  Barbara

Absolutely! Even more, she’s not actually comparing apples to apples here – homemade bread is not the same as what you get in the Wonder bread pack. It’s more like the special loaves you pick up in the bakery. And /those/ don’t cost $1.99.

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago
Reply to  Barbara

There’s also the time aspect. While someone could argue that time is too valuable so you should buy store-bought, I will argue that making food from scratch can be great family time, especially if your spouse or children (or roommates, or friends) help out, and it works even better if you have an “open floor plan” house, so you aren’t isolated in the kitchen if you’re cooking. That said, I’m a terrible cook. My best cooking moments involve opening cans. Store-bought for me!

A Knight
A Knight
8 years ago

I am not going to get rich slowly by baking my own bread or making my own yogurt. JD himself has said to focus on the large purchases where the differential in product costs can be significant. Where are the real get rich slowly articles?

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  A Knight

It depends on how much bread and yogurt you eat. If you have kids, these types of tips can certainly help you get rich slowly. Over the course of a childhood, you could save thousands of dollars on these things. Even by buying my milk at Costco instead of the regular grocery store, I save about $2.50 a week. Why not avail yourself of the savings if they are to be had? It’s not an either/or proposition. And I actually think that the small things are sometimes even more important than the big things. Big things are often much harder… Read more »

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I love angel food cake mixes! They’re $2.99 here in Canada — bigger and cheaper than buying an angel food cake and so easy to make. I have no use for egg yolks, so I’m not wasting food either.

Mom of five
Mom of five
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Yes! My husband and I both prefer Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines cakes to homemade or fancy bakery.

Lori
Lori
7 years ago
Reply to  A Knight

So groceries are an insignificant cost? Do you mostly drink water and eat ramen? Consider, as a percentage of your budget, how much money goes to feeding yourself in a year or even just a month – and how much you could save by reducing the cost of staple foods. I don’t buy TVs and cars every day, but I do have to eat every day. And, with just the two of us, it doesn’t really make sense for my partner and me to buy many things in bulk. Personally, I prefer not to live like a hoarder anyway.

Liz
Liz
8 years ago

Why are cooking costs not included? The electricity used to power a breadmaker or have the oven going for an hour must come into the total price when you make bread or cake yourself.

Beth
Beth
8 years ago
Reply to  Liz

I think things could get out of hand if you tried to include too much in the calculations. Did you have to drive to the grocery store to get items versus having them on hand? Do you account for the “mistakes” you sometimes make when you bake? How much does the equipment cost on a cost-per-use basis? How much energy does it take? How much is my time worth? It’s not to say these things aren’t important, rather, these calculations can be as simple or detailed as we want. It all depends on what’s important to us. For instance, I… Read more »

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Liz

I think you should then count gas, insurance, car payments (or your other transportation costs) when shopping. That would be silly. So leaving out both transportation costs and the cooking costs makes the most sense.

Nicole
Nicole
8 years ago
Reply to  Patti

You wouldn’t need to count transportation costs because those are the same whether you buy the store loaf or the ingredients for a homemade loaf. They cancel.

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

You’re right! I should have thought of that. I still think it’s silly to include electricity and/or gas when thinking about making something from scratch.

Melissa
Melissa
8 years ago

I think these prices are indicative of what region of the country you are shopping in. These prices are right on target for the major metropolitan area where I live. So I think that needs to be taken into consideration when discussing the prices. Whether store bought or homemade, everything costs more here. Just my two cents! 🙂 Overall, this is a fantastic article that is well written. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

tas
tas
8 years ago
Reply to  Melissa

If those prices are on target for where you live, you should look into a food coop or Whole Foods because they will be cheaper — if you shop carefully. Most of the ingredients on those lists I can get in the bulk section of Whole Foods for much, much less than the price quoted here.

I get enough yeast to make a dozen loaves of bread for $1.50 and who makes granola with Quaker oats? Good quality oats cost far less and taste amazing.

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago

I’d love to see more from this author… I think she’s on the right track with exploring the realities of making your own food from scratch. It definitely seems to be a learn-as-you-go kinda thing, and figuring out how to do it cheaply adds to the fun and satisfaction you get 🙂

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
8 years ago

Except for a nice, dense pound cake! Yum!

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago
Reply to  SLCCOM

Best pound cake I’ve ever made was called “English cake” (don’t know why) and it took 1.25 pounds butter, 8 eggs, 12 oz. of semisweet chocolate chips, a half-cup of rum, and some other stuff … NOT a frugal choice but YUM.

KW
KW
8 years ago

I have been baking my own bread for a year now, and for me it’s much cheaper than store bought. Thought I mainly do it for the taste (and the smell in my home). Your ingredients seem to be a bit over the top, it’s much more than what I need for a great bread, and like others said you don’t need milk or butter, I don’t even need yeast. My version homemade bread: 1 kilo flour €1.37 1 teaspoon of salt water I can make about 2 loafs and 1 batch of sourdough starter(flour+water+time) with 1 kilo of flour,… Read more »

Barbara Friedberg
Barbara Friedberg
8 years ago

The bread example was a savior for me. I’ve been thinking about baking bread for years…… literally. I’m so glad my procrastination and continuation of buying store bought bread is the financial winner!!

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

Supper useful article. Thanks!

Kathy
Kathy
8 years ago

I’m sorry you were so criticized about this article. Yes, I’m a breadbaker and your calculations on yeast were hugely off if you buy bulk yeast (I do .) However, your idea was good. Technical information can be hard to get right (I was a medical journalist for many years.) Research carefully, and learn to run facts by someone who has knowledge about the topic you are writing about. For example, you could have checked with an experienced breadbaker about costs of baking bread; he/she could have told you about buying in bulk, etc. Learn from your goofs, and keep… Read more »

Ira Kinro
Ira Kinro
8 years ago

I’ve calculated the cost of making bread very carefully. I come up with $1 per 3×8 loaf. That’s a 1 pound loaf. I have found $1/pound bread at the supermarket, but it’s terrible. Even $5/pound bread at the super market isn’t as good as homemade for $1.

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Really? You are going to seriously try and convince me that made from scratch is more expensive than buyin the finished version, all else equal? What’s next, an article about how eating out at a 5 star resteraunt is cheaper than at home because of the “value” of your time?

This article was a far stretch at best and ha no credibility in my eyes.

Henry
Henry
8 years ago

I agree that the prices of “do-it-yourself” are way off. I figure the price per loaf that I bake in a machine (whole wheat) is about 35-50 cents including the cost of electricity and I even throw in an egg regularly! If you happen to live in an area or have access to wheat you can grind your own flour and save more. We usually buy 50-100lb of wheat at a time and grind it in a “Magic Mill” (The mill is electric, small, and has no stones but grinds it according to your desire, coarse to fine with its… Read more »

Lindsay
Lindsay
8 years ago

I really like the articles from this guest-writer, I hope that she stays on!

Rusty Williams
Rusty Williams
8 years ago

The most important issue to me the having the knowledge and skill to make “diy” staples (cakes, pancakes, muffins, bread, etc). You may not do it all the time, but you have the knowledge and if you ever need to do so quickly, you have the knowledge.

Try to google a receipe of what you are about to buy – pasta, cake, cookies, etc. Then make it and see how easy it is. You may not do it everytime, but you soon learn what your grand parents used to do every day – make it from scratch!

Other Barbara
Other Barbara
8 years ago

I came here to comment after seeing the ridiculous monetary estimates for bread and yogurt, and I see that everybody else has already done so. Just for yet another personal perspective: my household makes about 1-2 loaves of bread and 3/4 quart of yogurt per week. – We buy our bread flour and yeast from Costco, herbs from our garden and use a bread machine, and so our costs per loaf are less than $1/loaf for 10 minutes of effort, and yields super tasty bread. – We get 2% milk, use about 1 tbsp of starter yogurt per batch, and… Read more »

Holly Thrify
Holly Thrify
8 years ago

I’m suspicious of these comparisons. But look at things like chicken stock that you can make 6 quarts with chicken legs for about $2 compared to $2 per quart store bought.

Vegetable stock “for free” when you use the peels of veggies and cover with water in the crockpot for about 4 hours.

But like everything, you have to figure out what’s worth it for YOU and what’s not.

cathleen
cathleen
8 years ago
Reply to  Holly Thrify

I make a roasted chicken once a week (or sometimes buy a rotisserie chicken at my local deli). After all the meat is removed I put the bones in the slowcooker, add carrots/onions/garlic/bay/whatever else I have, add water to the top and cook on low for 10 hours or overnight. Cool, strain and freeze in containers. The best chicken stock, for “free”. (I use ends of veggies and also grow my own carrots and shallots, bay tree, garlic) Good organic stock in a box costs $3.99 in my area. I can make this weekly for pennies. And I use stock… Read more »

AnnW
AnnW
8 years ago

The recipes and costs for these products are obviously incorrect. Therefore, the writer did not do enough research. Bases on this, I think we ought to vote no for this writer. I learned more about the subject reading the comments.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  AnnW

Agreed, so much. The comments are helpful, but the writer needs to either stick to a familiar topic, or do the research first. I spent more time trying to figure out what the writer was talking about than getting useful information from this article.

Jo@simplybeingmum
8 years ago

Pretty much 12-months ago now I did a 5-day experiment on my blog comparing cooking-from -scratch costs to UK store bought ready-made items. The savings were just over 40%. And this doesn’t include the other added-benefits that home-cooking brings…

Jo@simplybeingmum
8 years ago

p.s – home-made soup can be approx. a third of the cost of shop bought. A recent comparison I did also demonstrated that one particular tin of shop bought soup contained a third of an adults recommended salt allowance for one-day.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

If you didn’t go for such a complex (and high fat/salt/sugar) recipe your bread would be an awful lot cheaper. Standard UK bread recipes are flour, water, yeast and a small pinch of salt and sugar to help the yeast get started (a really little pinch). The ingredients there are more like $1.50 and bonus – you don’t have to eat funny sweet bread! e.g. Basic Bread from Jamie Oliver – 1kg strong bread flour – 625ml tepid water – 30g fresh yeast or 3 x 7g sachets dried yeast – 1/2 teaspoon sugar – 1 level teaspoon fine sea… Read more »

MM
MM
8 years ago

Or you could just not eat cake, bread, or icing. I eat none of those things and my food budget benefits.

chacha1
chacha1
8 years ago

I liked this article. Liked the pace and the tone, and the information given was useful.

I am past the point of needing to calculate per-serving prices on food, but I would actually like to see more of this type of thing as it can be so helpful for the PF beginner.

Maybe taking it a little further into, e.g., the difference in cost between a frozen serving of fettucine alfredo vs. a restaurant serving vs. DIY with ramen, meltable cheap cheese, and canned peas (I ate a lot of that in grad school!).

Archirat
Archirat
7 years ago

Yeah, this article through me off a bit. The bread price was oddly calculated in my opinion. On your recipe, this may be the right price, but there are many other recipes that would yield even lower amounts. Sponge starters for instance, lower the cost of yeast considerably because the yeast keeps growing. The 1/2 tablespoon to start the sponge can last indefinitely if you feed the sponge and keep it going. With the bread recipe I make, it takes water, oil, salt and sponge starter. That’s it. Calculating the cost of the flour, it’s about 29 cents per loaf,… Read more »

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