Dealbusters: Bread-machine bread

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:

  1. Uh … you have to buy the bread machine. But every time I go to Goodwill, at least one bread machine is on the shelf.
  2. 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.)

The verdict:
Not going back anytime soon.

Grade: A

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3 thoughts on “Dealbusters: Bread-machine bread

  1. patti says:

    I use my bread machine all the time, to make bread, rolls, and pizza dough. I think making my own pizza is cheaper, maybe you can do an analysis of that sometime. We top it with our own sauce, herbs, and peppers (from our own garden). We buy mushrooms (79 cents) olives (99 cents) and mozzarella cheese ($2.79) from Aldi’s. A mediocre pizza here costs $10.00 delivered, and it comes with a box that has to be recycled.

  2. cheaplikeme says:

    I haven’t yet branched out to dough because my husband likes to knead it by hand. But sometime soon I will … and I’ll add pizza to my cost analysis list.

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