Is it worth it? Introduction

I love baking bread. I enjoy kneading the responsive warm dough.  I salivate as the comforting aroma of baking bread rises from the oven. When the timer beeps, I immediately cut a thick, steaming slice for myself.Nothing seems so pure and so satisfying as  home baked bread topped with butter and strawberry jam.

However there are days when I don’t want to bake bread. I don’t want to wait hours for it to rise nor do I want to scatter flour over my kitchen floor. On these days I wonder if it is cheaper to make my own bread or simply buy a loaf at the store.

In college, I studied economics where I learned about specialization. If a person is very good a producing something, then he  should only produce that thing and trade that thing for all the other things he needs in life. This way, economics claim, we can optimize our productivity. Afterall, Sara Lee bakes more bread faster and cheaper than I can.  In order for us both to benefit, I should buy bread from her instead of baking my own. Sara Lee gets my money, and I have more free time to do other things — like play with the baby or write blog posts.

Yet I have also read Wendell Berry. I know that while specialization might be good for my wallet, it might not be good for my soul. My life would be less culturally rich if I had never smelled the sweet scent of baking bread or learned about the actions of yeast.  There is intrinsic value in learning to produce one’s own food. You can know the history behind a meal — how each grain of wheat has been handled and how the yeast operates on the sugars to produce a rise. All of this contributes to my appreciation of the food before me.

Yet still I wonder, does baking bread or making granola or culturing yogurt make economic sense as well as spiritual sense?

I’m going to explore this question in this series of posts. I will calculate the cost of the ingredients used to make foods at home that could be purchased and then consider what economists called opportunity cost — Is the outcome worth the effort involved or could my time be better spent elsewhere? I also want to note whether the resulting product improves on the commercial variety in flavor and health.


About beewhisper

Christian, Mama, Wife, Gardener, Beekeeper
This entry was posted in Bee in the Kitchen, Bee-ing Frugal. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is it worth it? Introduction

  1. Rita says:

    I think you will discover that, as far as pure cost of ingredients home made bread is almost always cheaper. Of course, you would need to compare similar loaves–white Wonder bread is likely to be cheaper than my whole wheat bread. Also, what I have considered when contemplating this question is what it means to be a “homemaker”. If my choice were to work or bake bread, then it might be much more efficient to pay someone else to bake bread for me. But since I have made the choice to be home with my children, whatever extra things I can create during the day will enrich our lives and help the “home”. Of course, one can’t do everything oneself–I would like to start bartering–you make me bread and I make you yogurt sort of thing….Sorry for the long post!

  2. Gia says:

    Interesting. Do you think a more equivalent comparison would be homebaked bread versus baker baked bread, Becky? (Couldn’t resist another “b” on the end there.) Like maybe from Goll’s instead of Sara Lee? I’m sure with a large producer like Sara Lee there would be many externalized costs that would be difficult to take into account.

  3. beewhisper says:

    Rita, you are absolutely right. As Isaac, I don’t have an income right now, so anything that saves money is worth it, and it’s more important to enrich the home than simply to scrimp on pennies. It’s funny that you mention yogurt. That’s tomorrow’s post. The day afterwards, I’m planning to look at the cost of bread — a little out of order perhaps, but I had just finished making yogurt and it is on my mind.

    Gia, I agree. There is bread and there is mouth-watering bread. The quality of the bread matters just as much as the cost. I hope to take that into account when I do my comparisons.

    I plan to compare my bread with the store bought bread because I want to know which is best for me to incorporate into my daily routine. Bakeries like Goll’s might be a better comparison as far as price and ingredients are concerned, but trips to the bakery aren’t part of my life.

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