Comparing bread to bread is not as easy as comparing apples to oranges. The options are varied in ingredients and flavor. There’s beer bread, Sally Lunn bread, Wonderbread, sourdough bread, Italian bread, 100% whole wheat bread, rye bread, bakery bread, grocery store bread, and Ezekiel bread just to list a few. The price of a loaf of bread varies greatly as well.
When I buy bread, I tend to pick up a loaf or two of a nice whole wheat sandwich bread from Wal-Mart. One of my favorite brands, Arnold makes a %100 percent whole wheat bread that costs approximately $2.50 per loaf at Shop Rite. (Sara Lee’s multigrain bread is around $2.00 per loaf.)
No Knead Bread
I have two favorite homemade bread recipes to compare: a no-knead and a molasses oatmeal bread. For simplicity sake, I will look at the New York Times no knead recipe. I use all whole wheat flour and a little more yeast than listed in the recipe.
This bread depends on time (12 to 18 hours) rather than kneading to properly develop the gluten. It requires less than five minutes to mix and another 30 minutes of active time to fold and shape the bread before baking. The ingredients are spare and simple: 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and water.
Cost of ingredients:
– Flour: I use King Arthur’s flour, which according to About.com, costs about $1.00 per pound for both wheat and whole. The flour required for this recipe is approximately a pound, give or take a few ounces.
– Yeast: About.com says that yeast costs approximately 6.2 cents for most loaves; however, the no knead bread takes only a quarter of the amount of yeast most breads require. Thus, I assume that every loaf of bread requires 1.55 cents worth of yeast.
– Salt: This is less than a penny.
– Total cost of ingredients: $1.02 per loaf
– Effort: While this bread doesn’t need to be kneaded (no pun intended), it does need some attention and lots of time to itself. If you want to bake the bread and eat it in a day, this recipe isn’t for your.
– Energy: The bread bakes at a high temperature for 45 minutes and the oven is left running for 30 minutes before baking. Mr. Electricity says that my gas oven uses $0.21 for every hour it runs at 350 degrees. We’ll just say assume is the cost of running my oven at 450 degrees. The hour and 15 minutes it takes to run costs me about 26 pennies. If I bake two loaves, at once, the cost per loaf is cut in half. Thus, this bread costs about 13 cents in energy costs.
– Cost of energy plus ingredients: $1.15
– Health quality: Like the store-bought bread, my version of the no-knead bread is 100% whole wheat. It is also entirely free of preservatives and any strange additives. Finally, the flour is “soaked” by resting for a day. Soaking grains like flour removes phytic acid, which inhibits the absorption of certain nutrients. Finally, my bread has no sugars added, making it even more healthy.
– Flavor: This bread has a great crust! It’s crisp, thick and lovely. The flavor is slightly reminiscent of sourdough and takes some experience to truly appreciate. It’s not your typical sandwich bread — it’s better.
Conclusion: My homemade no-knead bread is half the cost of store-bought sandwich bread and requires a little effort. Considering both time and effort, it is the simplest bread in my repertoire, but only a $1.35 less than Arnold’s. Since the price of bread is really rather low, I don’t know if making it at home is really a cost saving. I wonder how my molasses oat bread will fare.
Molasses (Oatmeal) Bread
This bread recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Simply in Season. It’s proper title is Everyday Oatmeal Bread, but we call it molasses bread because that tangy sweetness dominates the flavor. It’s moist, soft and so yummy. We appreciate it with jam but also soaked in eggs until soggy and fried into French toast.
One recipe makes two loaves, so I will divide the ingredients in half to compare with other loaves.
Cost of Ingredients (per loaf):
1/2 cup rolled oats (from Aldi): $0.066
1 pound of flour (mix of white and whole wheat): $1.00
1/2 tablespoon yeast: $0.18
3/8 cup molasses: $1.19 (I bought molasses at 4.75 per 12 oz)
1 teaspoon salt: less than a penny
1 1/ tablespoon butter: $0.30 (Land o’ Lakes butter at 3.30 per pound)
Total cost of ingredients: $2.74
Cost per loaf including energy: $2.87
Health: This bread includes some sugar and some white flour. Thus, it is slightly less healthy than a %100 whole wheat loaf.
Quality: Yum!! This is my husband’s favorite bread, and he always seems happy when I made it. It is so scrupulous that Arnold’s has nothing on this bread in terms of flavor and depth.
Conclusion: Even excluding effort, my molasses bread is more expensive than store-bought bread. (Assuming my calculations are correct.) If I am seeking the cheapest slice, this would not be it. In fact, it is not even the healthiest option for us. Does that me I will stop baking it? If you think yes, please see the comments under “quality” — especially the part where it makes my hubby happy. However, I won’t pride myself on my thriftiness for baking the bread myself. To me, it’s like buying good quality bread from a bakery, the flavor pays for the extra expense.
My cheapest option would be to bake no-knead bread as our daily bread and buy Arnold’s for those days when I feel less inclined to mess with yeast. I’ll bake molasses bread to enrich our lives, to smell the tangy sweet molasses cooking, and to sink my teeth into a warm slice.