A Yummy Way to Save: Bake Your Own Bread! (Seriously)

by Vered DeLeeuw · 15 comments

I baked my first homemade bread out of desperation. I had just arrived in the US. I was pregnant, far away from family and friends, and homesick. I missed home terribly – especially home cooking.

I scoured the supermarket shelves for familiar items. One of them was pita bread. Great! I thought. This will be good for sandwiches or for humus. But when I arrived home and opened the package, I was bitterly disappointed. The pita rounds looked like cardboard, felt like cardboard, and – SURPRISE! – tasted like cardboard too.

“Make your own,” my mother in law, who had spent many years in the US and is now back in Israel, told me. I looked at her as if she were insane. “It’s easy to make your own bread,” she insisted, “and when you do, it doesn’t just taste better – you also know exactly what you put in it, and you know for sure there are no preservatives, trans-fats or high fructose corn syrup in the bread. It also costs less!”

She showed me how to make pita bread. When I bit into the final result – soft, fluffy pita rounds – I was hooked. Of course, I had to find a way to make it easier – especially when I realized I was making bread at least once a week. It was time to buy a bread machine! Several years later, I still make bread regularly, and consider the $50 bread machine as one of the best kitchen investments I have ever made.

Recipe: Olive Oil Bread

I make all kinds of different breads. The breads I make most often are pita bread, homemade soft pretzels, onion rolls, and olive oil bread, which is baked right in the bread machine pan.

Here’s the recipe for a 1.5 lb. Loaf:
1 cup + 1 TBS warm reduced fat (2%) milk (warm it for 30 seconds in the microwave)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour
2 TBS sugar
1/2 TBS salt
1 TBS bread machine or rapid rise yeast

1. Place all ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer (usually liquids first, then dry ingredients and finally yeast).
2. Set machine to the basic cycle, 1.5 lb. loaf, medium crust. This should take about 3 hours.
3. When the machine starts to knead the dough ball, check it. If it seems dry, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time. If it seems sticky and wet, sprinkle a bit of flour. The goal is a smooth, elastic dough ball that moves easily inside the pan.
4. When the machine beeps to signal that the bread is ready (you’ll know long before it beeps by the wonderful smell!), remove it from the pan into a wire rack and allow it to cool about 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

The Cost Savings

I didn’t start making my own bread to save money. I started because I wanted pita bread that tasted like the pita bread I remembered from home. But making your own bread does save you some money in the long run. A loaf of fresh artisan bread runs anywhere from $4 – $6 at my local Safeway store, depending on the brand, while my olive oil bread costs less than $3 per loaf:

-The bread flour and whole-wheat flour I use cost about $4 for 5 pounds – 5 pounds will make about 6 loaves of bread, so the cost for one loaf is $0.67.
-The extra virgin organic olive oil I use costs $0.46 per fluid ounce, so the 2 fluid ounces needed in this recipe cost $0.92.
-The organic 2% milk I use costs $0.07 per fluid ounce, so a cup costs $0.56.
-Sugar costs $0.05 per ounce, so the 2 TBS in this recipe (0.8 ounces) cost less than $0.05.
-Bread machine yeast costs $1.62 per ounce, so the TBS used (0.4oz) here costs $0.64
-Salt costs $0.04 per ounce so adds almost nothing here.

The total cost for this bread, as far as ingredients go, is $2.84 per loaf – and it’s partly organic.

The Health Benefits

The main benefit of making your own bread, apart from the pleasure of bread making, is that you know exactly what goes into the bread, can avoid unwanted additives and preservatives, and can use healthier ingredients, including olive oil, whole wheat flour, and – if you wish – organic ingredients.

It Tastes Better!

Fresh bread simply tastes better. I’m not even talking about cardboard pita rounds – no doubt homemade pita tastes much better than the supermarket variety. But even compared with fresh artisan bread bought at the store, which is excellent, homemade bread is still better, simply because the fresher bread is, the better it tastes.

Must I Use a Bread Machine?

No – there are plenty of bread recipes on the Internet that do not use a bread machine – but it does make your life easier, because it relieves you of the most tedious part of bread making – the kneading. A bread maker also creates an ideal, warm and moist atmosphere for the yeast to do its magic. I use this SunBeam bread machine – at $56, the issue for most is not about the price of the machine, but about space in their kitchen. To me it was well worth it. I’ve been using the same bread machine for at least five years now.

Baking your own bread is easy, cheap and fun. The only downside I can think of? The amazing aroma that fills the house long before the bread is ready to eat can drive you crazy!

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • betty says:

    my suggestion is pitas, are cheaper to buy at the Walmart or at the dollare store
    which even has whole wheat pitas
    I find them for one dollar for 6 or 8

  • Sharon says:

    Hi — can someone share how to make the pita breads….I have a breadmaker but don’t use it as much as I should…. will give pita a try if someone can share. Thanks

  • Nancy says:

    Enjoyed reading this article while I was eating my lunch of Italian herb bread (from the bread machine) with turkey. The writer’s costs were high, but grocery prices are regional. We use milk from a local dairy. Hebs from our garden.

    I currently live in a small town in a rural county and finding GOOD bread is a problem. Sure, I can get in my car and drive for around 50-60 minutes and shop at a Kroger or Publix, but the price of their bread is high and don’t forget the cost of gas.

    Only down side, is the bread smells so good while cooking.

  • Witty Artist says:

    There’s is indeed some difference between home made bread and the one in the supermarkets. And not only you save some money, but you also know what you’re eating. Not to mention the fresh smell when it’s ready or the tasty crunch. Yummy.

  • Maria Liberati says:

    You can also make a loaf for a special gift when invied to dinner or a picnic or a get together. Wrap in brown paper ,tie with twine. Much better than store bought. (another way to save money) I love kneading my bread and pizza dough by hand and wouldn’t have it any other way. Not only does the machine take up more space in the kitchen, it adds another item to clean and put away when finished and concumes energy, it also makes it less personal. Dough takes on the personality of the person that kneads it. Also,kneading by hand burns some extra calories, so you can eat more when finished. But in any case, by hand or machine it is always wiser to make your own and if possible use local ingredients to get the best results.

  • Joe says:

    My wife and I registered for and got a breadmaker as a gift when we first got married over four years ago. I, too, am hooked on homemade bread. It’s sooooo much tastier than anything we can buy in a store.

  • Miranda says:

    I make banana bread and zucchini bread. Does that count? 😉 However, I have been considering making bread by hand. I think it would be fun. I just need to find the time…

  • WR says:

    Enjoyed the post.

    Love making bread. My breadmaker = my hands. did you know that you can also make bread in a standard crock-pot? knead it yourself. I am not knocking a good breadmaker, we just make bread infrequently so giving up kitchen real estate to a specialty item is not in the cards for us.

    Also, we (almost) always make our own pizza dough. It is fun, the kids learn a little about chemistry (yeast & temperature) and 2 large pizzas with all the toppings clock in at about 6 bucks. Could be even less but we add milled flax, organic wheat flour, etc to make it healthier than a standard corporate pie.

  • Diane H. says:

    This post made me hungry just reading it. I grew up on homemade bread and it was always a “special treat” to have the store bought kind. Can’t believe I took that for granted now.

    I will say though that your calculation on the cost to make the bread does not appear to include labor – buying ingredients, putting it together, washing up afterward, etc. That could actually be a pretty expensive loaf of bread if that is factored in. I think it’s probably still worth it for all the other reasons you mention – but I don’t know that this is an actual cost SAVINGS for a busy person with a reasonable income.

  • Lynn says:

    I’d love to buy a breadmaker but there are so many varieties. *sigh*

  • Justin says:

    My parents used to make our bread, brings back so many memories I can practically smell the fresh loaves all over again 🙂

  • Dominique @Dominique's Desk says:

    My mum too recently bought a breadmaker and has been making her own bread. She simply loves it.. the kids enjoy her multi-grain bread.

  • Jen @ SheBloggs says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I also started baking my own bread out of sheer desperation last year. I’m supposed to be on a wheat free diet, but found that wheat-free/gluten-free breads were untouchable in terms of price.

    After a few months, I gave up and decided that I’d learn how to make my own wheat-free bread. The savings are amazing.

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