Is fresh bread worth it?


The jury is out on the entire convenience appliance thing. I try and stay away from most “convenience” appliances (ask me my opinion on rice makers…go on…it’s definitely colourful) but you will pry my beloved bread maker from my cold, dead hands.

A quick Ciabatta to accompany our soup & cheese

There was a time where you could get a loaf of whole wheat bread at a reasonable price. Now, you are lucky if you can get a 2-for-$5 deal on commercial loaves. I truly don’t understand it because actual whole-wheat flour can be bought cheaply all year round with the regular price of 10kg at Costco being about $6.50 (and that’s in Canada where grocery prices are ridiculous). So essentially, $6.50 worth of flour makes me 29.5 loaves, or about .22 cents worth of flour in one loaf*.

Of course, I also use yeast, sugar, salt, water, and electricity so that would push the price up, for sure. Given all that, the reality is that I would be surprised if a loaf costs more than $1.50. A quick calculation with my electricity provider tells me that running the bread maker off-peak costs about. 34 cents per loaf. If I run it on-peak, it would be .71 cents.

But where my bread maker really shines is when it is making a bunch of different kinds of breads or doughs. It has a quick loaf setting if you suddenly find yourself needing fresh bread in an hour and a bit (hello, last-minute guests!), it has a dough-only setting I use for pizza dough and pastry dough, and often I find myself whipping up a quick raisin bread for breakfasts, which bakes overnight while we sleep.

(my bread maker even has a mini-baguette setting and has a recipe book full of alternative uses such as pasta and jam – all of which I don’t use).

Need something quick for the bake sale your kids told you about 20 minutes before bed? Look no further!

I know some naysayers are thinking, “BAH! When I was your age I stone ground my own flour, collected yeast from the air, and made it all by hand.” To this I say: congratulations! If I had to do that, I would just buy all my bread products at full price. Other people are saying to themselves, “why not get a Kitchenaid, it does so much more!” I will admit, I have Kitchenaid dreams but when my mind floats back to planet earth the reality sinks in: it costs too much, it’s too hard to store, and it doesn’t bake. Since the last thing we do Sunday night before bed is toss in a loaf of bread. We then wake up to a fresh loaf for the week. I can’t do that in a Kitchenaid.

The other thing is that it proofs dough in a way other appliances don’t, making a finished product that is light and fluffy like store-bought baked goods. When Mr. Tucker used to make our breads by hand, they tasted dense and overly-yeasty by the time they cooled down. I never really grew an affinity for them. But the loaves we make in the machine stay fluffy. They typically also keep for about a week if wrapped(if they last that long).

Of course, we have to consider the cost of the appliance weighed against its lifespan. I got mine as a gift but I have had it for four years and its original price was $200. Naturally, you can reduce this cost by buying second hand or on sale (I am amazed at the amount of un-or-under-used bread makers there are on the secondhand market). But for our purposes, let’s assume that I make a loaf of bread a week, and then twice a week I only make the dough and then bake in the oven (all my breads take less than 30 mins in the oven which the appliance calculator tells me would be .08 off-peak, .13 cents mid-peak, and .17 cents high peak). Since my bread maker has lasted 4 years and I fully expect for it to live for another year, that means that it costs about $40 a year to own my machine. I wouldn’t be surprised if it lasted longer, either. My previous bread maker I got as a gift when I was 24 and lasted more than 10 years. But let’s assume a 5-year replacement. I divide it by the amount of times a week I use the machine (two dough-only cycles, one full loaf) that means that it costs approximately .27 per run of the machine. So let me make this simpler through an example.

Friday night is typically pan pizza & a movie night at our house

One loaf baked in the machine, off-peak. We’ve already determined that the flour itself costs about 0.22 and then on top of that I have to add sugar, salt, yeast **and water. Since I can’t nickel and dime myself down that far so I am generously giving ingredients a total of 0.50 cents.

One loaf
Ingredients: 0.72 cents
Electricity: .34
Depreciation: .27
Total: $1.33 per loaf

Of course, there are other reasons:

1 – Bread is absolutely fresh, and can be made at anytime. You don’t have to run out for bread last-minute if you run out, which wastes time and gas (if you need to drive).
2 – You can make a wider assortment of things (pizza dough, banana bread, focaccia, baguettes, buns, pastries, rolls) with minimal hands-on time.
2 – You control the ingredients. Often with store bought bread there are a bunch of extra ingredients designed to preserve the bread. When you make it at home, you don’t add those extra things you don’t need. We also make 100% whole grain recipes.
3 – It’s cheaper. It saves $3.50 a week or $182 a year. Sure, it’s not millions but at least you can say it does save!
4 – It’s also part of my strategy to not grocery shop as much as possible. I only have to pick up bread making ingredients once every couple of months.
5 – If it stops you from buying one take-out pizza a week the thing pays for itself in less than a year. A dough cycle is about an hour, so you can whip up a last-minute pizza dinner LIKE A BOSS.

An herb-y Focaccia is great with pastas

If course, while my machine is super fancy and has a price to go with it, you can drop your overall costs by buying a model with less fancy settings. Really, you only need a bake cycle and a dough cycle. I am not saying that it is necessary to buy a bread maker, you could very well enjoy the hands-on aspect of baking, or you like to just stick to no-knead breads. But part of my overall food strategy is to make sure we eat delicious, wholesome food that surpasses anything we can get in a restaurant or take-out. Fresh bread just makes everything feel fancier, and you are saving money in the process. So if you do like fresh bread, do a lot of baking, or if you are like me and just want to shop the least amount as possible, a bread maker can be a welcome tool in your frugal arsenal.

*Flour: 88.5 c in 10kg/3 cups in a loaf = 29.5 loaves
**Yeast: $12 for 93 tsp or 0.13 cents/tsp