The economics of baking your own bread
Warm, fresh bread straight from the oven tastes and smells delicious. But is it cheaper to get it from the supermarket's oven or your own?
The cost of ready made bread vs the cost of making your own
The statistics site Numbeo states that on average UK citizens pay £1 for a loaf of bread. At discount supermarkets it is sometimes possible to buy a loaf for as little as 50 or 60 pence, however. Tesco's cheapest loaf is currently a high protein ready sliced wholemeal version, priced at 80p. Moreover, if you time things right and head to the supermarket just before closing time often you can pick up discounted bread, or baguettes, going for as little as 10p.
Making your own bread is extremely cheap. The ingredients needed are tap water, yeast, a couple of teaspoons of sugar, a teaspoon or two of salt, bread flour and some oil or butter. A 1kg pack of bread flour from any supermarket will cost between 90p and £1. A single pack will make you three loaves, working out at 30-33p per loaf. A tin or packet of yeast will also set you back between 90p and £1, and you can easily get 20 loaves from a single pack of yeast. This works out at about 5p per loaf. The costs of the salt, sugar, oil and butter combined for a single loaf will be at most 20p. Therefore, the raw materials for a loaf of homemade bread will cost 55-58p, just two thirds the average cost of a shop bought loaf.
The cost of the power
Baking a loaf should take 30-45 minutes. The cost of running an electric fan oven is very roughly 35p an hour, which means that if you only put one loaf in the oven the total cost of it rises to about 72-84p, or pretty much the same as a cheap Tesco loaf. However you could bake several at once, or bake one alongside a casserole or your Sunday roast, in which case the extra power used up would be negligible.
The time factor
buying bread from a supermarket takes minutes. Making your own bread by hand is a longer process (though many find this in itself enjoyable and therapeutic). The first kneading of the dough takes at least 10 minutes, and this should be followed by a proving period of at least 45 minutes in a warm place. Many recipes suggest subsequently kneading the dough briefly again and allowing it to rise a second time before cooking the loaf for between 30 and 45 minutes.
If time is money for you (for instance, if you are working to a tight deadline on a freelance project), quickly buying some supermarket bread might free you up to get on with more work and thus enable you to earn more money. On the other hand, the creative process of baking your own bread can be a welcome relief from work and help you to return to the office or the computer in a refreshed and more productive state of mind.
Supermarkets can charge around £3 or £4 for artisan breads featuring such additives as sun dried tomatoes, basil leaves or olives. However, adding these items to your home made bread will cost you much less. A jar of olives costs just 75p from the supermarket, for instance; incorporating a third of a jar into home baked bread will thus add just 25p to the cost. And home made cheese bread is absolutely gorgeous, especially thickly buttered, hot from the toaster - many kids, as well as adults, love it and it keeps well, too.
Creating your own 'specialty' breads at home rather than buying them ready made is where the most substantial savings can be made.