It's considerably cheaper to make your own bread than to buy it, if you're comparing similar types of loaves. In a recent comparison*, the ingredients for a loaf of homemade classic sandwich bread cost $2.06, or 13 cents per slice. If you add in the cost of energy used by the oven, it's only about an extra cent per slice. A loaf of hearty Arnold Country White costs $4.29, equaling 27 cents per slice. However, if you buy the very cheapest store-brand loaf of white bread, the cost goes down to 5 cents per slice.
There are some other considerations for baking vs. buying though, mainly nutritional value, time and taste.
While you may be able to get store-bought bread cheaper than homemade, you can better control the quality and nutrition of ingredients in a loaf you bake at home. Commercial bread that sits on the shelf requires a lot of preservatives to keep it from getting stale and moldy. In many cases, you can't even pronounce some of the ingredients! When you make your own bread, you can decide exactly what goes into it and the quality of those ingredients.
No one will argue the fact that it takes more time to make your own bread than to buy it in the store. But most of that time isn't spent actively working with the ingredients – instead, it's a few minutes here and there between waiting for it to rise, which can take a couple of hours or even overnight, depending on your recipe. If you're already in the kitchen for holiday cooking and baking, adding a few bread-related steps in between other recipes won't add much time to your busy schedule.
There's no comparison to the taste of freshly baked bread! The earthy smell, the bubbly texture and the crispy crust are all qualities that contribute to the delicious taste. And once you've mastered a recipe, you can start experimenting to attain different textures and crusts. Store-bought bread isn't going to taste as fresh because it's designed for shelf stability first.
Tips for homemade bread
When you want a mouthwatering loaf of bread for a special occasion, make your own. If that idea is intimidating, follow these tips for an easier experience.
- Read the recipe thoroughly to learn how much time it will take. Count backward from when you want to eat the bread to determine when you should start.
- Let all your ingredients come to room temperature before you mix them together. Also, be sure to use fresh ingredients – not the package of yeast you found in the back of the pantry from a couple years ago!
- If a recipe lists amounts in weight in addition to cups, go with the weight for better accuracy. You want to use the least amount of flour required.
- If you don’t have a warm place to let the bread rise, consider placing it under a light or warm air vent.
- It's best to wait until the loaf is completely cool before slicing it, as to not smash the loaf. Be sure to store it in a ziptop bag or airtight reusable container to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
*Cost comparisons calculated from prices found at HarrisTeeter.com.