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5 July 2007

The economics of home baking

I buy organic flour for my bread. I figure if I'm baking it should be the healthiest bread I can manage. Organic flour is cheapest when you buy in bulk. That's easily done by finding a local bulk food shop. They're all over the place but rarely advertise so you have to go searching.

Here I can buy a 5kg bag of Kialla Pure organic flour - either wholemeal, rye or white for around $10. It's cheaper again if you get a 10kg bag. A 500g pack of good quality dry yeast is $4. I also add a spoon full of salt and sugar or honey - I calculated those to cost around 5 cents per loaf. I'm saying the water is free, I know it's not but the cost is so small it's not worth adding it. Suffice to say the 5 cents for the salt and sugar will cover the water too. You'll get about 9 loaves from a 5 kg bag of flour and about 50 loaves from the pack of yeast. So that works out to be around $1.63 in ingredients. Say we add 5 cents for the amount of gas or electricity to bake the loaf and you'll get your organic loaf for $1.68. An organic sourdough or wholemeal loaf costs $5 at Woolworths.

So, for a year's worth of bread, eating five loaves a week:
$1.68 x 5/week = $8.40 a week OR $8.40 x 52 weeks = $436.80/year
$5 x 5/week= $25/week OR $25 x 52 weeks = $1300/year

Which works out as being $863.20 a year more for bread if you buy it rather than make it fresh at home. That's $863.20 more just on bread alone!!

Of course there are many other reasons for baking at home - no preservatives, you are able to modify certain ingredients as you need to, it tastes better and it is the freshest bread, but I think the economic argument is a convincing one to start baking at home. And when I say home baking, I mean with a bread machine too - the same figures apply, although you'd have to factor in the cost of your bread machine. A bread machine will pay for itself in a year.

I am happy to answer any questions you might have on home baking, or any other topic for that matter. Just pop a comment in or email me and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.


  1. Mmmmm....the bread looks so welcoming. I bet it smells heavenly. Pity I didn't make any bread today (I use a breadmaker to make my dough and then shape, rise and bake it). Can't think of anything I feel like for lunch. :-)


  2. Jodi, I often use my breadmaker like that too. We usually have hot bread for our lunch sandwiches. It's a fine life this - eating fresh warm bread everyday.

  3. The bread looks great. Any tips for getting a high-rise loaf? I rarely use yeast - mainly make sourdoughs - but i think it's time to expand the repertoire.

  4. Hmmm. I am not entirely convinced by this argument. It places no value on the opportunity cost of your time. Let's assume you spend, say one hour making bread each day. If you spent that 5 hours a week for even 40 weeks of the year, working for a modest wage of $20 per hour, and pay 30% tax, you'll earn $2800. Even if you do spend the $1300 on loaves from Woolies, you'll still have $1500 jingling in your pocket. If you then invest that, it can earn $90 a year (compounding) for the rest of time, even when you are sitting on your tuffet doing nothing (or are sick, or caring for kids or elders, or the proverbial rainy day comes along. If you earn $50 an hour, the figures look even better - $5700 and $342.
    Meanwhile, the baker is gainfully employed and supporting his family, your taxes are educating children and building hospitals, and another business is growing and employing others using your $1500 etc. etc.
    If the baker is skillful and able to make great bread, I think don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with appreciating and taking advantage of that to free up time to hone one's own special skills in other areas.
    While home made can certainly save money, spending time earning an income can achieve the same end (more cash in hand) just as virtuously don't you think?
    Its only when the baker and farmer producing the flour are exploited and not paid fairly for their efforts, or when the flour production damages the environment for future generations that buying the bread becomes an issue.

  5. nada, you need to knead - a ot, for a high rise loaf. You could try adding some yeast to your sourdough starter and see if that gives you a high rise.

    marg: I spend less than 15 minutes, tops, when I make bread by hand. That is mixing - 1 minute, kneading - 8 minutes, getting it in the pan and kneading the second time - 1 to 2 minutes. I don't count the time it spends sitting. That equates to 1.25 hours a week making the bread.

    Also, if you are working for a living then you can't just count what you get paid, you also have to calculate in how much it costs you to work - day care fees, transport, clothing, grooming etc.

    I believe there are health issues with bread that contain preservatives. I would prefer to make my own and I believe it's economically sound to do so.

  6. Your bread looks delicious Rhonda, I really must look at how I work it to fit around my day so I can make bread at least a couple of times a week, not to save money so much as to enjoy eating fresh, warm, bread made by me.

    cheers Lenny

  7. I too use a bread maker for white bread, multi grain, finger buns, rolls, hot cross buns,fruit loaf and anything else I'm able to try my hand at.

    Love my bread maker.

  8. Looks great Rhonda and I agree that it is well worth the time. I just need to track down a wholesaler here in Adelaide so I can buy my flour in economical quantities :) And dust off the breadmaker (which is still buried in the shed)

  9. Rhonda,

    Your bread looks delicious!!
    I used to bake several loaves a week, when we lived in a warmer climate. Now we are in Seattle, and during the winter, I haven't had much luck getting it to rise. Any thoughts?

    It's summer now, and I just purchased new yeast, maybe I'll give it another go. Nothing better than fresh baked bread! Yummy! I too agree it is well worth your time.

  10. Lenny, you should try to make bread on a couple of weekends and see how you go with it. It really is a lovely thing to have the family smell the bread baking and then to all enjoy warm bread, fresh from the oven.

    Lucky and Lisa: I reckon a breadmaker is a wonderful piece of kitchen equipment. There are some who think bread should be hand made, I am not one of them. I think you should do each task at home however it suits you and the time you have available. There are many time I make bread dough in my bread maker then transfer the loaf to the oven. Lisa bulk food in Adelaide (this is from the ALS website) Central Grocery, Salisbury, near Parafeild Airfield, Adelaide Central Market, just off of Gouger Street and Gagani's on South Road in Hindmarsh.

    Eva: there is a step by step guide to making bread (with pix) in my blog. The first step is to make sure the yeast you're about to use is alive. Follow the guide and if you have any problems, email me and we'll sort it out together. : )


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