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Can baking your own bread save you cash?

Picture: AP

In a fit of domesticity, I recently dug out our old breadmaker and began inflicting rock-hard loaves on my long-suffering family. Fortunately my baking efforts improved and the bread is now edible and quite tasty.
But I was interested to see if baking my own bread is saving us money. My husband is still smug that his home brewing is saving us a fortune, and I wanted to know if I could boast similar savings.

We pay £1.49 for an 800g seeded brown loaf and we usually get through two a week. Over a year, that’s almost £155. So how edible are home-made loaves and how much do they cost?

The taste

At the risk of sounding smug, my breadmaker-made bread is delicious. It took a couple of weeks to get it right – early attempts were so heavy that even ducks refused it. But now we’re routinely setting a loaf to cook at night and coming downstairs in the morning to newly baked bread.

We’ve started adding seeds to the mix and, while the bread isn’t as fluffy as shop-bought, we aren’t hankering after Hovis anymore.

Although at first we used ready-mixed kits, we’re now baking loaves of bread from scratch using flour, yeast, water and a little butter.

The savings

A shop-bought bread mix costs us 80p, and it takes about three of those a week to keep us in toast and sandwiches, because there are no preservatives. If you don’t eat the bread fast then it goes stale.

That’s a cost of £2.40, compared to £2.99 for the two 800g loaves we normally buy.

Our saving of 69p a week adds up to just under £39 a year – hardly a vast sum. However, a larger family eating bread at lunch and breakfast, and getting through four shop-bought loaves of bread a week would potentially save close to £80 a year.

Since we started making it from scratch, we’re saving a bit more. We’re using 500g of strong brown bread flour, which costs us £1 for 1.5kg. So that’s about 33p a loaf for the flour. Then we buy eight sachets of fast-action yeast for 87p, adding 11p to each loaf. 40g of butter adds about 22p meaning a grand total of about 66p.

That means a saving of almost £87 if we kept it up for a year. It might not be a vast amount spread over 52 weeks, but thanks to the breadmaker it doesn’t take up much time.

Of course, if you’re routinely buying the very cheapest economy white bread then you probably wouldn’t save any money at all.

The cost of bread makers

We were lucky enough to get a breadmaker for Christmas. But if you are considering investing in one, shop around.

Prices online range from £34 to £339.44 – with a full range in between. You can buy a highly rated mid-range maker for just under £70.

I don’t know how long breadmakers live, but say it lasted three years before you replaced it that’s an extra £23.33 a year. That would cut the small savings available even further.

Be a baker without a maker

Although I love baking cakes, baking an edible loaf is actually much harder. A breadmaker simplifies the whole process; you just bung the ingredients in and it’s taken care of for you.

There’s no kneading, no leavening and no ‘massaging the mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs’. You pop it in, press the right buttons and three hours later you have bread.

But I reluctantly put my breadmaker away and made dough the old-fashioned way, following this recipe. To my surprise, the bread was actually even better; crusty on the outside and soft on the inside – perfect with just a spread of butter.

Is it really worth it?

Making your own bread is undeniably more inconvenient than picking up a ready-made loaf in the supermarket. Unless your household eats quite a considerable amount of bread, the savings are quite small.

However, the bread can be very tasty and I’m happy to be feeding my family fewer preservatives. I’m also keen to try baking pricier options like olive bread or focaccias, which would make my savings far more impressive.

Do you make your own bread? Is that to save money or for another reason? Is the potential money you could save worth the effort? Have your say using the comments below.