Since we moved to the US, my wife has grown extremely suspicious of some of the food we buy. Bread in particular. She has this thing against high fructose corn syrup… well, I won’t get into details, but to me it boils down to the fact that pretty much all bread in the US contains sugar, which, as a French dude, feels extremely weird. Bread is made of 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. If you add anything else, you’re not really making bread, you’re baking a cake or something, but not bread.
And since we eat a lot of bread at home, my wife was getting worried that we (and the kids) would gain weight. There are of course organic/sugarless options, but for some reason they are all much more expensive at the grocery store.
The more we thought about it, the more the option of making our own bread made sense, both from a health and cost perspective. So, I bought a breadmaker on Amazon a couple months ago, specifically this one. Refurbished because yay frugality and because see the cost discussion below.
I’ll touch a few more words about the health perspective before diving into the cost. Yes, a breadmaker allows us to make “real” French bread with only the 4 basic ingredients (on that topic, I’m really not sure why “French Bread” recipes on the breadmaker’s manual involve butter and sugar… anyway), avoiding sugar/HFCS which is good, but it also means we make more of it (because it’s easy) and eat more of it (so much carbs…). The manual also comes with delicious “bread” recipes involving eggs, sugar, milk, butter, and yes, we’ve tried those and yes, they are delicious.
In reality it’s all a big lie, you’re convincing yourself that you’re eating healthy “bread” but I’m telling you, you’re eating “slightly less sweet” cake, and it’s not a good idea if you’re doing it at all meals 😉
So, the ease of use of a Breadmaker means our intake of bread and cake-breads has increased. Not great but I think the novelty will wear off and we’ll get back to more normal consumption soon. I’m not worried but this is worth noting.
Are you saving money with a Breadmaker?
Is it cheaper to make your own bread? Bottom line, yes, see below.
I did a bit of research at my local QFC and found that “French” bread without sugar costs $4/lb. On the other side of the spectrum, the lowest quality “rectangle” bread of the store costs $1.66/lb with the member’s card.
- Bread flour at QFC costs $0.7/lb in a 10lb pack. (You need about 1 pound flour for a 1.5 pound bread)
- Dry Yeast is $0.43 per “pack” which is required for a 1.5lb bread
- Water is practically free, so is the amount of salt required for French bread.
a 1.5 pound loaf of French bread therefore costs us $1.13 (let’s say $1.15 to include the salt) for ingredients. What about electricity?
I didn’t do the exact calculation but this site estimate it takes 0.35kWh to make a loaf of bread with a typical breadmaker. Seeing that we paid about $0.1 per kWh last month, we can estimate the electricity cost to be $0.035, let’s round up to $0.05 for good measure.
Our total cost for making one 1.5lb loaf of bread is therefore $1.15 (ingredients) + $0.05 (electricity) for a total of $1.20. That’s roughly 30% cheaper than the cheapest bread at QFC, and 70% cheaper than the “good bread”. Awesome!
But wait, now let’s include the cost of the machine. The Sunbeam Breadmaker cost me a total of $43.62. How many loaves do I need to bake in order to reach an average price of $1.6 (cheapest bread in QFC) or lower and amortize the machine’s cost? A bit of math (43.62 + x*1.20 = x*1.6) tells me I roughly need to bake 110 loaves.
In other words, for our family, eating about 2 to 3 loaves a week, the cost would go to $1.60/loaf within a year, and of course would keep decreasing on average after that. People eating bread once a week would amortize the price within 2 years.
Of course here I’m comparing home made, delicious bread with no weird additives, to the cheapest low quality HFCS bread in our grocery store. Compared to something more similar (the $4 “real” bread), the machine pays for itself after 15 loaves.
Note: You could also do without a breadmaker, knead the dough yourself (or with a kitchenaid mixer) then bake the bread in your oven. People have said however that the Oven uses roughly twice as much electricity as the Breadmaker to do the same job. Worth it from a cost perspective only if you bake 2 loaves at a time, and/or if you don’t want to pay the initial cost of the breadmaker in the first place.
Recently, my wife has been doing a lot of “knead with the breadmaker, shape and bake ourselves in the oven”, as seen in the picture below. I can confirm that bread made this way is even more delicious than doing everything through the breadmaker (which in my experience limits how much the dough can rise, due to its shape/size factor)
This one was knead by the breadmaker in “dough only” mode, then split in 3 parts, and baked in the oven.
And yes, it contains sugar, milk, and butter. Closer to a French “brioche” than bread, but delicious
What about the cost of labor?
Waaa Stockbeard, by making your own bread you’re wasting your precious time, ergo you’re wasting money!
Well, see, since I started digging into this whole frugality and financial independence thing, I’ve discovered that I kind of like to cook. Well, at my own level, don’t get me wrong. Any actual person who likes cooking will tell you that putting ingredients in a breadmaker has nothing to do with cooking. Nevertheless, I’ll call it what I want, but this is another good point: once you get the gist of it, it literally takes 5 minutes to prepare the whole thing.
And there’s another huge thing: the breadmaker we bought has a big transparent door so we can watch it knead the dough. I love watching it, the kids enjoy it, and I don’t consider it a waste of my time, I find it to be a relaxing experience (then again, I’m weird that way, I can watch our Roomba clean the bedroom for dozens of minutes without really being bored).
Bottom line is, I consider using the breadmaker to be an enjoyable hobby so far. Most people pay for their hobbies, so I wouldn’t count any labor cost in there.
- We eat much more bread than we used to because it’s become so easy to make! We’ve also tried some of the “sweeter” recipes and we love them. We need to be careful and not eat too much “cake-bread”!!!
- Cheaper that equivalent bread at the grocery, even when you take into account the price of the machine and electricity
- It’s fun to watch the bread being made by the machine
- The feeling that you’re making your own stuff. This makes food even more delicious!
- Full control of the ingredients
- Bread ready whenever you feel like it! The machine even has a timer so you can get bread made just in time for Breakfast, still warm and yummy!
- It’s an interesting conversation topic for colleagues or on your financial independence blog 🙂
- The breadmaker can be used to knead dough without actually baking it. So for people like me who like home made pizza, this is a cool hidden benefit. The Breadmaker can also be used to make cakes (pretty obvious) and jam (yum!)
We love our bread maker and haven’t bought bread from the grocery store in 2 months. They still see lots of business from us though, except now it’s flour that we buy in insane quantities 🙂
What Breadmaker model to choose?
The model I bought is the Sunbeam 5891. I haven’t had a single issue with it, bought it refurbished from Amazon Warehouse deals. You’ll see in comment sections from Amazon that there’s always some people complaining, on all possible models, about things not going well. I believe you’ll find that kind of comment on all models, but I can say I’ve encountered none of the issues mentioned by bad comments on that model.
I chose this breadmaker because of the following features:
- up to 2 pound bread
- Good reviews on average on Amazon
- Big transparent window to watch the bread being made (love this!)
- Cheap, super cheap: I feel that for your first attempt, you should always go with a reasonably cheap product, and take it from there. At the end of the day, a breadmaker is a really simple piece of appliance and there’s no good reason a cheap one won’t do the same work as an expensive one. Just my thoughts.
Equivalent models I considered are the Oster expressbake, and the Breadman TR520. What sold me on the Sumbeam were the slightly lower price (At the time) and the larger window to watch the bread being made. They can all be found for roughly $40~$50 at the time of this writing.
Note: the Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, if you buy through my links, you don’t pay anything extra but I get a small commission. Thanks for your support!