Mar 28 2010

Can a $9 bag of flour be frugal?

As I’m attempting to make and bake more things from scratch, I knew I needed to at least try to make some baked goods. I am a much better cook than I am baker, and I’ve gotta say, I’m still intimidated by baking bread!

I’ve made several loaves in a bread machine before, but the loaves seem too small to be worth the trouble.

I got my hands on a simple-looking bread recipe, so I thought I ought to get some practice.

On the recommendation of this blogger, I bought a 5-lb. sack of organic white whole wheat flour from King Arthur. This flour is supposed to be lighter than some varieties of whole wheat flour. I chose organic because I wanted to be certain this was a natural wheat, and not one made from genetically modified seeds or seeds from the evil Monsanto corporation.

This sack of flour set me back about $9. Yikes! I’ve seen the cheapie bleached all-purpose flour at $2/sack — maybe even less with coupons.

I wondered if this flour would truly be worth the cost. I would be able to make my own baked goods using organic flour and that was bound to be cheaper than pre-made organic goods, right? And maybe cheaper than some conventional products, depending on my other ingredients.

With this flour, I made chocolate chip cookies, apple-banana-oat cookies, pancakes, a small loaf of bread, two large loaves of bread, and I will also make tortillas. That will probably be the last of the bag.

If I bought prepackaged versions, I’d probably spend at least $25. Of course, the baked goods I made required more than flour — but the other ingredients weren’t all that pricey.

So perhaps I saved $5-10 for doing  these things myself. I suppose that’s worth it.

I need more practice making bread and tortillas and other foods like that. If I continue to enjoy it, I may consider getting a grain grinder and grinding wheat berries to make flour for additional savings. I don’t know where I can find those in bulk around here so it may not be a feasible option.

What do you think? Should I keep on buying that spendy flour? Or are there other alternatives I should consider?



10 Responses to “Can a $9 bag of flour be frugal?”

  1. Tony and I had SUCH a hard time mastering bread making. We tried so many different recipes, but they always came out dense instead of fluffy. Our secret? Plain old bread flour. It’s the same price as All Purpose flour, but the same recipes that failed using AP flour come out perfectly fluffy and soft using bread flour. Before you commit to dropping $9 a bag on the organic, I’d check out bread flour. In fact, I think I’ve seen organic bread flour for half the price you paid for the King Arthur stuff.

    As far as saving money from baking your own, I’ve crunched numbers before, and I was surprised to see that it’s actually not cheaper. In some cases, baking a loaf of bread will actually cost you more than a cheap-o loaf of sandwich bread with coupons. However, the fact remains that homemade is healthier, and that’s worth the little extra cost to me. Good luck!
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..I wasn’t even being chased =-.

  2. Those cookies were so yummy, don’t tell me you can’t bake!
    When you’re making homemade bread for the health benefits, you have to compare apples to apples when looking at the cost. Sure, you can buy that uniform, spongey, sandwich bread for less than the cost of ingredients at home, but that’s not the same kind of bread you’re baking. You’re making whole wheat bread from real ingredients, not chemicals and preservatives. You’d have to compare your to a local store-front bakery’s price. Even then, the bakery loaf doesn’t make your entire home smell like fresh bread, and you don’t get that first slice while it’s still hot enough to melt the butter. That’s worth an extra couple bucks right there!

  3. Glad you liked the cookies! I can bake things that don’t involve yeast. Yeast products still scare me. My bread turned out fine but it was still a bit dense. More practice! Maybe you can show me how ya do it, Renee.

  4. Sometimes dense bread can be caused by too much flour in the dough. Give our baker’s hotline a call and we’ll help you troubleshoot. Baker’s hot line 802-649-3717. mary@KAF

  5. That is the flour suggested to me as well. I will no longer complain that I pay $4.29/5 lb bag over the $2.99/5 lb bag when I lived in FL. I will be happy that I don’t pay $9 a bag. But I will say that I love the flour and feel like it is the most healthy of all store bought flours. We recently ran the numbers to see if buying a grain mill would benefit us cost-wise and it really would not at this point. I think at $9 I would buy one and grind my own! It is more healthy and probably more economical. Just a thought.
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..Its just that =-.

  6. I just realized that I entered the wrong website for my last comment. Sorry!
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..Exploreum =-.

  7. For the health benefits you mention, it certainly is easy to justify spending the extra money. It’s why we buy & eat fresh fruit & vegetables instead of cheap, filling fast food. Health is precious — but it’s also possible to go a bit overboard.

    If you want to spend less on flour sometimes, but still want bread that turns out ok, my mom told me that UNbleached all purpose flour works a lot better than bleached when you’re making bread. For some reason. I’ve tried it and it seems to be true. Bread flour is expensive around us, so I haven’t compared that yet. We have seen Gold Medal unbleached flour on sale for 1.50 for 5 lbs a lot recently.

    My mom bought tons of buckets of wheat and was grinding her own for awhile. That, of course, was the best option – freshly ground, local whole wheat! But then her grinder broke and she hasn’t been able to replace it yet.

  8. p.s. Don’t be scared of yeast. Have you heard of no-knead bread? Google it – Mark Bittman started the fad and it’s huge right now. It’s not the kind of thing you make sandwiches out of – it’s artisan-type eat-straight-from-the-oven bread.

  9. I buy the White Whole Wheat King Arthur flour (not organic) and I love it. I do sometimes buy the organic but it is not $9 here in Indy. You could also join a buying club which I was a part of but haven’t done it in a while. Yeast breads aren’t too scary. Get yourself a bread maker and you can make all kinds of things. I don’t “bake” in it, but I do make a lot of doughs – pita bread, english muffins, cinnamon rolls, bread and it makes it really easy. If you want an excellent whole wheat bread recipe try this one:
    http://articles.urbanhomemaker.com/index.php?c=&id=83&page=index_v2
    .-= Gretchen´s last blog ..Summer menu – Prep and Assembly Day =-.

  10. If you really want sticker shock, try going gluten and grain-free. That leaves almond flour, which is $28.99 for a five pound bag and coconut flour but it’s not much better in cost, at $17.99 for 4.4 pounds. That said, I don’t think it’s necessary to buy King Arthur flour. In my personal experience, bread and tortillas taste just as delicious fresh baked when you use the kind that costs $2. If your loaves are small in your bread maker, I’d say your yeast might be old. Do you “proof” it first to make sure it’s viable? You’ll get it. In the meantime, if your loaves don’t come out so great, you can always make them into bread cubes for salads, bread crumbs for stuffing, or bread pudding. Sometimes you can find a wheat grinder for a reasonable price on Craigslist. The think it’s important that we know how to cook and bake our food ourselves, for a few reasons. Usually it costs less, I mean come on, a loaf of bread can cost $4-$5 in the store nowadays! We can control the ingredients and the freshness of the products. And finally, fresh baked goods make great gifts.
    .-= Mrs. Accountability´s last blog ..How Companies Try to Scam Other Companies In Real Life =-.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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