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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Breads (3) Ingredients

Frugal Kitchens 101
So far I have discussed why making your own breads at home is frugal, the money you can save by making your own breads and the equipment needed. In today's Frugal Kitchens 101 I will be discussing ways to save on breadmaking ingredients. Combining these tips with those previously discussed for breadmaking will maximize your savings.

There are a couple of basic rules to saving on ingredients that can be applied to most food items:

  1. unit shop - Always compare the unit prices. A larger box does not always mean a cheaper unit price. Even the sale price does not always mean a cheaper unit price. By shopping unit prices you will end up getting the best value for your dollar.
  2. bulk shop - Staples such as flours, sugars, salts, thickeners, leaveners, shortening, powdered milk and anything else you consider a food staple should be purchased in bulk in the largest package possible at the lowest unit price. Doing so will ensure you have a good supply on hand to use as needed. It will also ensure you save money but also reduce extra packaging so is an environmentally friendly way to shop. Bulk does not always refer to the amount but more the way the food is purchased. If you have a store that sells herbs and spices in bulk where you have to dispense it yourself in the amount you want into a plastic bag you will save a considerable amount over buying herbs and spices in those little, pricey bottles. Second to that is buying those seasonings you use a lot of in large containers. An example of this is Tone's Ground Cinnamon, 18 oz container for $3.87 at Sam's Club. Notice how you are getting 15 oz more for about the same price as the 3 oz bottles in the grocery store? Tone's has a wide variety of spice and herbal blends all in large containers that are very inexpesive. French's, Lawry's and Old Bay also have the inexpensive larger container sizes. Some grocery stores are now selling these larger containers so if you don't shop in warehouse stores then check your grocery store and it is possible to order these larger containers online.
  3. proper storage - Staples as well as all dry foods should be stored in glass, metal or heavy plastic bins with lids in a dark, cool location. Light is one of the worst enemies for any herbs or spices causing them to degrade quicker and loose their flavour. Foods can be left in their original packaging if desired but in areas with high humidity vacuum sealing in glass jars will ensure no loss due to humidity. These types of containers will protect against water damage, rodents, insects and humidity. Plastic food grade 5 gallon pails with lids can found at doughnut shops and restaurants. They are often given away free but some may charge a nominal fee of $1. Larger 1 gallon and 2 gallon glass jars with lids can be found through many restaurants by making a phone call or two. You can sometimes get them through nursing homes or any other place that uses food packaged in institutional sized jars. There is seldom a charge for the glass jars. Other inexpensive sources include yard sales, word of mouth and of course recycling a jar if you buy something in that size jar.
The following tips are more bread specific:
  1. mixes - There are several types of bread mixes available for both quick breads and yeast breads. Many home cooks rely on muffin and biscuit mixes. In general these types of mix will contain a couple of cups of flour, baking soda or baking powder, instant milk, salt, sugar and additional ingredients such as a few dried blueberries at a cost of about $2 to $3 per package compared to the cost of about 16¢ for flour and master baking mix. Essentially anything you can use Bisquick® for you can use master mix and the best part is the homemade mix is considerably cheaper than the store bought. Some manufacturers of breadmachines have been including a breadmachine mix with their machines sending the message to new users that they need to buy a mix. There is absolutely no reason to use a breadmachine mix and in fact it is a total waste of money!
  2. flours - In most cases the unit prices of larger bags of flour are the lowest. Bleached flour should be avoided because of the associated health risks. There really is no need to buy special bread flour as you can get a good rise by using a dough enhancer such as gluten flour or a more complicated homemade dough enhancer. However, two tricks to increase the rise without costing a penny is to increase the knead time which develops the gluten and to increase the proofing time. Whole grain flours and specialty flours such as rye flour are more expensive but by only 1 or 2¢ per cup so they are still very inexpensive to use. In some areas such as our it is a bit more difficult to find specialty flours so when I do find them I buy the largest size I can. Typically here specialty flours such as gluten, 7 grain, 12 grain and spelt flour cannot be found in the regular grocery stores but they are available a specialty shops and the Bulk Barn so you may have to check around for these or shop online.
  3. salt - For best results use non-Iodized salts when making breads. The cheapest of this type of salt is Morton's Kosher salt although Kosher salt may be available under all other brand names. A large box is quit inexpensive at about $1.50 and will make several loaves as well as being able to use for other culinary purposes. Non-Iodized sea salt is slightly more expensive but works nicely.
  4. yeast - One of the most expensive ingredients for many breadmakers is yeast and that is because they are buying those little packages sold in a strip of 3 or individually. There is one tablespoon of yeast in each package for a price of 40¢ or more per package! These packages also produce waste packaging that cannot be recycled so it ends up in the landfill. That might not seem like a lot but at 3 loaves of bread per week that can add up to 156 of those little empty packages per household going to the landfill. When breadmachines became popular Fleischmann's® came out with larger 4 oz jars of instant yeast that sell for about $3.50. So while these are cheaper and more convenient that the packages as well as being packaged in recyclable jars, the price per tablespoon is still more per tablespoon than yeast purchased in bulk. Sam's Club sells 2 - 1 lb packages of Fleischmann's® instant yeast for $4.16 which is almost a 7th of the cost of the jars! Consider the same amount in jars would be 8 or $28 but buying the 2 - 1 lb packages is only $4.16 for a total savings of $23.84 and a lot less packaging. Yeast will keep almost indefinitely in the freezer. What I do is freeze one package immediately then pour what I will use within a month or so into a lidded glass jar kept in the refrigerator and freeze the remaining to refill the jar as needed.
  5. fruits/vegetables - The easiest way to save on these bread additives is to buy in season and use fresh or preserve for later use. Fruit sauces, dried fruits and dried zest are great additions that are very cheap to make at home. When zucchini is in season pick up a medium sized one as opposed to a baseball bat sized one. Shred it up and package into 1 c servings and freeze to give you enough zucchini for about 20 loves of zucchini bread or trays of muffins. In the northern hemisphere some fruits are never really in season but are available in the grocery stores. Take advantage of sales and quick clearance especially for bananas. Extra ripe bananas make for the best banana bread, muffins and cakes! Freeze bananas for later use as is, unpeeled.

8 food lovers commented:

Julie said...

I didn't know the yeast could freeze - I'm going to stick mine in the freezer from now on. I discovered the yeast at Sam's a few months ago and now I make a ton more bread because it is now more affordable.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Julie :) Yeast will keep almost indefinitely when stored in the freezer. HTH

Shreela said...

I bought a new used breadmaker, and haven't got back into baking yet, but I'm going to since I bought 25 lbs of flour, and packaged it into 5 packs. I have a 4 oz jar of yeast, but will look into Sam's bulk yeast.

I've been reading MD and lab people's blogs about how unhealthy wheat is, and somewhere in those, I recall that sourdough is thought to be healthier because it breaks down one of the bad things (sorry can't remember).

Well, sourdough would be cheaper than buying yeast.

Also, I read somewhere else that homemade sourdough breads last longer before going bad than homemade yeast breads.

I made some sourdough a few years ago. I think I made it without any commercial yeast to get things going, then added yeast or baking powder to the dough right before baking it, while keeping the starter "pure". It took a while, but eventually I was able to get good leavening just from the sourdough, and it was nice and tangy. I dried some of this starter, and when it warms up a little, I'm going to try to revive the dried starter (probably in a few months, since it's much warmer where I live than where you live).

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Shreela, definitely look into the Sam's bulk yeast as it is considerably cheaper. I don't feel that wheat is unhealthy providing you are not using bleached flour. White flour is stripped both nutrients and fiber but then if it is bleached a by product (alloxan) that remains in the flour has been shown to cause diabetes under laboratory conditions. Another problem is many commercially made bread and wheat products use white flour then combine it with preservatives to make the product last longer. The long term effects of these preservatives is still up in the air. My opinion based on the research is it is the bleached white flour that poses a health risk so I do not use it.

By definition sourdough bread is a yeast bread. When you make the sourdough starter you are capturing wild yeast present in the air. For that reason you should not make yogurt and sourdough starters within a few days of each other as one or both will fail because the yeast needed for the sourdough competes with the bacteria for the yogurt. A good sourdough starter will not need the aid of any additional yeast and in fact sourdough purists very much frown on adding additional yeast as it will affect the taste of the loaf. You should be able to get a good rise in sourdough bread using only starter and increasing the proof time.

Sourdough starter at our prices would work out to 8¢ per cup of flour used and because of the amount used is very close to the price of granular yeast. It is less dependable because it is based on wild yeast, is affected more by weather conditions and can be contaminated. A good starter should be dried down or frozen for later use. Still sourdough is one of our favourites. My recipes for sourdough bread and sourdough muffins are in the archives.

Mizé said...

A Good Christmas!

Bella Casa said...

Hi, just popping in to wish you Happy Holidays!


Mrs. Mecomber said...

Merry Christmas! God bless you and yours! :D

MAC said...

I've never been that great at baking, probably because I've never taken the time to try. Today I'm going to make a sour dough starter. Can you give me any helpful tips?