Friday, October 5, 2012

You don't have to bake bread from scratch to call yourself frugal

Just to be clear, this is not a clever way for me to excuse my large purchase of bakery thrift bread in late August.

When I think of the thrifty housewife, I picture a woman in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up and hands in a large pile of bread dough. (And a husky gal she was, with forearms to rival any sailor!)

Perhaps, because there was a time when it was very unthrifty to buy bread. A bakery loaf was not cheap, compared to the ingredients that went into that loaf. Times have changed, yet we still have this image of frugal meaning baking bread from scratch.

Being frugal is a balance of spending and saving, while preserving quality of life. Being mindful in our decisions, and giving thought to how best to use our time, money and skills.

Let's say, what you really want to do is start up a business. If you were spending all your time baking bread, making pickles, making soap, etc., there'd be little time left to get your business idea off the ground.

Or, perhaps you want to spend more time with your children, maybe schooling them at home, so they can have the kind of education you desire for them. While you could likely work bread-baking into your daily routine many of the years, there are some years when homeschooling is more time-intensive than others.

Maybe you have a career that takes you away from the house. If you devote your evenings to baking bread from scratch, you will likely cut into your relaxation and sleep hours. Given a few months of this, and you'd be resenting the time bread-baking was exacting from your schedule.

Then there could be physical limitations preventing the stirring and kneading of the dough. I know this one first hand. Some days my neck and shoulders just are too iffy to dive into a huge mound of bread dough.

Or just maybe, you prefer to use your talents and skills in other areas, that are equally beneficial for the household budget. Baking bread is not the only way to save some money.


So what are your bread procurement options, while being mindful of your budget?

  • You can bake, the old-fashioned way -- bowl, spoon, rolled up sleeves.
  • You can make friends with someone who does bake, and swap services with them in exchange for a weekly loaf.
  • You can bake with a machine, very convenient if your family really prefers home made bread.
  • You can shop at a bakery thrift and fill the freezer once a month. This actually works very well for me, when I know ahead of time that I'm going to have a busy schedule, and may not be able to keep up with the heavy bread consumption in our house (5 loaves a week, on average).
  • You can shop at the regular store for bread on a weekly basis. This will cost more, but maybe there are other areas you can make savings, so that store bought or bakery produced bread fits into your budget.
  • Or maybe you're a couponer and find bread coupons often enough.


I can definitely see how all of the above would fit within a frugal lifestyle. 

I will point out, however, that it is extremely handy to know how to bake bread, whether you do it regularly or not. 

Should you hit upon a month where finances are tight, you can temporarily do things like bake your own bread, to stretch that income a bit more. 

If you or a family member develops food sensitivities, knowing how to bake your own will allow you to control the ingredients. 

Or maybe you want to bring something special to the next family gathering. A basket of yeast-raised dinner rolls is always appreciated.

I like my own homemade bread, but I don't feel its the only criteria in considering myself frugal.

How about you? Is there a must-meet criteria to consider yourself frugal?

16 comments:

  1. I don't worry specifically about being frugal per se. I worry about leading a quality life which includes trying live my beliefs. One is not wasting money. Another is spending quality time with my family. I try hard to balance these two. It takes some mental adjustments for me sometimes to balance them, but I'm getting better at it. I have to remember spending a little extra money is okay to free up time or going on an outing with my family instead of cleaning the basement is okay.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think making time for your family is one of the more important reasons to forego a frugal activity or two. Your kids will only be around for so long, then they're on their own busy with their families. But balance is really the key. And I think you've found it.

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  2. Or...if you want, buy that regular store bread...and learn to eat LESS of it, using other grains in lunch and getting out of the "sandwich" rut! Which basically, is what we do, since I never caught the 'from scratch' desire! LOL. Bread calories add up...! ;o)

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    1. Hi Gramemaw,
      you're absolutely right! Eating less bread, and using more of the other grains, makes things simpler!

      That's what we do when I'm low on bread and don't have time or energy to do another baking. I cook up a large pot of rice, to have with lunches, and we eat foods like oatmeal and rice pudding for breakfasts. And I think it's better for our bodies to eat a wider variety of grains.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I have been trying (and sometimes failing spectacularly!) to make my own bread for a while now. I'm not sure what it is like for you, but there are no breads in our supermarkets without a long list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients. You can get bread made from real ingredients from bakeries, but they are about $6 a loaf and we don't have bakery thrift stores (they sound great!).

    So the reason I have been trying to make my own is because I am too tight with money to spend $6 on bread, even if it is good quality.

    In terms of a must-meet criteria for being frugal - I think I have two: drying clothes on a line or a rack (rather than in a dryer) and cooking meals at home. Drying clothes on a line is the norm here, so I tend to see the dryer as money down the drain.

    Cooking food from scratch doesn't mean cooking everything from scratch, but every time I see ready-meals in the supermarket and how expensive they are for things like pasta and sauce, I just think about how much money you would waste if you ate them every day.

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    1. Hi Economies,
      have you tried your new food processor out on bread dough yet? You can knead the dough in the processor, let rise in the bowl, then form into a loaf on the counter. I do this in a pinch. My recipe for French baguette uses just 2 cups of flour and this amount of dough "fits" in my food processor.

      The other thing that helps me, with bread-making, is I do several loaves at a time (5) and freeze them. I set aside an afternoon for bread-making, and really give it my attention, so as not to miss that window when to get the loaves into the oven, risen without over-risen.

      Good luck with the bread making!

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  4. I've used two sides of the coin. When my children were young my bread making skills were so-so, time was always short, and we had two freezers. At that stage in our lives using the bread store was the best route. Just far simpler. For the most part I only baked biscuits from scratch. Then the big bread machine craze hit and I did a mixture of baking bread and buying bread. It was only when I began to really study ingredients and started grinding my own grains that I began to make most of my breads. Of course, by then time commitments had changed and the children could help. :-) Now none of us care for "white" bread unless it is artisan type and we can't buy that locally.

    I think my must meet criteria for being frugal is just one thing.....that you are willing to do the best for your family and situation in your given circumstances. For example: I have the time to do a lot of my cooking (if not all if I choose) from scratch. I am home full time and my children are older. On the other hand a mother who works outside the home may not have that luxury of time and perhaps the most frugal for her is more convenience type items as opposed to eating out.

    I'm with live and learn on this one. I think that frugality is about living purposefully. Picking and choosing the things that work for you and enrich your life.

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    1. Hi Shara,
      I think you've struck the right balance in life. Maintaining a quality of life, through mindful use of time and resources is what makes our lives enjoyable and sustainable.

      I sometimes can scarcely believe that I grew up on white bread sandwiches. I didn't have whole wheat bread until my mid-teen years. And then there was no going back! A slice of good wheat bread, toasted, needs nothing else in my opinion.

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  5. I totally agree. If I bake bread, it's because I enjoy it and think it tastes good, not to save money. The amount you'd save--if anything--is negligible. I'm not much of a sandwich eater, and now that it's cool enough to grow/harvest greens, I'm eating a lot of salads and soups these days anyway!

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    1. Hi Pamela,
      I love my homemade bread. The taste is motivation enough for me to bake it.

      But there was a time, when saving every single last penny did matter for us, and I baked for the savings, which wasn't a lot, but it helped.

      We've just started in on soup suppers around here this week. The weather has turned cool in the evenings and a steaming bowl of soup is very welcome.

      This has made me hungry for a crusty loaf of hot-from-the-oven French bread! I know what my food processor will be doing this afternoon!

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  6. Baking bread is what I do when I want my family to appreciate how wonderful I am. :) I taught myself to bake bread when I became a SAHM because I needed a new challenge that I could tackle from home (changing diapers wasn't very mentally stimulating) and I love to bake cookies/muffins. It isn't something I do on a regular basis (Aldi's has a good-quality whole wheat bread for $1.69/loaf)--it's a rainy/snowy day with hot soup or stew activity. I bake frequently enough to be fun but not so often that I become resentful.

    My overall philosophy on money management is to save more than I spend and to live beneath my means. I enjoy my on-call job status where I can pick and choose what hours to work; I feel like I can be a better wife and mother by doing this. So ... if that's the lifestyle I want ... then I need to be careful about where I spend money. I try to watch the "biggies" in terms of spending--we eat out infrequently, clothing is purchased on clearance, I throw a slipcover on furniture rather than purchasing new, I make Halloween costumes instead of buying them. So far it seems to work for us! :)

    Speaking of soup ... I have potato soup in the crockpot right now and I pulled a loaf of bread out of the freezer (baked my moi last weekend!) for supper. Autumn has hit here in Michigan!

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    1. Hi Kris,
      I love your first line, when you want your family to appreciate how wonderful you are! I will put cookies into the oven just before the family is getting home. Or have a homemade soup simmering as they walk through the door. Everyone comes through the kitchen in our house, so they get hit with all kinds of aromas. I hope they are realizing how wonderful it is to come home to a nice meal.

      Potato soup sounds really warming! It has turned chilly here as well. I made 2 pots of soup this week, with leftovers in the freezer for a couple more nights. And I'll do more on Monday (its a holiday here, for Columbus Day). I love a nice steamy bowl of soup and piece of bread, roll or muffin for dinner this time of year.

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  7. Or... you could develop an allergy to yeast and remove bread from your diet altogether!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      Now that would simplify things -- sort of!

      Actually, this past week I had to get creative, as I'd run out of bread, and I have a bad shoulder that was acting up, so didn't want to do a big baking of loaves. So we ate a lot of rice. I made baked rice pudding for breakfast, we had snacks of rice w/soy sauce (one of my favorites), and just rice added to lunches as a side dish. It made me start to think of ways I could make more take-away lunches with the rice, as my son and husband are not huge sandwich fans.

      So what are your favorite grains? I know there's a whole world of interesting grains out there that Americans hardly know.

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    2. Actually, at this point I try to minimize grains in general because it really helps me keep my weight under control. I tend to have 2-3 different kinds of veggies with each meal and I either pass on the grains altogether, or just use a very small amount.

      But... I do like rice, although the recent news on arsenic has me a tad bit concerned. I tend to make lots of "skillet" dishes with a bit of rice or pasta mixed right in. I used to use lots of bulghar wheat or quinoa because both are so easy to make, but since I've adopted my "vegetables uber alle" philosophy I've had my hands full just trying to use up the rice and pasta I already have on hand.

      I do make some quick breads like zucchini & pumpkin - I make them with about 1/4 the sugar that the recipes generally call for because otherwise it's like eating cake. I also sometimes make tortillas or flat bread and make wraps. And CatMan LOVES cornbread so every once in a while I indulge and make some - but I have to be careful because I love it so much and I have a tendency to wolf it down smothered with copious amounts of butter - not good for the waistline!

      BTW... I meant to say that I thought this was a great post in general. I think we so often get caught up in our mental pictures of what we imagine frugal living to be, and that often blinds us to the realities of our situations.

      It reminded me of my infamous quilt... when I first fell in love with the idea of "voluntary simplicity" I decided that I needed to make a quilt from bits of fabric salvaged from a bag of old stained & torn clothing that had been relegated to rag status. So I spent hours and hours and hours cutting out little squares of fabric until my hands were covered with blisters, and battling the sewing machine. It was anything BUT simple!

      I finally gave up on the project - and I'm afraid all of the squares are still in a box in the basement. The truth was that I just liked the picture of making a quilt... it sort of brought up images of Laura Ingalls Wilder spending hours in quiet contemplation happily quilting away.

      But the reality was that the thread alone cost me more than it would have cost to just buy a quilt at the thrift store, and I really HATE the sewing machine, and (here's the kicker) I didn't even need a quilt! Oh but that pretty picture...

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    3. A couple of years ago I had to give up wheat temporarily, and tried a bunch of grains. There are some really tasty grains that most Americans never try, too bad for them!

      Yeah, I think we tend to have these images of what our ideal life should look like. And they often don't fit us, personally. That's really funny about you trying to make a quilt, when you didn't need one, nor really want to do the making.

      It reminds me of making my own butter, many years ago. No, I didn't have a goat or cow to milk for cream. I had to buy the cream, then turn it into butter. It would've been a fun, once-to-do activity, but I made it a weekly affair, trying to get the simpler life. The butter wound up costing about 3 times what I'd pay at the store! At least I gave my son a making-butter memory. Although he was young, I did it enough he definitely remembers!

      We really do get wiser as we get older, until we reach the point that we can't remember anything we've learned in life!

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.