What to Do About the Rising Cost of Bread
I don’t know about you, but even the thrift store prices of bread lately have turned it into a luxury item at our house. With bread being such a family staple, and lunch sandwiches being the item of choice to pack for the road and school, this is hitting and will continue to hit family pocketbooks in a big way. Following are a few strategies and resources to help adjust this particular line item in your family budget.
Rethink the sandwich as a staple. Particularly if you are not into making your own bread and bread substitutes, this strategy can really help you control the amount of bread consumed at home. Check out this previous brown bagging alternatives article to give you some ideas. If this idea doesn't float with you, here are some sandwich ideas to make the most of the bread you do buy.
- Make friends with your bread machine. If you have one already, good for you. If not, with these rising prices you may want to consider picking one up. I did an article on how to streamline the use of these a while back. With the price of a loaf of bread skyrocketing, it’s probably even timelier now.
- Crackers. OK, these are still made of wheat and yes, the prices per box are still on the rise along with sandwich loaves. However, there are many crackers per box and they keep way longer and store more easily than sandwich bread. This means you can stock up and save on fuel and energy costs. These are great for make your own “lunchables” meals to take to work.
- Whip it up the old fashioned way. I have to admit, I almost didn’t include this one because I know how busy we all are. And doing the knead and double rise thing takes an enormous amount of free time or at least is more for those that are able to be home a great deal. Still, if you can fit it in and don’t mind doing it, you can save some money.
- Explore the world of batter breads, otherwise known as “no knead” breads. These are a nice middle of the road option for those who want a little more convenience but don’t have the extra cash to dish out for a bread machine. They come out nice and crusty and are great as a dinner side. I’ve even seen recipes out there for no knead dinner rolls and braided breads, so there is definitely some flexibility for creative interpretation. Here’s a link to a simple looking recipe from the New York Times. There are tons of other recipes on the net, though. Do a search and see what you find. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t make bagged versions of these mixes ahead of time like you would with the bread machine mixes.
- Consider homemade alternatives to the standard loaf. These can include items that are made of the same types of flours, but are not necessarily designed for sandwiches. At our house, we have several bulk dry mix recipes for these items as well to save on time. Some specific ideas? Homemade tortilla mix, cornbread mix, baking / biscuit mix, pizza crust mix and more.
- Beer bread. This is very similar to the batter breads listed above. You just use beer as a liquid and yeast substitute rather than have the yeast and water as additional ingredients. You don’t have to use the expensive microbrews for this. Get the cheap generic kind as it really only matters that you have the ingredients.
- Rethink toast as a frugal morning breakfast staple. At our house, this isn’t something we do any more at all. We go with an oatmeal topping bar, breakfast cookies, scones, or low fat muffins. Sometimes the large bags of generic cereal go on sale and we’ll stock up on those for a low prep option in the mornings.
- Bulk purchasing of various flours and other bread ingredients. Great pricing on this stuff is going to become even more of an issue. For strategies on storage, check out this recent bulk buying article.
- Shop the sales with coupons in hand. Since there has been a fair amount of chatter on Wise Bread recently about shopping strategies (see Sarah’s recent piece ), I thought I would chime in here with one of my best coupon deals ever. A couple of years ago, a grocery chain in Tucson was having the five pound bags of Gold Medal flour (any kind) for 59 cents piece. There was a 25 cent printable coupon on azcentral.com that had no limit on the amount of times you could use it. This same grocery chain was also having a triple coupon week. I went in and picked up 25 pounds each of every type of flour they had available. Free flour rocks. Baking ingredients always get marked down this time of year. Keep on the lookout and (please) keep the rest of us posted!
I was shocked when I had a chance to stop by the nearest (although still quite far away) bread thrift store recently. The price wasn’t quite double what I’d paid last time, but pretty darn close. Most of these strategies are ones that we’ve always used. Some of them, like the batter bread, are ones we are just starting to explore.
Grabbing a loaf of the generic stuff if we didn’t feel like dealing with make your own options was always an option we knew was not a big deal with our family budget. Now, with the rising costs as well as our distance away from regular large stores, it is becoming less and less of a back up option and more of a special event. Hopefully, these strategies will help out some of you the way they have helped us. Please feel free to post any other ideas you may have, as usual.