• Automatic bread-making machines have taken much of the labour out of making a passable loaf at home, using non-perishable ingredients.
  • Baking your own bread has advantages; there's a reason real estate agents are notorious for popping a loaf in the oven.
  • But a comparison between the price of raw ingredients and what you pay in store for mass-produced bread shows you won't be saving money by making your own.

Thanks to automatic bread machines – which are increasingly cheap and multi-functional – you can bake hot fresh bread at home with only a couple of minutes of work, and a couple of hours of waiting.

That has advantages, beyond just being able to make your bread exactly the way you want it. All the ingredients that go into bread have long shelf lives, unlike the final product, and the smell of freshly baked bread in a house is a real selling point, as estate agents know well. 

But because of the quantities of ingredients involved – and the metrics used in baking as opposed to the metrics used in selling flour and other ingredients – it is hard to tell just how much it costs, per loaf, to bake your own bread. Unless you painstakingly convert the measurements, and so figure out the cost of each ingredient. So that is exactly what we did.

See also: Bread prices are falling as South Africans switch back to pap

For our test we used the standard 700 gram recipe for the Ma Baker baking machine from Mellerware, as the manufacturer recommends, with the "basic bread" setting.

That delivers a loaf almost exactly the same weight as a standard store-bought loaf.

Bread maker

Wielding a set of kitchen scales and a calculator, we converted the recipe units into the standard units in which the ingredients are sold. We then calculated the costs using the prices as charged by Pick n Pay for the smallest available package of each ingredient.

We also factored in the R1,700 cost of the Ma Baker, as amortised on the assumption it is used to bake one loaf of bread every day for the two years of its insured life.

Here is how those numbers stack up.

Bread costs calculation

For ingredients only, each home-made loaf of bread costs R15.51. Add in the cost of the bread maker – unless you are willing to put in the kneading work – and the cost per loaf jumps to R17.84. 

Pick 'n Pay sells a 700 gram loaf of Albany Superior white sliced bread for R13.99.

That puts the premium for baking at home at just about 11% for the ingredients only, and at 28% factoring in a conservative cost for the bread maker.

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