As I was making my homemade chicken stock last week, I was imagining all the money I was saving instead of buying stock from the store. Sure, I did have to buy a chicken to make that homemade stock, but it was still cheaper … right?
Of course, there are many reasons besides price why I like making foods myself: It’s satisfying, rewarding and fun, and I like knowing exactly what is going into the food I’m eating. I set a goal a few months ago of never buying bread from the store. Since then I’ve always skipped the bread isle at the grocery store, and I think I’m better for it.
But am I saving money? I’m certainly not saving time. It took more than 6 hours to have a complete chicken stock. Granted, most of that time was unattended waiting, but it was still a big project. I was curious to see if I was even saving money. I decided to take a look at four items I’ve made from scratch recently: tortillas, bread, chicken stock and chicken soup.
All the calculations in this story come from full-price listings at my local grocery store. There is undoubtedly price fluctuation between stores and across the country.
Tortillas: A 30-pack of Mission white corn tortillas costs $2.09. Thirty homemade tortillas cost 68 cents (a 2-kilogram bag of masa harina costs $2.99). Total savings? $1.41, or a reduction in price of 67 percent.
Bread: Combining all breads into one category is silly, I know. There’s a huge fluctuation in price and quality. I compared a 100 percent whole wheat sandwich loaf from Oroweat to the equivalent whole wheat loaf I would make myself. The Oroweat bread costs $4.89. A homemade loaf costs $2.57 (in this recipe, the honey cost more than the flour. I’m sure I could come up with a different recipe that would cost even less.) Total savings? $2.32, or a reduction in price of 47 percent.
Chicken stock: A 28-ounce carton of Swanson Chicken Cooking Stock costs $3.49. (Even though this Swanson’s stock is expensive, it is also the best.) Making 4 quarts of homemade stock costs $6.37. To buy the equivalent amount of cooking stock would cost $15.95. Total savings? $9.58, or a reduction in price of 60 percent.
Chicken soup: Four cans of Campbell’s Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup cost $11.96. To make the equivalent soup at home costs $10.58, but that’s using homemade stock. Total savings? $1.38, or a reduction in price of 11.5 percent. Switch to using store-bought stock and the equation changes. We’re up to $15.37, or an increase in price of 28.5 percent.
What did I learn from this exercise? Homemade tortillas are cheap, and store-bought broth is expensive. Overall, I think this analysis proves that there are real cost savings from making food – savings that help balance out the increase in time spent cooking.
I was dismayed to see the small difference in price between store-bought and homemade soup. My parents are notorious store-bought soup eaters, and I’ve vowed never to purchase cans of soup myself, just on principle. But now they’ll see that making soup is a lot of work for not much return.
Of course, homemade soup tastes better, as do homemade tortillas, homemade bread, and homemade broth. But that will never convince them …