Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tortillas, Bread, Pasta - To Buy or Make

If you are buying store-bought bread, tortillas or pasta, you are probably not getting your money's worth. I know there are reduced priced racks that fill with baked goods when the goods near expiration. I haven't seen prices as low as my homemade versions, and all of my homemade versions are made of 100% whole wheat flour.

I use King Arthur 100% whole white wheat. King Arthur is the lowest price I have found for whole wheat flour in my area. Walmart sells a 5 lb bag for $3.16, or just over $0.63 per pound. Whole white wheat keeps the germ and the bran in the flour, just as "traditional" whole red wheat does. It is just a different species of grain. It tastes more like white flour, and does not add that wheaty flavor to your food if your family is not used to it. Also, King Arthur has pledged not to use genetically modified wheat.

Homemade versions of flour based foods do take some skills. However, once these skills are mastered, no one can take them away from you and you will only get better and faster at them.

Pasta - $0.24/lb

Pasta was the food that took me the longest to try. I don't have a pasta maker, but I do have a rolling pin and surface to roll on. All of my recipes usually have a pound of pasta. This will cost about $0.80 at the store. To make the same pound at home, combine

1 1/2 cups flour -$0.24
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water -$0

The basic recipe is a 3:1 ratio, but I always need a little more water to make it roll easier. Roll it as thin as you possible can. I usually divide the batch in two and roll half at a time. Once rolled, cut it into thin strips with a pizza cutter. I then cut the strips short to make noodles. I don't dry it. You can, but it only adds an extra step. I boil it right away. I boil it until the pasta floats, then for five minutes after that.

Bread - $0.65/28 oz. loaf

I've already posted my basic bread recipe, but here it is again.

1 1/4 cups warm water -$0
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast -$0.06
3 1/2 cups flour - $0.55
1 1/2 teaspoon salt - $0.04

I don't use oil and sugar, as many recipes do. They are not necessary. The bread makers in France have traditionally omitted them. Sugar does help the yeast to rise, but once you've got a good kneading technique, you won't need it.

Tortillas - $0.60

2 cups whole white wheat flour ($0.32)
3/4 teaspoons salt ($0.03, if that)
1/4 cup shortening ($0.25, softened butter, but you can use whatever)
1/2 cups water ($0)

I get about six tortillas big enough to make quesa dillas, and ten taco size tortilla. Combine all ingredients and divide by how many tortillas you want. Roll out each one and fry on medium high, without greasing the pan, for about thirty seconds on each side.

You're not just paying extra for convenience with pasta, bread and tortillas. If you are buying flour based mixes (cake, muffin, pancake), frozen pizza, or cereal, you are paying other people to do the cooking for you, and it isn't as good as if you do it yourself. Compare the cost per pound of the pre-made flour based food to the cost per pound to the basic ingredients of that food, and you will see you can be doing better.

These are not things made commonly in the American household. Our ancestors always made these items themselves, and it was considered a luxury to buy them made. To buy them made, you are paying someone else to do the work for you. There seems to be this ominous myth that these are extremely difficult skills to master. However, our great great grandmothers, who may not have even graduated high school, made these all the time. Women around the world, who may have never stepped a day in a classroom, have these skills, so we can too!


Anna said...

Right now I'm working on clearing out our fridge, freezer, and pantry and menu planning accordingly. No sense in buying more groceries when the kichen is already stocked, right? But after I pare down a bit, I would like to try your menu plans for two weeks and see how much I can save on groceries. Have you posted all the recipes???

Emily said...

No, not all of them, but I'll start taking pictures nightly and putting them together. Then I'll link them to the days in the menu plan.

Henrietta said...

We're transitioning away from buying pre-made baked goods in our household, too. So far I make bread, bagels, pizza crust, granola bars, pie crusts, cookies, cake, and brownies all from scratch. This week I'm going to try out English muffins as well.

Unfortunately, this will be more difficult once I start working again; right now I can bake any day of the week, but I think we'll have to make Saturday Baking Day again.

I haven't done cost calculations yet. My recipes aren't as bare-bones as yours, so I know they'll come out a little more expensive, but they're probably at least equivalent to store-bought, if not cheaper, and tastier too!

Anna said...

BTW, I tried emailing you but the message was returned?

Emily said...

Anna, try again with the email. Yahoo mail can be finicky.

Emily said...

I tried your pasta recipe for a soup I made tonight- it turned out very well! I had never even considered making pasta before as I assumed that it would be very difficult and time consuming- not the case! I did add extra flour to mine because my dough was pretty sticky. I wonder if it was because I used whole wheat pastry flour?? I have a whole bag of pastry flour that I got to make vegan brownies for a friend one time, and now I don't know what to do with it. At any rate, I had fun making it- thanks!
~Emily (not the author of the blog!!)

Emily said...

Emily, I'm glad it came out well. I usually have to add extra water, but I use whole white wheat. I think whole wheat pastry flour is ground finer, so that makes sense that you would need a little more flour. I think you can use pastry flour for anything needing flour, you might just have to watch proportions.

Stacy said...

Well, I was really excited about trying to make my own noodles. I just tried it, and the noodles came out kind of soggy and a little mushy. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. I hope to figure it out because I really had no idea I could make them so easily and cheaply. Thanks for the idea.

Emily said...

Stacy, I remember with store bought noodes, if they were boiled too long they woud come out soggy and mushy too. Maybe checking them sooner would help. I had the problem of undercooking, and they come out chewy, so I check more often than when I made store bought. The other thing is the dough needs to be firm and not sticky when it is rolled out. This link has a picture of what it looks like rolled out and cut. If it is sticky, add more flour.

slk2042 said...

Have you ever tried making gnocchi? It's really easy, and only uses three ingredients: flour, plain mashed potato (no added milk or butter), and an egg.
There are lots of online recipes, I hope you find one that your family likes!

Katie said...

If you're looking for less expensive flour, try a restaurant supply store. Here in Washington state, we have one called Cash&Carry, and their whole wheat flour hovers around $20 for 50lb.

daphne16 said...

I tried your tortilla recipe tonight. It came out well, but I need to work on making them thinner. I will also decrease the salt next time. Thanks

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