Grocery Shopping Tips | Reader Questions

Is Homemade Baking Or Store-Bought Cheaper?

homemade baking


The smell of homemade baking always puts me in a good mood especially if the smells are in my kitchen.

Buying baked goods at the grocery store or a local bakery is always going to be the convenient way to eat.

However, if you are on a tight budget or want control over the ingredients in your food homemade baking is the best option.

Today we have a reader question from a fan looking for tips on homemade baking vs. buying baked goods at the grocery store.

I can sympathize with this reader because the price of grocery ingredients and utilities have increased over the years.

Although homemade baking may win with the taste buds it may not score points with a tight budget.

There are many reasons why you may want to consider homemade baking although there are times when store-bought is a better option.

homemade baking

Tight Budget Homemade Baking vs. Store-Bought Baking

Hi Mr. CBB,

How do you know when it’s less expensive to make homemade baked goods or buy it pre-made at the store?

I’m on a tight budget and I hesitate to try recipes only to find out it’s more expensive with the ingredients and electricity costs among other things.

I am sure it’s more nutritious to make my own but right now it’s financial.

Thanks for any advice.

The short answer is that bakery goods have among the highest mark up in the grocery store.

This means that home baking is almost always more affordable than an equivalent purchase from the grocery store.

If however, you buy reduced bakery items you may save a bit of money but it won’t be as fresh.

Costs of Kitchen Equipment For Homemade Baking

There are some key factors that need to be considered when buying kitchen tools especially if you’re on a tight budget. 

If you’re not already a home baker, you’ll need to have some basic kitchen equipment on hand to bake.

Not only do you need the kitchen tools but basic pantry ingredients called for in the recipe.

My advice?

Do try and utilize homemade baking rather than buying from the grocery store.

You’ll recoup your initial investment in ingredients and equipment very quickly going this route.

The best part is that you always know what goes into the food you eat.

Related: Must-Have Kitchen Tools For The Home Chef On A Budget

Frugal Homemade Baking Tips For The Home Baker

homemade baking vs. store bought baking

Keep your equipment purchases to a minimum, buying only the pans you’ll need.  

If your initial plan is to make homemade cookies and granola bars, purchase only a cookie sheet and a rectangular baking pan (if you need it for the bars). 

Do spend the money to buy good quality baking pans and cookware that will last you many years.

You’ll always need measuring spoons, and measuring cups but check inexpensive shops such as the dollar store to find the lowest prices.

Another great place to pick up budget-friendly kitchen tools and bakeware are at second-hand shops or garage sales.

You can’t go wrong for the prices they sell kitchenware to begin your homemade baking journey.

For the rest of the kitchen equipment, make do with what you might already have on hand.

Substituting Kitchen Tools When Baking At Home

In the meantime if you don’t have a large enough mixing bowl, look around for another item you can use in its place.

Do you have a large saucepan that you can use to mix your homemade baking in?

Think outside the box until you can stock what you need in your kitchen.

If you don’t have a wooden spoon, use a serving spoon instead.

Traditional Homemade Baking Recipes

Begin with a couple of recipes that you know your family will enjoy and that share several common ingredients. 

For example, if you’re planning to bake granola bars then oatmeal cookies of some sort would be a good second recipe.

If you have no baking ingredients on hand, begin by purchasing small amounts of ingredients until you’ve figured out which recipes your family likes and which recipes you’ll be making over and over. 

You can minimize the expense involved with your first recipe by taking measuring cups and spoons to the store and portioning only the exact amount of ingredients you’ll need from the bulk bins.

If the ingredients you need aren’t available in bulk, purchase small packages (unless they are things you know you’ll use for purposes other than baking).

Homemade Baking And Substitutions

If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient or one that you don’t often use, consider a substitution. 

For example, I have several recipes that call for pine nuts. Pine nuts are very expensive so I use sunflower seeds instead.

However, If a recipe calls for an expensive ingredient and you can’t make a less expensive substitution, don’t make the recipe.

Once you’re into the swing of homemade baking and gather ideas of recipes that your family likes – and what you like – begin buying your ingredients in larger quantities.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Kitchen Down-Sizing.

Stockpile Basic Kitchen Pantry Ingredients

Allow room in your budget to begin stocking up on flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices, raisins, etc. and you’ll start to see even greater grocery savings.

Good luck and have fun in the kitchen without worrying wether what you make is perfect.

You’ll love homemade baking in your kitchen once you get started along with savings that come along with it.

Discussion: What other advice can you offer our reader for homemade baking vs. store-bought baked goods?

Leave your comment below as we all enjoy reading your feedback.

Guest Post Bio:  

kneading dough

Aunt B’s family jokes that she started writing because she just doesn’t know when to be quiet!  

In truth, her blogs grew out of a long illness and helped her to keep in touch with the world around her.  

She’s interested in everything, and shares her interests at Aunt B on a Budget, A Word from Aunt B, B on Balance and B-Attitude.

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  1. Unfortunately, the reason for the large markup of store bought items (not just food) is that the raw ingredients are initially purchased in massive bulk quantities for much much lower than an individual would buy it at. This results in the “huge markup”. If the initial costs were higher (ie: home baker purchasing the raw ingredients), the markup would be seen as much less. If they were one off items (ie: home bakes bread vs store bought) … the less flower, salt, and yeast you buy to bake your one loaf of bread, the higher the initial costs and the lower the “markup”. In other words, unless you’re buying and storing bulk raw goods, you’ll never get to the same cost saving numbers as a bulk/commercial Baker. It’s just impossible. No different than buying all the ingredients for a burger to make ONE burger vs buying a premade burger. Yes, the home made burger will certainly have a lower cost for the items used in the actual burger, but then you’re sitting in a head of lettuce, a half chopped into tomatoe, likely a multipack of burger patties, half chopped into onion, and so on. Unless you’re planning to eat burgers for the next few meals/days, most of the items will go to waste. You might as well but a burger from a place that makes burgers all day every day and has a bulk supply of ingredients. And yes – it will be marked up drastically because that’s how business remains profitable. They buy bulk which allows them to have great profit margins. They use no different ingredients than the home Baker/cook, they just happen to pay peanuts for it because if the quantities they are able to purchase in. You certainly can’t fault them for that. One must appreciate that they are the ones taking the risk of ordering in bulk and running the risk of things going south (rot, mould, food generally going bad if they can’t sell it in time).

    At the end of the day, the only reason to cook or bake at home is to control what goes into your food (store bought if course has preservatives to increase shelf life), you can’t find a certain dish/dessert locally for purchase, or simply because you have a passion for it. Otherwise, you can certainly let the pros do it for you who cool/bake day in and day out to perfect a recipe hundreds of times a day and have high consistency in the final results (store bought or restaurant). Unless you’re bulk coking for a family or bulk cooking a freezing for the week (and you don’t mind eating the same thing every day), you’re likely not saving much money – if any at all. You might as well put the money towards enjoying a wide variety of foods. Otherwise, you can look forward to having copious amounts of stockpiled food that you’ll not know how to make use of because you’ve already used it for that “one recipe that called for it” and now you don’t know what to do with the rest. We already know how drastically the price can change depending on if you’re buying a small bag if potatoes vs a massive sack at a Costco Business Centre. Who buys those 10000gallon tubs of Soy Sauce? That’s right – the businesses that have “high markup” right? You can certainly buy it to reduce costs, but again, to make just a few dishes, you’re better off just buying a MUCH more expensive small bottle .. which cuts into the production costs of your famous stir-fry.

    The way I see it, store bought vs home made is the same … with the only difference being how much time and effort is needed before the food hits your mouth. That’s pretty much it. I wouldn’t worry about costs. If anything, home made is more expensive because you likely won’t be buying the ingredients in bulk.

    1. Thanks for your insight on this topic. It certainly is food for thought. Well done. Personally, I just like to know what goes into a recipe vs what store-bought puts in and if that equals or is slightly more than I’m happy with that. I guess it’s always going to be a personal opinion but yours makes sense as well. Thanks. For dropping by.

  2. When I bake at home, I eat a lot more than if I purchase prepared goods.

    I used to bake cookies, but then I ate them all.

    All these comments are good. For me, baking causes me to gain weight. Instead of eating cookies, I grab for a raw carrot.

    1. Haha, I know what you mean Connie. We do lots of baking here for the blog but I agree I have to watch my weight so I workout every day. Like you I’ll grab a raw carrot first. It’s that late-night sweet tooth that gets me. Thanks for stopping by. Mr.CBB

  3. Good tips. I laughed at the “only buy equipment you need.” My friend was contemplating making pumpkin pie on American Thanksgiving because she had purchased the pie plate and spices for Canadian Thanksgiving 🙂

  4. As much as I’d love to bake, in reality my heart just isn’t in it. I think it’s because I don’t really like sweets that much so it’s not really worth it to me. These tips are great though, especially the one about only buyng what you need from the bulk bin – I hate buying ingredients that I know I’ll never use again!

  5. Great post! We make home made breads all the time and I had to contemplate the very same issue when I first started baking. But like you say, the initial investment might be more expensive than buying in store at first, later it pays itself off and you can enjoy much cheaper baked goods at home. I went a bit lavish on baking and got a bread maker. We have fresh made breads once in a while in the morning and they are costing us much less than the store – and much better fresh in the morning.

  6. I certainly have not ever tried to bake bread or granola bars, but I do think any cookies we have will mostly be homemade from now on. I am learning to be a better cook, so I will certainly study the treat type things that my five year old likes to see if I can come up with cheaper and healthier alternatives. I have been trying hard lately to not pay more than $1.50 per loaf of bread, so that I don’t mind getting at the store. One of the groceries has great clearance bread section, and you can find just about anything marked way down if you don’t mind being patient. Great tips. I am devouring this type information in my quest to be a better shopper!

  7. Good tip about substituting cheaper ingredients for expensive ones. I always laugh at recipes that call for Andioulle sausage and then mixing it in with so many other flavors that you’ll never taste the difference between it and country sausage.

  8. I find that it helps to figure out how much it costs you to make something at home – that way you can know if sale prices are beating your at home costs. For me – homemade granola runs about $1.80 per batch, so when it’s on a BOGO sale and I get 2 boxes for $4 and I’m running low on time, I know that it’s only about $0.20 for the time that I’m putting in to make it. It’s a balance. But on the other hand, my homemade tastes more “real” than store bought, so that weighs in, too!

  9. So ironic that you just posted this since I was thinking about this today. I made cookies and the chocolate chips were on sale for 2.75/300gm bag which I can bake about 30 cookies with (plus the cost of sugar/eggs/flour)…a box of Christie’s chocolate chip cookies were on sale for 2.50/box…not cheaper to make BUT better for you (in terms of preservative) and actually taste like a cookie should. I have found baking supplies have gone up tremendously in the last 2-3years.

    1. I didn’t realize chocolate chips were that expensive! I chop up baking chocolate squares and use them for all my “chocolate chip” needs. They taste better than chocolate chips too. A box of Baker’s squares will run about $2.99, sometimes less on sale and you only need half a box per cookie recipe.

    2. I didn’t realize chocolate chips were that expensive! I chop up baking chocolate squares and use them for all my “chocolate chip” needs. They taste better than chocolate chips too. A box of Baker’s squares will run about $2.99, sometimes less on sale and you only need half a box per cookie recipe.

  10. Loved the article!! I try to make most of our baking as well. I found Canadian Tire to be a great place to get the pans and such….just watch the sales, they do have some good ones. I got my daughter a muffin pan a couple of years ago for Christmas half price!!! It’s what she wanted…. I get cookbooks from the library for recipes and copy some out if they look good. Once I’ve made something ‘by the book’ I know where and how I can change it up for something better/different. When we have a family potluck get-together I’m always getting asked to bring desserts!!!! Lol!!

  11. In general, I’ve always found that making it at home is cheaper. Everything from lasagna to cookies to cinnamon buns is cheaper is you put the work in to do it yourself. Even bread, which I always feared would be too time consuming, is not too much work and very delicious when it comes out of the oven.

  12. We bake daily at our house. From bread ( when I have the time) to making candy. With seven kids, ops and Dearest! We go through a batch of cookies in less then a day. If I bought the amount that the family eats in baked goods, it would consume my whole grocery budget. This does however mean having the supplies in the house. I stock-up on sales and stash away in the cold cellar in plastic containers. Also love when Bulk Barn has $3./off coupons when purchasing $10 of goods. I go in for the $10 worth and hand over the coupon. Have found them to be the least ezxpensive on icing and brown sugars and oatmeal.

  13. Great tips. We almost always make things at home as it can be so much cheaper and a bit healthier. The only time we really don’t is when we’re pressed for time, but that’s few and far between.

  14. I can make two huge loaves of Foccacia bread at home for about 80 cents. It makes the house smell wonderful and they don’t require kneading. Super easy, super cheap, and delicious. And like Mary F Campbell, I find baking to be quite relaxing as well.

  15. Great answer Beth Anne! I love to bake and find it really relaxing…not to mention it makes the house smell terrific!!

  16. I have come to think that if I can by bread for $1 or less its worth it to buy. as the time it takes to make is also important t me. at RCSS I can grab a 4 loaf pack for under $4 and sometimes I can find it for 50% off

    1. You’re quite right: Your time is valuable too, Tori, and if you feel it’s a better bargain to buy your bread by all means do so. 🙂 Personally, though, I prefer to bake my own. It doesn’t take long to mix up and I don’t have to stand over it every minute. I go about the day’s business while it’s rising and baking. I get to control the quality of the ingredients that go into my bread, it makes the house smell heavenly, and I think it tastes better than store bought.

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