Quick answer: About $1.50 per loaf.
But there are so many variables to bread baking; ingredients and fuel costs are just two, that there is no real upper limit. Also, while the hobby bread baker does not worry if the loaf costs more than at the store, some people do want to know if making your own bread is more cost effective than buying bread, and whether it's worth the extra work or not.
The answer is a qualified "yes". Bread baking is a skill and achieving a product that you will actually eat might take awhile. Bread baking is only less expensive than bread buying if you actually consume the product. Just like cooking, baking improves with practice. Baking the same recipe every week also has advantages. Routine and correction of past mistakes, for instance.
Beyond the fact that many people bake because they gain satisfaction and even joy out of the process, baking your own bread may be healthier than buying at the store. Fewer additives and total control of the quality of ingredients are important considerations.
For cost calculations I took as an example a loaf of French bread which contains yeast, flour, salt and water. (Check out this article for making great French Bread.)
A pound of King Arthur flour costs about one dollar. We could pick a less expensive flour but KA makes good bread and the whole wheat is the same cost as the white bread flour.
One teaspoon of salt costs less than one penny.
Yeast, a huge variable. A cake of yeast can cost $1.50 for 1/2 ounce at the supermarket. Again, at King Arthur you can order a pound of yeast, enough to make 96 loaves of bread, for about $6.00. That's 6.2 cents per loaf. For someone who wants to save money by baking at home, this would be the way to go.
Tap water costs very little in the US so I will not associate a cost with it.
Fuel - Electricity at 10 cents or more per kilowatt hour, an oven pulling 2600 watts will cost about 26 cents per hour to operate. This is a simplification, but you can buy a device to measure your oven's electrical consumption and multiply that result by the cost per kilowatt on your monthly electrical bill to find out how much it would cost to bake a loaf in your own house.
Remember, if you bake two loaves of bread, the cost to bake per loaf is cut in half. If you bake your bread sequentially, you will at least save the cost of pre-heating the oven for the second loaf.
So one oven usage (about two hours, electric) will cost about 50 cents.
Total cost per loaf of simple French bread:
- 1 lb. flour - $1.00
- 1 tsp. salt - $0.01
- Yeast - $0.07
- Fuel - $0.50
- Total $1.58, without labor.
The least expensive loaf I buy at the store is a packaged whole wheat sandwich loaf for around $2.50. "Artisan" breads at the supermarket sell for $4.00-5.00. Both packages show a list of about 20 ingredients. My breads have 4 - 10 ingredients, all pronounceable. And the smell of bread baking as well as eating fresh bread slathered with butter makes the effort worth it to me.
So what about other breads?This Oatmeal Bread is only a few cents more to make than the French Bread described above. I suggest doubling the recipe since the loaves are small and easily fit in the oven.
Also try this sourdough "Bauernbrot". It costs about $1.50 more than the French bread above, but makes a two pound loaf.
This 100% whole grain bread, German Seed Bread, is more expensive but offers quite a bit in the nutritional arena. Sunflower seeds are good sources of folic acid, pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and sesame seeds high in copper and manganese.
King Arthur gives us this no-knead 100% whole wheat loaf.
Or you can still buy your bread at the bakery. Here is a list of German bakeries online, which ship.