Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bread and Spending to Save

My new Nutrimill grain mill arrived yesterday! For 14 years I have used a Vitamix to grind flour, but it can't handle large quantities. Plus our newer Vitamix didn't come with a grain container, and when I priced getting one it was $144 and still couldn't grind beans, whereas a new Nutrimill was $220 and would handle everything I wanted it to plus be able to do more than 3 cups of flour at a time.

Now, no one needs a grain mill to get by in life; one can always purchase flour. However, a lot of nutrition is lost between milling and use of the flour. Whole grain flours go rancid easily. Once I was sure that we are no longer dealing with gluten sensitivity (if we ever were - it may have been a FODMAPS issue) I knew that I wanted to grind grain and cook our bread and other baked goods fresh daily.

The other appliance that arrived yesterday was a Zojirushi bread maker. I had given mine away when I thought we'd never be able to eat gluten again (bad mistake). I can bake bread in the oven, so again, a bread maker isn't a necessity. I had a few reasons for wanting it, however. 1) I can bake bread in it without using the big oven to heat the house. 2) I can teach the boys to use it so they can take on the responsibility for making bread. And 3) I can use it to make dough while I am doing other things in the kitchen.

I did the initial grinding to clean the mill, then ground fresh wheat flour and started a loaf of bread in the bread maker. I used the Bread Beckers basic dough recipe (not the separate on for the Zo machine, though) and programmed the machine using their recommendations. That loaf of bread was well-received; I used 2/3 hard red wheat to 1/3 hard white wheat, and also used canola for the oil.

Today I ground flour for banana muffins, made those, and also ground flour for another loaf of bread. I used the recipe designed for the Zo (the oil and honey measurements are different), and used olive oil instead of mechanically pressed canola oil. The loaf of bread was good, but not as good as yesterday's loaf. I think we prefer less oil and more sweetener.

Does it save money to own a grain mill and bread maker? It depends on your outlook. If you believe that fresh is best, then the grain mill contributes to health and will pay for itself in less illness, both short term and long term. Less illness means fewer missed work days, both for Husband, which is paid, and me, who is not. Husband gets sick pay, but I don't, so if I'm not up to cooking we pay for convenience foods or take out. If I am ill the laundry might end up being dried in the automatic dryer, or we might miss a sale on produce. The role of a homemaker is important and it's best if I am healthy!

The other thing is that organic wheat berries can be purchased for less than organic whole wheat flour, and I can buy the berries in bulk as they won't go rancid the way flour does. I can buy and store 50# of wheat berries at 83¢ per pound, whereas I wouldn't buy more than 5 - 10# of ground flour at a time because of rancidity issues, so that puts it at $1.20 per pound. 37¢ per pound makes a difference when you are using about 50# per month; that $18.50, and again, the nutrition is better with the freshly ground flour. Just the savings in wheat berries vs. purchased flour should pay for the grain mill within a year. It is likely we will use more than 50# of wheat berries per month since in addition to bread and muffins I will also be making pizza, tortillas, biscuits, waffles, pancakes, etc.

That example only shows wheat; however we are also grinding einkorn (because we have it so we will use it in place of soft white wheat until it is gone) and our own cornmeal (from organic popcorn), plus we will be grinding grains (rice, wheat, einkorn, corn) for hot cereals when the weather is cooler

Will the bread maker save us money? I can't say for certain. It does make it easy for us to make bread everyday and avoid the temptation of the breads we used to buy that are $4 - $6 per loaf. There are other small savings; not heating up the house with the big oven in summer means lower cooling costs, and overall the bread maker uses less electricity than the big oven. In winter we might not use it as often.

But baking bread in general saves money, too. Oh, a loaf of homemade organic whole wheat bread isn't going to cost less than a loaf of bread from a bakery outlet store, but we don't eat that kind of bread so we can't make those comparisons. My homemade bread is cheaper is the kind of bread we would buy (farmers market or health food store). That means we can base more meals on bread, and can use the leftovers for inexpensive breakfasts (toast, french toast) and desserts (bread puddings), plus make croutons and bread crumbs.

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