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The economics of cooking and baking

(11 Posts)
Pedicuri Wed 21-Sep-11 10:25:39

This is part food/ part money matters.
I do love cooking, so that is not a problem, but it occurred to me the other day, that so many times I have read or been told that 'making your own' is cheaper than shop bought.
Do you think this is actually true, once the cost of ingredients and, mainly, the amount of electricity used to cook, is factored in?
Having made raspberry tarts, quiches, bread, cupcakes, roast meats etc...this week, including a casserole that had to stew for a long time - did I actually save money? Oven on around an hour at a time, even if I do more than one thing in it. What about the casseroles and soups that boil and simmer for ages?
I see ready cooked meals, baked goods etc... Relatively cheap in the shops (even the higher quality stuff not crammed with additives), is it a false economy?

witchwithallthetrimmings Wed 21-Sep-11 10:33:06

I don't think it is cheaper portion for portion unless you are really careful but the food that you cook yourself is better. Less salt, butter rather than palm oil, veg with more vitamins, etc.

MackerelOfFact Wed 21-Sep-11 11:06:27

Baking is expensive. You can go to the shops and buy a packet of ready-made biscuits or cakes for about £1; it costs more than that just to buy the butter to make your own.

I think that homecooked meals are on the whole cheaper than the restaurant/shop-bought equivalent though. After all you still have to cook ready meals, and once the oven is heated up to temperature it doesn't take as much power to sustain the same temperature. Ingredients can still be expensive, but you have the option to use cheaper stuff, and like-for-like it does work out cheaper, IMO. Plus if you make in bulk you have economies of scale, too.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 21-Sep-11 11:17:45

You have to compare like with like. A good quality quiche made with fresh ingredients that you might buy in a decent deli is going to cost the earth and your home-baked version will be cheaper. But compare it with some mass-produced 'basic' quiche where the egg has been substituted with thickeners and flavouring etc. and your home-bake will be more expensive.

Where I think home-cooking definitely scores is when you can take very cheap but good ingredients and turn them into a substantial meal. Things like pulses and vegetables, or the cheaper cuts of meat.

And finally... what price good health? I'm firmly of the belief that home-cooked, fresh ingredients are more satisfying, more nutritious and that someone eating mostly home-made food will have a better diet and be less likely to overeat as a result. No-one is satisfied or nourished by the average ready-meal.

Catslikehats Wed 21-Sep-11 11:23:55

Baking is extraordinarily expensive.

I make bespoke cakes and often get asked to quote for a birthday cake and will then get the response "but I can buy a peppa/spongebob/whatever cake in Tescos for £8". What people don't realise, or don't care about is that what I produce with butter, sugar and flour bears very little relation to what they buy in Tescos which rarely even contain real egg.

Pedicuri Wed 21-Sep-11 14:06:33

Thanks, good points. I guess that quality is one of the main reasons I do it.
I certainly thought that making baby food was cheaper than buying it, as well as the quality issue of fresh ingredients and less water.
But having struggled to put a shepherds pie together today, what with demanding toddler on hand, school runs, chores etc...taking up the day, I felt sorely tempted to just go and get a nice one from M&S or Cook shop. Even at almost £7 a shot, I wondered how the actual price of my ingredients and cooking costs would compare.
However, I do make mine with mashed cauli, cheese and swede topping as I don't like mash (trying to keep low carb too).

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 21-Sep-11 14:29:17

Your home-made shepherds pie would definitely come in well under £7.... I think the thing to remember is that home-cooking doesn't have to be fancy creations and slaving over a hot stove every night. I tend to cook more complicated or lengthy things at weekends and freeze spare portions for another day. Weekdays will be quick, simple dishes like salad or a broth with some bread. Tonight is just pasta with a tomato and bacon sauce and a bit of green on the side. 20 mins tops.

TotemPole Wed 21-Sep-11 19:48:57

Pedicuri, if you have the freezer space, you could try to make things like shepherds pies a few at a time when the toddler is napping or on an evening. Obviously the preparation time is longer, peeling and chopping more veg, but the cooking part isn't so much. Plus, one lot of washing up for the utensils.

Also, you can buy the bigger packs of mince, so cheaper per lb. Extra time saving (but adds to the cost of each meal) is using the disposable foil dishes, the discount household shops usually sell these.

I like your idea of putting cauli in the mash.

In answer to your OP, I think it depends on the meal and whether you can take advantage of any special offers for the ingredients. I agree with cogito that a HM shepherds pie would be much cheaper than £7.

For casseroles and soups, have you considered getting a slow cooker? They use less electricity, even though they are on for longer they have a lower wattage.

Pedicuri Thu 22-Sep-11 15:20:53

Thanks for those ideas, Totem. I haven't thought about using those foil trays before - in fact I think it is a great idea.
Perhaps I am not cooking in bulk enough. I go through peaks and troughs, even though I like cooking. This week I feel like i have done nothing but cook, and wished I had bought more ready made stuff!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 22-Sep-11 15:45:17

I have lots of Baco Tub-It trays to save individual portions for the freezer. They're great because they have lids, you can microwave them, stick them through the dishwasher and reuse them lots of times before they wear out.

sc4rl3t Fri 23-Sep-11 13:16:52

Butter is ridiculously expensive, especially if your DCs are at the 'let's make fairy cakes/cookies' stage. I buy Stork by the kilo just for this - then I don't stress about having to replace the butter. it makes a great sponge and I really don't think there's much difference - esp if you're giving the goods away to a bake sale or school fair

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