Friday, 16 November 2012

Is it really cheaper to bake from scratch?!

One thing that I often read on the blogs that I enjoy is that it is cheaper to cook from scratch. Being of a scientific and mathematical bent I decided to conduct an experiment to find out if this is actually true. I promise I won't befuddle you with calculations!

I decided to bake a Victoria Sponge from scratch and compare the results with the shop bought variety. To be fair I used the cheapest ingredients I could find and bought the value brand sponge, (for research purposes you understand!).

I was a bit dubious about using the "spreadable" butter-like spread. I usually use value butter but the spread claimed to be suitable for baking and it was considerably cheaper, so in the basket it went. I couldn't bring myself to buy caged hens' eggs, but you can get free range eggs fairly cheaply these days.

I use the weighing eggs method as I have a rather nice pair of kitchen balances. I am not going to write out the recipe here. (The words "suck eggs" comes to mind!)  It is available here, although this recipe promotes rather more expensive ingredients.

While the oven was heating up and the cake was baking I measured the electricity I used with an energy monitor. I sat there with a stopwatch and the monitor watching the little light on the oven go on and off. I really need to get out more...

In case it isn't obvious, the one on the left is mine! I then weighed both cakes and settled down to some serious work with the calculator. I was very pleased to find out that my cake cost 18.3p per 100g and the shop bought cake was 24.6p per 100g! 

But what of the taste? I found some very willing volunteers, blindfolded them and gave them small slithers of each cake. Fortunately for my self esteem they both preferred my cake. In fact, the shop bought cake is now trifle! I was also happy to find that the butter-substitute gave as good a taste as the real thing, so there will be a tub in the fridge from now on.

Of course there are a lot of other reasons to cook from scratch apart from cost. Knowing what's in your food and environmental factors spring to mind. I am now wondering what else I can compare...


  1. So pleased you came to that conclusion - always been my opinion too xx

  2. Great experiment. I think what allows baking to be cheaper for us is buying things in bulk. Prices of eggs and butter have gone up drastically.

    1. Prices have gone up here too. When I wrote that free range eggs are fairly cheap, I meant in comparison to caged hens' eggs. They used to be a niche market, but due to some high profile welfare campaigns they are much more popular. The cheapest free range egg is 17p and the cheapest other egg is 11p but the difference used to be much greater. And butter seems to go up every week!

  3. I am very impressed with your scientific approach [esp that you factored in the electricity- too many 'budget comparison' activities forget that one] If you had made THREE cakes in the oven and frozen two, that would have reduced costs still further [altho we would have to count cost of running the freezer then...]

    Your cake LOOKS better too. Great post - thanks!!

    I wish T*sco would be as diligent about making more of their own brand products FairTrade [if Co**p and Sa***burys can manage it, why can't they? ]

    1. You are right, Angela! I didn't think of that one. Or of course you could cook it alongside your main course.

      I am absolutely with you regarding T*sco and Fairtrade. Maybe we should start a campaign!


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