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The cheapest bread you'll ever buy

Bakery outlet stores sell breads, rolls, bagels and more at prices well below typical retail. Hint: 'Outlet' doesn't mean 'stale.'

By Donna_Freedman Jun 8, 2012 12:25PM

Image: Close up of fresh sliced loaf of bread (© Adam Gault/OJO Images/Getty Images)Why pay $4 for a loaf of bread when you can pay $1.29? Short answer: You shouldn't, and you don't have to if there's a bakery outlet in your area.

My siblings and I ate a lot of PB&Js on outlet-store bread, which my mother bought a dozen loaves at a time. As an adult, I consider bakery outlets just one more way to keep down grocery costs.


I promise: There's no difference between five-days-before-sell-by-date bread from the outlet store and a similarly dated supermarket loaf.

Oh, wait, there is a difference: It's 50% to 75% cheaper.

A friend of mine calls the bakery outlet "the used-bread store," but it's more than just sandwich slices. Depending on your location you'll also find English muffins, bagels, hot-dog and hamburger buns, rolls, snack cakes and tortillas at prices noticeably below retail.

There are doughnuts, too, and cookies. I know a guy whose parents refer to their local bakery outlet as "the cookie store."

But is this older stuff really any good?

You bet it is -- especially the doughnuts and the cookies. But seriously: "Outlet" doesn't mean "stale." Some of the products are five or six days from their sell-by dates. I've seen bread older than that in supermarkets. (Post continues after video.)

And if a bread is really close-dated? Freeze it, and take out two slices at a time to make your breakfast toast or your lunchtime sandwich. Hint: As the bread gets older, the discounts may get deeper.

A little more variety

At my neighborhood outlet, the loaves of white bread are far outnumbered by multigrain, whole wheat, oat, rye and pumpernickel. Lower prices make it easier to try new flavors versus spending $3 or $4 on an untried variety.

That means a little more variety at lunchtime. Tuna sandwiches on white? Meh. Tuna on wheat, rye or pumpernickel has a little more character.

Check the Yellow Pages or go online to search for "bakery outlet" to find a store in your area. Here are a few locator tools to get you started:

  • Bimbo Bakeries USA: 13 brands, such as Oroweat, Arnold, Entenmann's, Thomas and Freihofer.
  • Holsum.
  • Hostess: six brands, including Wonder, Nature's Pride and Merita.
  • Schwebel's: six brands, including Roman Meal, Sun-Maid raisin bread, Cinnabon and Country Hearth.

Some regional bakeries have outlet stores, too. Whether you're shopping for a local or national brand, ask about special promotions such as senior discounts, punch cards or coupon mailings.

Finally: Read the labels. For example, the bakery outlet near me sells all tortillas for the same price even though bag weights vary from 11 to 20 ounces. And if you're going to buy those discounted cookies, why not get the most bang for your buck?

Do you shop at bakery outlets? What’s the best price you've found?

More on MSN Money:

Jun 8, 2012 8:12PM
@Justacoastalgal: But this bread ISN'T stale. Even if it's close to its sell-by date it isn't stale. And I can get seven or eight sandwiches out of it, vs. the two or three I'd get from the supermarket French bread -- which would get pretty hard before I could finish it, and which in my experience doesn't freeze well.

Jun 9, 2012 7:34PM

The outlet store in my town went out of business several years ago.  Now I would have to drive over 100 miles to the nearest one.  and even the grocery stores don't sell marked down bread anymore.  I don't know what they do with the close-dated.   Bummer, huh?



Jun 15, 2012 7:01AM

I bake my own bread most of the time and it only costs me about 50 cents a loaf, even for whole wheat.   It works perfectly.  Twenty pounds of all-purpose higher fiber flour at Costco is less than $10.00.  A two pound bag of yeast at Costco is less than $5.00.  Just keep a small jar in the refrigerator and the rest in a freezer bag in the freezer.  Mine is still going strong after two years in the freezer.

Since I can't seem to cut nice slices to fit the toaster on my own I picked up an old Presto bread slicing guide at Goodwill for 99 cents.


Not only is the bread cheap, it tastes great, and has no preservatives or unknown ingredients.

Aug 10, 2012 9:08AM
I shop regularly at the Hostess Bread outlet near my home. Sometimes they have buns and loaves for as low as one dollar. They also have great deals on all the great Hostess snack cakes. The single serving packs are 25 to 50 cents and the boxes that are 3.99 in stores are only 1,49. If they're close to expiration, they put a big red X on the box or loaf. Anything with a X is an additional 50% off. You just cant beat these prices and I've never gotten anything that was stale or old.
Jun 14, 2012 1:45PM
Dollar Tree stocks breads. They have $4 real wheat breads for $1. I've never had any complaints. Shipments run out fast at the store I use so word has gotten out about this source of cheaply priced real wheat breads.
Jun 11, 2012 11:43AM
I would add that a lot of dollar-type stores and discount stores like Aldi and Ollies have 99 cent loaves of bread, some store-brand just as good as the name brands.
I would also add that if you're not allergic to gluten, you can add about 1 tsp of vital wheat gluten for each cup of flour in automatic bread machines and get airy, homemade loaves like store sandwich bread.  Just use the 1 1/2 lb amounts because you'll get a 2 lb sized loaf.

Jun 9, 2012 11:02AM

I agree that for the most part I've gotten good quality items. The only exception was one box of stale twinkies at from the Hostess outlet. But that could happen with stuff from the supermarket, too. It's always fun to go to the outlets. They do have quite a variety of selections.

Yes.  I do this and can guarantee that the bread is fine.  Bimbo has an Entemann's Outlet in Astoria and the bread is as good or better than any other they sell.  Selection varies widely by day of week though so ask a store employee when to  come.
Jun 13, 2012 5:41PM
Large loaves of white bread are almost always 99 cents are our local super market.  Big, beautiful rolls of various types are always 6 for $1.07 at the end of the day. So, no trips to the outlet for us.
Jun 8, 2012 4:28PM
"Meh"? That is so short and sweet. Love that.
Jun 8, 2012 5:38PM

Stale bread is stale bread. Just sayin'...


Perhaps good for homemade breadcrumbs, croutons or stuffing base, but a tuna sandwich on stale bread isn't anything to write home about. Can you eat it without dying? Sure. If you have to, you have to. Otherwise buy or bake fresh for less than $4 per loaf. Fresh bakery loaves of French bread are about a buck.

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.