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