Times are tough right now. Butter prices are skyrocketing. (If you can even find it — have you heard about the butter shortage?!) Food costs in general are rising. And baking, as a result, is getting more and more pricey.
But we’re bakers! We’re still going to hit the kitchen! The good news is that there are plenty of recipes that won’t bust your budget. In fact, they may even be less expensive than a store-bought equivalent. Here are some of our go-to budget-friendly bakes, covering your weekly bread, afternoon cookies, post-dinner desserts, and even breakfast.
Please note: I’ve included rough calculations of recipe costs for each of these bakes, based on King Arthur prices and ingredient prices from a national retail chain. Of course, food prices can vary wildly depending on where you live, so these are only estimates, but they will hopefully help you ballpark how much a recipe costs to bake.
Bake a loaf over the weekend and set yourself up for a week’s worth of sandwiches and toast. This homemade version also tastes much better than the plastic-wrapped, preservative-filled bread you’ll find wallowing on the supermarket shelf, and it may just cost less too.
About $4/batch (makes 3 to 4 loaves)
If you prefer crusty artisan-style loaves to sliced sandwich bread (or maybe you want both!), then this four-ingredient bread is your best choice. Mix flour, water, salt, and yeast, then let time and a hot oven transform it into a fluffy, crusty bread perfect for dinner.
About $2.80/cake, not including icing
This recipe reportedly dates back to World War II, when food rationing was in effect, and as a result it uses neither eggs nor milk nor butter — instead, it relies on more affordable vegetable oil and water (sub some leftover cold coffee, for a mocha version). You’d never know it though — this cake is richly flavored with a reliably moist texture. It’s my go-to chocolate cake for all occasions; I often bake a double batch in round pans and layer with Super-Simple Chocolate Frosting for a chocolate-lover’s birthday cake.
About $3.32/batch, or 16 cents (!) per cookie (20 cookies)
Butter has rapidly become one of the costlier ingredients we use to bake. That’s why these Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from New York’s Ovenly bakery are so helpful — they swap out the butter for more affordable vegetable oil. But don’t think these cookies suffer for it. They’re flavorful from brown sugar and all the chocolate, with a soft, chewy interior.
About $2.67/batch of pizza dough (makes four 12" pizzas)
Homemade pizza is a fantastic budget-friendly dinner for a number of reasons. The crust is made from basic pantry ingredients; one batch makes a lot of dough (enough for four 12” pizzas!); and you can top your pie with whatever is already lingering in your fridge — droopy vegetables, leftovers from lunch, or just basic cheese and canned tomato sauce.
About $1.52/batch or 12 cents a biscuit (12 biscuits)
These biscuits only require two ingredients: self-rising flour and heavy cream. Buy a big bag of flour and you’ll have weeks’ worth of biscuits ready to make at a moment’s notice, with little else needed to purchase along the way.
7) Beer Bread
With just four ingredients, this simple bread is quick to make and easy to eat. Combine self-rising flour, sugar, melted butter or oil, and beer or seltzer water, then bake in a loaf pan (or muffin tins, if you’d like). The resulting loaf rises well, with a crunchy exterior and soft interior that makes it perfectly sliceable.
About $5.04/batch; $3.10/batch if you omit the vanilla (12 scones)
From a quick breakfast to an afternoon coffee break, scones are a versatile bake to have stashed away. Yes, these involve a lot of butter, but they make it count: You need few other ingredients, and I’d argue you could even reduce or skip the vanilla here to bring the buttery flavor to the forefront (and lower the price tag a bit further).
About $2.50/batch (6 large, 12 medium, or 18 mini)
Popovers prove you don’t need fancy ingredients or elaborate tools to bake something impressive. A straightforward batter (eggs, milk, salt, flour, and butter) is poured into muffin tins; once they hit the oven, the real magic happens. Those eggs cause the batter to expand dramatically, yielding towering, airy puffs that are excellent with salted butter and honey.
10) Meringue Kisses
About $0.77/batch (3 dozen mini meringues)
All you need to make meringues are egg whites and sugar, with a dash of salt and cream of tartar thrown in. What you get is way more than the sum of those parts: The egg whites expand into a mass of fluffy meringue, which you can use to make dozens of mini cookies or a sheet pan full of larger versions.
About $6.90/Dutch baby
You can bake your next dinner or brunch by turning to this savory puffed pancake. This recipe yields one 12" Dutch baby, so it can serve two people for a meal or four as a side dish. Because it requires lots of eggs, consider freezing any lingering eggs that might otherwise go bad and baking this recipe with them in the future — saving money and preventing food waste!
For more budget baking tips, see our previous post: The King Arthur guide to baking on a budget.
Cover photography and food styling (No-Knead Crusty White Bread) by Liz Neily.