How to Get Bread for $1 or Less

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Checked bread prices lately? When the staff of life costs $4 or more per loaf, your food budget suffers.

To avoid paying top dollar, search for a bakery outlet in your area. The savings are always good, and sometimes great:

  • Recently I paid just 50 cents for an 18-count package of “stadium rolls,” high-end buns that turn on-sale turkey burgers into a tasty (and frugal!) supper.
  • I routinely buy multigrain loaves for $1 to $1.50; since my life partner packs his lunch every day and often has toast for breakfast, the savings are noticeable.
  • Every now and then I’ll get Little Debbie snack cakes for just a buck a box, as a fun treat for my great-nephews. Or, yeah, a bag of chocolate doughnuts (50 cents) as a treat for the grownups.

But isn’t this stuff really old?

Nope. “Shopping at a bakery outlet doesn’t mean settling for stale or moldy bread,” says Erin Huffstetler, frugal living expert for About.com.

“Products may be closer to their sell-by date than you’re used to, but there’s still plenty of time to enjoy them, and you can always freeze bread to enjoy later.”

Some “Killer” deals

Think of them as “bread thrift stores,” used by bakeries to sell extra items. Sometimes that means factory overruns or holiday-themed products (e.g., Christmas cookies or Halloween Tastykakes). And yes, it can also mean bread and other products that are approaching their best-by dates.

Having seen close-dated bread on supermarket shelves – where you’d expect it to be super-fresh – I have no problem with this. Then again, I grew up watching my mom buy a dozen loaves at a time at a South Jersey bakery thrift shop.

Now that I live in Alaska, where food prices are high, the price break really makes a difference. We’ve purchased dark rye and pumpernickel as well as 12-grain loaves, and also tortillas, Boboli pizza shells, bagels, hot dog rolls, English muffins, doughnuts and onion rolls.

Depending on the outlet you may find non-bread items, from Bob’s Red Mill baking mixes to Asian spices. Here in Anchorage we’ve found good-quality coffee (a pound and a half for $6), candy, corn chips and even canned sardines at our bakery outlet.

The lineup varies from week to week. Sometimes I get my pick of sandwich rolls and on other occasions find no rolls at all. One week Dave’s Killer Bread was available for 50 cents a loaf; how else are you going to get a deal like that?

Where to find outlets

Looking for discounted bread in your area? Try these locators:

  • Aunt Millie’s Thrift Stores. A Midwestern brand with shops in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
  • Bimbo Bakery Outlet Stores. With locations in 44 states, this company’s brands include Arnold, Ball Park, Boboli, Earth Grains, Entenmann’s, Freihofer’s, Marinela, Mrs. Baird’s, Oroweat, Sara Lee, Stroehmann, Thomas and Tia Rosa.
  • Franz Bakery Outlets. They have stores in Alaska, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Labels include Holsum, Seattle International, Seattle Sourdough Baking Co. and Svenhard’s.
  • Holsum Bakery Outlets. Six locations, all in Arizona.
  • Oroweat. Outlets in Alaska and Washington.
  • Pepperidge Farm Bakery Outlet Stores. Stores in Maine, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
  • Schwebel’s Bakery Outlet Thrift Stores. Stores in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Indiana; makers of Cinnabon, Country Hearth, ’taliano, Roman Meal and Sun-Maid.

Huffstetler also suggests checking the Yellow Pages (actual or virtual) for Flowers Bakery Outlet Stores and Master Bread Outlets. (These two have no aggregator site.)

Note: A local baking company might have its own thrift shop. Check the Yellow Pages for bread outlet or bakery outlet.

Best practices for bakery outlets

A few more slice-of-life tips:

Think ahead. If you find your favorite loaves, extend the savings by getting a couple of loaves for the freezer.

Experiment with flavors. Not sure you’d like onion rolls or Russian rye? It’ll cost only a buck or so to find out. (Hint: Varying the breads keeps those brown-bag lunches interesting.) Fancier breads like cinnamon-raisin or thick-cut sourdough make great French toast for weekend brunches or too-tired-to-cook-much dinners.

Keep good rolls in the freezer. Those stadium rolls make tuna salad seem more interesting than it actually is (especially if you toast the rolls and add a little relish and chopped hard-cooked egg to the tuna). Leftover soup, or even canned soup, becomes a decent meal when served with dinner rolls, especially if they’re brown-and-serve. The aroma will trick your belly into thinking you’re livin’ large.

Check sell-by dates. Different tag colors mean different days. While I’m not above eating bread with two days left on the meter, I always look for loaves with the longest shelf life (even if I plan to freeze them).

Look for special deals. Some outlets have punch-card systems: Collect enough stamps on your loyalty card and you’ll get free products. Huffstetler notes that outlets may further sweeten the deal – “senior stamp day,” “double-punch day” – so be sure to ask.

No outlets in your area? If the local supermarkets have their own bakeries, check the “yesterday’s baked goods” rack for discounts of 50 percent or more. These often include unsold focaccia, garlic bread and other fancy stuff – which, as noted above, can do wonders for an otherwise ordinary supper.

Another good habit: checking the weekly store ad. For example, I recently saw multigrain bread at two for $5 with coupon. Normally such loaves cost $4.29 each.

Bottom line: There’s no need to break the bank for sandwich makings. Visit the bread outlet and save.

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  • Don Lowery

    I know you have been talking about bakery thrift stores and have used them for decades…especially Hostess’ before they closed them all down. Now here in Colorado…we have the Rainbow Thrift Stores I have used and have a punch card with about $2.00 left to get two loafs of bread free.

    Another way to save a ton of money that I do…get yourself a bread machine. You can buy a new one for about $50 and up or go to your local thrift store and pick up a used one for less than $10. Myself…found a Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker for $8.00. It’s the ones with a horizontal pan. The newest model I found on Amazon is going for about $250 new and about $150 used. You can find tons of recipes online for whatever your favorite bread is.

    Where you’re going to save money is if you have or a friend has a warehouse card…get them to buy you bread flour and yeast in bulk. I pay about $8 for a 25 lb bag of flour and $4 for a brick of yeast. That sounds like a lot…but you can freeze both and use them whenever you need them. The biggest benefit…I know whatever is going into my bread…I can pronounce and don’t need a degree in chemistry. My loaves may not last months on the shelves…but who cares…I can make a new loaf in 3 hours while watching TV in the evening.

  • ModernMode

    I save old bread bags and double bag when I put it in the freezer. Holds up better and longer that way.