The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Which Flours to choose on a Budget?

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achilles007's picture
achilles007

Which Flours to choose on a Budget?

I live with my parents, and my dad is really anal about spending too much money on groceries.

 

My question is, for someone on a budget what are 1-3 flours that i can use that could use for making good pastry, biscuite, cookie, cake, and the occasional bread?

 

Thanks all

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

You have to buy flour in quantity to really save money. And you can get some very good flour, like 50 pound bags of King Arthur flour for $25-30, which is $0.50 to $.60 cents / pound. That's about $2.50 - $3.00 for 5 lbs. of good flour. In a supermarket, for the same flour, you'd easily pay twice that or more, with King Arthur AP flour running $5-6/lb (+ tax).

I'd suggest you find your local commercial distributor for King Arthur flour and buy a 50 pound bag of Sir Galahad Flour for the Artisan Baker. King Arthur lists their commercial distributors on their website. (I'd give the link, but links set off TFL's spam filter for me).

Yes, you'll likely have to drive out to the industrial part of town to some big food distribution warehouse like Dawn Foods and place a "will call" order for one 50 pound bag; but, you'll save plenty and will have a good, versatile flour for cakes, pastries, and the occasional bread.

50 pounds goes a lot faster than you think too; and, since flour (kept in a cool, dry, dark place) lasts for a long time, you'll certainly use it before it goes bad.

 

achilles007's picture
achilles007

Okay thanks.

 

I guess my real question is what TYPE of flour to get?

 

Ya'know a 50-lb. bag of all-purpose or what? 10% protein or lower? or higher? Which flour type would be able to satisfy most bakingneeds?

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

The 50 lb bag of King Arthur Sir Galahad is about 11.7% protein and should suffice for just about all of the things you plan to bake. Some breads will be out of range, like bagels, but most else will be covered by the Sir Galahad.

Ford's picture
Ford

Be careful about buying in bulk, if you do not use up the flour rapidly.  1/ It can become infested with  miller weevils.  2/ Whole wheat flour may become rancid with long storage.

Personally I store the whole wheat flour in the refrigerator and other flour I store in tightly closed plastic bags to prevent the infestation of the miller weevils.

Ford

EvaB's picture
EvaB

bad, but even storing in tight bags might not save an infestation, they come in the flour as eggs, and can hatch in a tightly closed container. Hence the name you called them millers weevils, they come from the mill.

The flour can be saved from such an infestation if you can't afford to throw it out, simply by spreading in a shallow pan, and heating in the oven at about 150-200F for 15-20 minutes. My mother used to do it all the time, and we got several bags of flour with already full grown larder bettles in them (the grown stage of weevils) and also in things like rolled oats, we were far too poor to throw out the months food supply so she simply heated them to kill any further bugs, and used the flour and oats anyway. Didn't hurt us, although the thought is not pleasant. You cool the heated cereal or flour and sift to remove the dead bodies and use! 

totels's picture
totels

Where in the world are you buying your flour?

I can get a 5lb bag of KA AP, WW or Unbleached Bread Flour from Walmart for $3.47.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

Minimum price I've seen for KA AP is $4.50/5lb, but that's usually around the holidays.

That's the lowest proce I've seen anywhere in the West, actually. It's usually $5-$6.50, at which point I refuse to buy it. It's good flour, but not that good.

I might have to check Walmart, but the thought of having to walk into one makes me cringe. 

naschol's picture
naschol

I also get KA flours at Walmart in Colorado for under $4, but Target sells it for not much more if you don't want to shop at Walmart.

 

Nancy

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I'll have a look real soon.

I went to one of those SuperTargetMegaWarehouseFlourscentFootballStadiumsInTheSuburbs recently and found lots of good deals, but didn't bother to look for flour, because I buy the 50 lbers.

Quite entertaining to have to walk 3 blocks to find the eggs at the back of the store.

totels's picture
totels

I don't disagree on the Walmart front, my grandfather (like the OP) is a stickler for every penny and Walmart definitely has everyone nearby beat on prices. I'd prefer to support a local shop or grocer, but there just aren't any around here. :(

I'm buying in central FL right now, Publix has the same flour for about 50¢ more. I did notice the price on the KAF website is very close to the prices you mention, I guess Walmart just gets the discount for the quantities it can buy, being national as they are.

RobynNZ's picture
RobynNZ

Perhaps you could win your father over by comparing the cost of the bread (pastry/cookies etc) your family usually buys to the cost of making these yourself.  

As AP flour can be used for most purposes, why not start by using recipes that call for AP flour. Explaining your problem, ask your local supermarket which AP flour sells the greatest quantity, that will give you an idea of which flour/s people in your locality tend to use. Their 'vote' is likely a balance of quality & price. 

This website might be helpful for the energy costs:

http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/howmuch.html

Once you are bitten by the baking bug it is very tempting to make a lot while experimenting(many of us find this excess is appreciated by friends and neighbours!). Working with your father, planning what your family really needs and will eat  and how excess could be traded, might be another way to bring him on side. If you can find a way to work as allies, wisely using your family's funds, your chances of creating a win-win will surely improve.

Let us know how you get on.

Chuck's picture
Chuck

...comparing the cost of the bread (pastry/cookies etc) your family usually buys to the cost of making these yourself...

There are lots of good reasons for baking your own: more variety, less additives, uncommon styles, wonderful aromas, the satisfaction of doing something yourself, better flavor, help slow things down, etc. etc.  ...but beware of the "cheaper" reason, it's likely to start lots of arguments about just how to do an accurate accounting, and in the end you're likely to lose more of those arguments than you'd wish. (And even if you did get your family to buy into the "cheaper" argument, I'm afraid that would turn out to seriously cramp your style later:-)

yy's picture
yy

I find that I use King Arthur AP flour for most things (11.7% protein). My local costco has 25 lb bags of them. If you buy in bulk, just make sure you store it properly in some airtight fashion so as to keep out moisture, moths, and other contaminants. 

 

Chuck's picture
Chuck

Although different flours are "the best" for different purposes, "close" is usually good enough (especially if the eaters aren't super sensitive), which means you can probably get by with two or maybe even just one kind of flour. If the flour is too high in gluten, the results may be "toothy"; if it's too low, whatever you're making won't hang together. The advice of "all purpose" flour is spot-on for breads  ...but if I read your list right, breads are not among the items you wish to make frequently.

What flours are usable depends very much on the baker and the eater. Can you buy really small quantities of both "all purpose" flour and "cake" flour and test make each of the items you're concerned about? Then you'd have more confidence about buying the "right stuff" when later purchasing a much larger quantity. (50 pounds of something may have been "real cheap per pound", but it's still money down the drain if you don't use it:-)

If you're really unsure, I suggest starting with either "All Purpose" or "Cake" flour, then when something you make doesn't turn out satsifactorily, buy the other one too.

  • "All Purpose" flour will work for breads and might work for everything else, but I suspect you'll rate the cakes as "tough" and the biscuits as "really tough".
  • "Cake" flour (shelved in a different place than the bread flours by many markets) will of course work for cakes, will probably make pretty good pastries and biscuits, and might even hang together reasonably well for the occasional bread. (Depending on your location, an alternative to "Cake" flour may be the "White Lily" brand of "All Purpose" flour, which by most rating systems is really more like a "cake" flour, and has a good reputation for making biscuits.)


Sorry, I can't resist throwing this in--

In most of the western world, about 1/3 of household income is spent on food. But in the U.S. recently it's vastly lower  ...partly due to a revolution in food pricing during the Nixon administration (remember Earl Butz?). So habits and opinions about household spending on food that were learned around the time of WWII have grown way out of line with reality.

Also, compared to a lot of other things, flour in north america is awfully cheap. The money I've spent on raisins, bundt pans, walnuts, sea salt, etc, far surpasses the money I spend on flour. Being on a tight budget myself makes me pretty careful about these things  ...but flour is the last thing that concerns me.

flournwater's picture
flournwater

My "go-to" economy bread flour is Pillsbury. At about a buck or less per pound it performs well without breaking the bank. If I can't find Pillsbury I'll use Gold Medal.
AP flour can be used for biscuits, some pastries and cookies but forget about trying to use it for cakes. That's gonna require cake flour - an entirely different area of baking and you'll need something like Softasilk cake flour to enter that arena.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Ditto on Pillsbury and Gold Medal, except I've always looked for the Gold Medal first!  That said, I would definitely look for local flour mills and find out from them where you can buy their flours in bulk and/or look for restaurant and bulk foods suppliers in your area ...I can get top-notch high-protein flours that rival anything King Arthur comes up with for about 50 cents a pound if I buy it in 50# bags.  It never gets too hot in this part of Alaska, so we just store white flours in food-grade 6-gallon buckets with screw-on bucket lids (Gamma Seal lids in this case) out in our garage.  We freeze anything made from whole grains (WW flour, cracked wheat or rye, etc).  We've got 2 full-sized chest freezers in the garage and that helps :)

To save money on yeast, buy SAS Red or SAS Gold (my pref. ...same price) in bulk and keep it in the fridge.  Or better yet, start a sourdough starter and get your yeast for free.  All other ingredients are best price-shopped at your local grocery stores.

Brian

 

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

I have used Sam's Club's bread and pastry flours on occasion, and both are a fairly good bang for your buck. Surely no comparison to some of the other flours listed here, but if you don't have access to a wholesale account and the like, 50# bags Sir Galahad (my personal fav) will be out of your reach.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

A lot of wholesalers will say they "don't sell to the public" or "if you don't have an account with us, sorry". I just drive there and place a "will call" order. They call someone in the warehouse to deliver the flour I want (usually right to my car), I pay in cash, and I leave.

If they mention something about an account, I say, "I can establish one if you need me to, but I buy infrequently, so you probably wouldn't want to bother." They usually agree. It helps to show up cash in hand.

tananaBrian's picture
tananaBrian

Most states allow you to be a "self proprietor" just by declaring yourself as such.  Just tell the restaurant supply place that you are "Joe Blow's Restaurant Supplies Redistribution Company" and ask for a cash account (no credit involved ...cash and carry).  Print a couple of business cards on your printer and bring a couple with you.

Brian