The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

When you bake more than you eat, do you sell it?

syllymom's picture

When you bake more than you eat, do you sell it?

Ok, I know I can give bread away and have eager receiptants, but lets say I want this bread baking hobby to kind of pay for itself... or pay for the any new future tools etc., how does one go about it?  Anybody here sell their bread?  How do you price it and how do you weigh it (ie. as in is a 750gr bread weighed before baking or after?)  Has anyone gone to store, like a small local health food store, to see if they would sell your bread?  Just wondering how I can justify buying a $250 grain mill to my hubby.  hee, hee.

Thanks, Sylvia

Floydm's picture

The advertised weight is the weight that it is after it is baked.

Getting your kitchen certified to legally allow you to bake and sell is a huge hassle in much of the US. I recently heard a story on NPR about a stealth baker here in Portland who bakes twice a week but does it all on the down-low to avoid health inspectors. He has a huge brick oven in his backyard. Considering the temperature in the oven gets up to like 900 degrees the likelihood of any contamination surviving is minimal, but our health codes make it very difficult to use the same kitchen gear for personal and professional use.

On a related note, someone recently told me that the public school their child went to had to eliminate the annual bake sale because of all the red tape and regulations. Seems like overkill to me.

SDbaker's picture

Hi, great  I think a lot of us wonder about.  After I moved into my new place, I gave a few slices of my version of the BBA Walnut Cinnamon Raisin bread to the corporate housing rep.  She offered to buy my bread to give to her customers.  I was flattered, but don't have the time.

 Back home in San Diego, I have developed a small group of local baristas and bartenders who love to get my bread, pastries, or chocolates.  It was a bit odd at first, but after a while you should have seen their eyes light up when I walked through the door.  One young lady at a very popular restaurant I frequent, said they call me the "bread guy," and it's apparently the highlight of the evening wondering what I brought!  That's enough satisfaction for me, but I ocassionally get a free cup of coffee or cocktail, or industry prices.  Some have mentioned I should approach the owner of one cafe, but alas..time.  One woman was opening a small restaurant and we lightly broached the topic of me producing her bread, then using that as a spring board to a separate business - using her kitchen.  This was after quite a lot of samples..but once people see your passion, and quality, they will come up with ways to help you become successful.

 You may consider developing such a relationship, then see if you could use their kitchen at off hours.  That should take care of the health inspector, but you would have to make sure.

 SD Baker

leemid's picture

Have you been back long enough to put together the final posting about your trip to SFBI, complete with pictures and all?


slidething's picture

 Definatly a Good Question ~

  And one more then likely most have thought about. The best answer is to find a small restaurant / bistro that you enjoy going to --- take a couple of small loaves with you - or a couple of bagettes - and ask your server to give one to the chef or owner - most are the same. If they are any kind of foodie and your bread is good it should spark some interest .... If you don`t mind working the wee hours of the night or early morning ... Most bistro`s open arround happy hour  ( 4 or 5 ) and the chef usally starts daily prep/set up by 2 - 2.30 - placing orders - getting menu ready and such ...   Give it a shot - all they can say is no ..


staff of life's picture
staff of life

I am currently baking anywhere between 300 and 350 loaves of bread a week that I sell both at a farmers' market and a local gourmet shop.  I started out small last year, baking just 60 loaves max once a week for a small farmers' market in my town, and then expanded from there.  Everything has paid for itself (I have lots of carefully purchased commercial equipment), but it's only with making this larger amount that I'm actually earning a decent income.  When I was doing 60 loaves before, I was just using the Electrolux DLX and my home oven.  (The DLX was something that the baking paid for, as I couldn't have justified its purchase just for our home use.) It took me about 15 hours nonstop to do this.  I can't remember how much I'd earn then, but it seemed like a rather puny amount for so much work! 

I live in VA, where we have to have our kitchens inspected by the VA Dept of Consumer Sciences yearly.  It's not terribly hard to pass an inspection, just tedious work, and an outdoor oven I'm nearly certain would not pass.  I also have liability insurance, which runs me a couple of hundred dollars a year.  There also are a lot of other smaller expenses that I have. 

What sort of job do you have currently that you are considering doing this?  Although I enjoy what I do, and I know my knowledge of baking and business and my confidence overall have greatly grown, it is certainly not without trade-offs.  There is a whole lot more of a time commitment involved than you realize (right now I have about 4 hours of post-market clean up to do!) and more start-up expenses too. 

To answer your questions about pricing and weighing: All of the books I read on the subject suggest multiplying your ingredient cost by 3 to arrive at a selling price.  It's a loose guide--a loaf of sourdough might just cost $1 according to this--but it's something to keep in mind.  With my more expensive breads, there's a lower margin of profit than with my simpler ones, so I try to balance out the selection I make that week to keep everything profitable.  Also, a more time consuming bread to make, such as a braided Challah, should be upped a bit in price to compensate for the increased time needed to make it.  I weigh my loaves of course when I am dividing them, but for packaging purposes I always underestimate the actual weight of the loaf.  I can get in trouble for claiming a loaf weighs more than it actually does, but not vice-versa.

 I hope these things help!


Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

staff of life said:

I can get in trouble for claiming a loaf weighs more than it actually does, but not vice-versa.


Sadly, that's not true. You can into trouble for understating the weight. I know, it doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to when you are dealing with the government.  Some people in the Bread Baker's of America mailing list commented that they got into trouble for overweight loaves.

You are allowed some variation, but not a lot.

As a hint, with most breads, you lose about 12% of the pre-baking weight in the oven. Water boils off and the loaf loses weight.



staff of life's picture
staff of life

I am just relying on the info that I got from our local inspector.  Somehow, with the way that I sell it, (and all this has been approved/inspected) I don't have to include a label on my bread, so I don't.  If someone asks, I give them a pre-baked weight, and give them the percentage of the weight lost while baking.  I've only gotten asked a handful of times about the weight anyway.


ross's picture

I know that I'm stating the obvious, but there's a big difference between baking bread at home and pawning off the extra to friends/acquaintances/occasional buyers and actually taking the plunge and committing yourself to selling bread to regular customers on a regular basis.


Once I started to keep two wild yeast cultures I decided that rather than throw away the extra barm that I inevitably wouldn't be able to use, I started a little once-a-week bread business (on the down-low) selling to friends and community members. I kept an e-mail list that I would add to if someone got wind of my bread and wanted some, and each week I would take an order, and each week I would only make enough to fill the order.  I had a maximum amount I would make, so sometimes late requests would not make the cut. At first I loved every aspect of it, but as time went on I found that I was really wishing to be able to unload it all at one time and place, sometimes I would have to hang on to people's bread for an extra day, or have to wait for a friend to pay up, etc. This got old, but these were/are friends and I never wanted to be too much of a stickler about things, it's just bread afterall. But it's my bread, "Ross Bread," as it became known as.


I could write a lot more about this whole long story, about my recipes (I only made 2 breads), schedules, scale of operation, but I don't have time; I'm working on completing a Ph.D in physics right now! But I should say that I never had my kitchen inspected and never went 'public'. It's easier that way, for a very small-time kind of thing. I know I could sell somewhere bigger, I know I could make more bread and have more customers, I know I could have a larger list...but now all I do is bake six loaves a week, one to sell to a good friend and the most consistent customer, and five for trading directly for food at the farmer's market. It's easier that way, really. For now at least.


Good Luck and Happy Baking!

syllymom's picture

Thanks everyone.  I guess it sums up to say a hobby should stay a hobby.  I didn't think of the inspection thing, but it makes total sense.  I did think that to make anything profitable you need to move a lot of dough.  (hee, hee)  Perhaps I'll just stick to baking for family and friends if they want it.  Mind you I have a hard time thinking of charging family and friends for bread.  So I think I'm not going to get anywhere too fast.

I'm currently on maternity leave (in Canada mat leave is a year long.... sooo nice) so I've been doing more baking and having fun with it.  Being we have three wee ones we are planning on me not returning to work for a couple of years so I had thought of supplementing with baking.  Now baking would no where near make up with I make going to work, but there are not daycare cost to cover for that either. 

Anyway, I guess this is something I will mull around in the back of my head for the time being.  I'll continue to bake and have fun.

staff of life's picture
staff of life

I too am a mother of three, although my three are school-age.  I started the bread-baking business when my two youngest (who are twins) went to kindergarten as a way to supplement our income without the use of babysitting, which would eat up (no pun intended) anything I would make.  When your children get older, it might be a good way to supplement your income, although for right now, since your children sound as though they are younger than mine, I think there would be too much chaos to try to do.  You can use this time to experiment, to hone your craft and to work on consistency.  (Not only is it fun, but you can think of it as an investment in your future.)  I wish I had used my years as a full-time mother more in this fashion.  When and if you do want to consider baking at home as a way of earning money, there are a lot of things to take into consideration, and not just in terms of the actual business.  If you're interested, I'll elaborate.


ehanner's picture

A very wise friend once told me that before I started selling the bread I make, remember, like sex, as soon as you sell it, all the rules change!