Buy it or make it? Basic banana bread

Banana bread

This experiment to compare the cost of store bought vs homemade banana bread will also compare any basic cake recipe that is easy to put together and doesn’t involve layers or icing.

I’m not a huge fan of bananas because they give me a cracking headache, but hubby buys a bunch every so often, and every so often a couple get left to rot in the fruit bowl. He also likes a treat sometimes with his morning coffee when he’s working in the city but cafes can charge $3-$5 for a muffin or slice of banana bread that’s bigger than you wanted anyway. You could also buy a banana bread in the supermarket – Coles sell one for $6. If I bake a banana bread loaf I reckon we’re killing two cost saving & waste reduction birds with one stone.

The recipe I use is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to Be a Domestic Goddess’. I removed the alcohol soaked raisins and walnuts from her recipe, which that cuts not only the cost but the prep time, and I also factored down the quantities to suit the size of my silicone loaf pan (approx 18 x 8 cm at the base). I’ve made this so many times that it takes me maybe 15 minutes, or 20 minutes at most. You can add choc chips or nuts or alcohol into this if you want to spice it up, but as it is it’s a pretty nice basic cake that goes well with your coffee. You’ll get 10 – 12 thick but short and squat slices from this recipe (it’s a treat, not a meal!) and it lasts about a week in an airtight container.


130g plain or wholemeal flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 ripe bananas (approximately 200g without the skin but it doesn’t matter if it’s 50g one way or the other)

95g butter

110g sugar (not caster sugar, use about 80-90g if that’s all you have as it will taste sweeter)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and flour your loaf pan. Mine’s silicone but it still needs greasing and flouring or it sticks, I think it’s the sugar content.

Melt the butter in a pan on the stove or the microwave and leave to cool slightly. Mix the flour, baking powder and bicarb of soda in a large mixing bowl using a wooden spoon.

In another bowl, measure out the sugar and then beat in the melted butter. Ideally it will change consistency and become lighter and fluffier but if you’re doing it by hand, don’t worry, it won’t change the outcome too much. Beat one egg into the butter/ sugar mix and then the other. Mash the bananas and then mix them in, along with the vanilla essence. Then add the flour mix one third at time and stir it in well.

You should have a slightly runny gloopy cake mix. Pour this into the loaf pan and place in the oven for 1 hour. After 50 mins, check it’s not burning by looking though the oven door as all ovens are different.  After an hour, the loaf should be well browned on the top but not blackening. Remove the cake and check it’s done all the way through by inserting a skewer or tooth pick – it should come out clean. If it’s not done, give it another 10 mins.

Leave the loaf in the pan to cool on a wire rack because if you cut it when it’s warm it will fall apart. Then dust with icing sugar if you are about to take a photo for your blog – otherwise skip this, it’s for eating not looking at!

Cost comparison

I used the Coles online shop to estimate the cost of the ingredients and the total comes to $3.22. This assumes you’ll use Coles home brand products where available, free range eggs and non-organic bananas. Given that so little is used and to make things easier I ignored the cost of the baking powder and bicarb. When bananas are cheaper than $4.50 a kilo then obviously the price of ingredients will come way down!

My time – 15 minutes @$25ph – is worth $3.75.

Given that the oven is on for an hour and 15 minutes for this recipe, I think we should add the power cost. For most other sweet baked treats  that take 20 minutes or less I think I can argue that they could be put in the oven at the same time as something for dinner and ignore the power cost. At a rate of 2.4kWh power use for an electric oven, at a cost of 25c a kWh, the power costs 75c.

The smell of banana bread filling the house… priceless.

Total cost: $7.72

Buy it or make it?

Compared to paying $3 for a slice from a cafe, or $15 for a week’s worth, it definitely makes more sense to make banana bread yourself. You can also freeze half the loaf if you don’t want to have a sugary treat every single day.

I’ve never tried supermarket banana bread and maybe it’s ok. So feasibly if you need your morning fix, you could buy a loaf for slightly less than it would cost to make at $6 and cut a slice to take to work each day. But if  you don’t want to eat preservatives, mysteriously named ‘raising agents’, cage eggs and you want to be able to choose how sweet your cake is, then definitely make it yourself.

Verdict: Make it!

Of course, we could all save money by not eating cake and goodies at all, but then what would our lives be like? I say, everything in moderation..!

Happy baking!


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2 Responses

  1. Mrs W says:

    I love this series – I’d love to see more! It’s often that I wonder “hmm, would that be cheaper if I made it myself?” but I’ve rarely followed through. Would love to see it come up regularly!

    • Janet says:

      Thanks Mrs W! I am trying homemade yoghurt this week. I think Woolies have the easi-yo maker on special for $15 and Everyday Rewards have promised me $10 off if I spend $50. Plus my friend let me know how to make it using a spoonful of yoghurt as a base rather than those pricey sachets. I will be sure the post the results. My friend’s homemade yoghurt is yummy so it looks promising.

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