The Cost of Making Alphabet Soup, Beer Bread, and Baking Powder Bread

It’s time for another Cost of Slow-Cooking Roundup. This week, I made alphabet soup, beer bread, and baking powder bread. I also made a few mistakes, but none so drastic as to be inedible.

1) Alphabet soup

I essentially made up this recipe, and it’s probably pretty similar to everyone else’s basic vegetable soup recipe: chop vegetables, add spices and stock, slow cook for about five hours. 20 minutes before serving, drop in the noodles.

I made two big mistakes here: I added the whole package of alphabet noodles when I really should have only added half (I did not expect them to expand quite so much), and I did not add enough spices. It tasted mostly like broth and starch, with a little hint of garlic.

Still, it’s hard to go completely wrong with soup. Here’s how much it cost:

Chopped celery: roughly $0.15

Chopped carrots: roughly $0.15

Four diced red potatoes: roughly $0.75

Frozen peas: roughly $0.42

Four cloves of garlic: roughly $0.25

Shake of thyme: roughly $0.05

Shake of salt and pepper: roughly $0.10

Safeway brand vegetable stock: exactly $2.00

Pagasa alphabet noodles: exactly $0.34

Total cost of vegetable soup: $4.21

At this point in my cooking, I am not only re-using the bulk ingredients I purchased earlier this month, I’m also re-using the calculations I used to figure out how much individual portions of those ingredients cost. This is a huge timesaver on both ends.

I currently have two quarts of frozen alphabet soup in my freezer. Please send suggestions on how to improve the flavor when I thaw it out.

2) Beer-batter cheese bread

A friend suggested I try Just Baked’s beer-batter cheese bread recipe, and let me know that it would still work if I bought the cheapest beer I could find, which is exactly what I did.

White flour: roughly $0.60

Tillamook cheddar cheese: roughly $0.55

Sugar: probably not even $0.20

Baking powder: roughly $0.47

Salt/pepper: roughly $0.12

Ranier beer: $1.99 for a 24-ounce can, and yes I’m counting the full price this time because the beer I didn’t use got poured down the sink.

Butter: roughly $0.50

Total cost of beer-batter cheese bread: $4.43

As you can probably tell from the picture, I burned the crust. I wanted to firm up the top of the loaf after its epic adventure in the slow cooker, so I put it in the oven on the broil setting. This was a bad idea.

I saved the loaf by… um… cutting off the burned parts and flipping it upside-down, and served it to friends. You can see it in the header photo, all yellow from the butter and the cheese. It was delicious, because anything with four tablespoons of butter and a pile of melted cheese is always going to be delicious.

3) Baking powder bread

I liked the texture of the baking powder bread, so I wanted to see if I could make a beer- and cheese-free version. That led me to’s baking powder bread recipe, which is about as simple as a bread dough can get:

White flour: roughly $0.30

Whole-wheat flour: roughly $0.30

Baking powder: roughly $0.35

Salt/pepper: roughly $0.12

Butter: roughly $0.15

Total cost of baking-powder bread: $1.22

No, there isn’t any yeast in this. It’s a bit closer to a biscuit than a loaf of traditional bread, but I have never had a problem with biscuits. (That first warm slice was about the best thing ever.) I also solved the crust problem by taking the lid off the slow cooker and putting it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

So I’m learning from my mistakes and I’m saving money, and I know from social media that I’m inspiring some of our Billfold readers to try slow-cooking their own bread, which is pretty much everything I could have hoped for.

This weekend I’m going to try slow-cooked pulled pork. Give me your tips in advance, y’all.

This story is part of The Billfold’s DIY Month.