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BOOK: What You Should & Shouldn’t Make From Scratch

When Jennifer Reese lost her job as a book editor for Entertainment Weekly, she looked for ways to economize. She began with the family’s food bill. Is it cheaper to buy or make your own bagels, cream cheese, jam, crackers, yogurt and granola, she wondered.

She began a cost-benefit analysis on how much she might save by making from scratch six of the everyday foods she typically purchased from the supermarket and the bakery. Her initial experience gave way to Make The Bread, Buy The Butter, a delightful book with 120 recipes.

The author priced everything down to the last grain of salt as well as the cost of the utilities (in her city, 32 cents per hour to run an electric oven, 9 cents per hour to melt on a gas burner, 14 cents per hour to boil water). She did not include the cost of her labor.


You’ll laugh, you’ll ponder, you just might buy a goat. Photo courtesy Free Press.


Ms. Reese found some cost efficiencies that were worth it, and some that weren’t. The bagel recipe she used—the best bagel she’s ever had—costs 15¢ per bagel. A Thomas’ bagel is 45¢; a fresh bagel from Noah’s in San Francisco is 75¢.

Cream cheese, on the other hand, is something better bought—no matter what the savings. Home-made cream cheese just doesn’t approximate the thick brick we all know and love.

This energetic woman not only made her own jerky and Worcestershire sauce, but she also raised chickens in her backyard and attempted to raise goats to make cheese. (They ended up as beloved pets but have contributed no milk.)

You’ll chuckle at the adventures of this executive-turned-farmer as she lacto-ferments pickles on the kitchen counter, ripens cheese in the closet and tends to chickens, ducks, baby goats and a beehive in a suburban back yard. As for buying a pair of turkeys to join the menagerie in advance of Thanksgiving (to butcher and clean), “…the mountain of gore was chilling to behold…It felt more like cleaning up a crime scene.” The experience cost more than buying turkey at the supermarket—and the meat was much drier.

Jennifer Reese will entertain you. She will inform you. She may even convince you to try your own hand at “make it or buy it.” And you just might want to get your own baby goat.

Order a copy.

Read Jennifer’s further adventures at


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