In October 2006, I bought a Toastmaster model TBR2 bread maker for $20 from a craigslist posting. It was one of my first craigslist purchases and the woman said she used it only a few times. I had been searching for a horizontal loaf bread maker for a while and did not want to pay the eBay prices so finding this bread maker locally was a great purchase for me. After testing the bread maker and liking the final product, my goal was to make all my own bread and no longer purchase it.
I was aware my bread consumption patterns waxed and waned. One week, I would make toast every morning for breakfast and then the next, I would not touch the stuff. The preservatives in store-bought bread would keep it for a long time, but I thought the smaller one-pound loaf my bread maker could produce would work well for me. I could always make more when I had a high-demand week and compost the moldy parts if I did not quite finish the loaf in time. As homemade bread is perservative-free, it does mold a lot faster.
However, I did not realize the full benefits of a bread maker. Not only could I made the honey wheat I enjoy, I could make other items such as pizza dough. This has meant that pizza is a staple in my diet. I can get tired of the same thing, but oddly enough, I have been enjoying pizza at least three times a month with little sign of stopping. In fact, I prefer my pizza to much of the chain takeout pizzas.
Not only have I made bread since I purchased the bread maker (without ever resorting to hitting the store for a loaf), but I have experimented with other breads. I bought a used cookbook on making lots of breads in a breadmaker and have found a banana-cream bread that makes fabulous cinnamon toast! I use bread flour for best results and have purchased yeast in bulk since I bake several times a month.
My $20 bread maker has really helped me become more frugal and enjoy a greater variety in my diet. I estimate that a loaf of honey wheat bread costs me no more than $1 to make even with the recent price increase in flour. My pizzas (since I buy jar sauce and pepperoni) are closer to $3.50-$4, depending on toppings. I make everything fresh in my kitchen, I really enjoy a meal I make myself and the smell of baking bread is hard to beat.
There are two drawbacks to breadmaker bread: the hole in the bottom from the mixing paddle and the crumbly nature of the honey wheat bread. Neither is enough to affect my usage or the bread's taste. I appreciate what the bread maker has done for me and believe this a great purchase for me. Ask friends if they have a bread maker in their basement. They might let you have it and you might discover a new frugal meal-maker for the kitchen.