Freshly baked bread. Who can resist that smell? Yet too often it goes stale before you’ve had chance to finish it and ends up getting thrown away. Food wastage is so sad and has a massive impact on climate change. We want to help you waste less bread at home!
Fun fact: Did you know that the the Egyptians made the first bread around 8,000 years ago? – A kind of flatbread similar to Indian chapatis or Mexican tortillas.
Zero waste bread buying tips
According to WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) bread is the second most wasted food after potatoes. In the UK alone the equivalent of a staggering 24 million slices of bread are wasted daily! Wasting less bread starts with buying the right amount. These are my top tips:
Buy from a quality local baker
A quality local baker will use the best ingredients and have a good selection of different breads to suit different tastes and dietary needs. They will take care in each stage of bread production – kneading, fermentation and baking – and avoid the use of nasty chemicals.
Buy just what you need
Try to buy your bread as fresh as possible. This is often early in the morning. Unless it’s your turn to make sandwiches for the football team, avoid supermarket deals like BOGOFs (buy-one-get-one-free) as this will often go to waste or encourage overeating.
Avoid slicing: The best thing since sliced bread!
Your bakery may offer to slice your bread in a machine, which may seem quite convenient. However, sliced bread goes off much quicker – in as little as 30-60 minutes if not covered up. Better just to slice it yourself as you require or just break of a lump in the case of a baguette or French stick!
Take your own bread bag
Taking your own reusable cloth bread bag is a great way to avoid unnecessary packaging waste. Although you might be offered a paper bag rather than plastic, a cloth bag is a great way to store for freshness – see below for more details.
Pro Tip: Ask you local baker to put aside your favourite loaf to avoid disappointment if you can’t make it to the bakery first thing.
Tips for storing bread at home
Stale bread is dry and hard. Staling is not just a drying out process though as bread also goes stale in moist environments and the worst thing you can do it put it in the fridge as staling is most rapid at temperatures just above freezing. It is a chemical process caused by contact with the air so avoiding contact with air is the best way to slow down this staling process.
Unpackaged loaves last for 2-3 days before starting to go stale. Darker breads and sourdoughs usually last a little longer while French sticks or baguettes go stale even quicker.
How you store your bread at home, whether you bake it yourself or buy it, has a big impact on freshness and reducing waste. So here are my top tips for storing and avoiding plastic.
Tip 1: Reusable bread bag
Storing your bread in a reusable cloth bag is a great option as it drastically reduces contact with the air yet allows the bread to breathe. The Verdonce bread bags are 100% plastic free. They are sturdy and long lasting and ideal for purchasing, transporting and storing bread for a few days. I made them for this exact reason and since I started using them I haven’t thrown away any bread. They are also handy for storing other baked good like pastries and cupcakes.
Tip 2: Bread box
Bread boxes are great as they keep the light off your bread. Any air tight box or bin that keeps the air out will work. You just need to make sure there is enough room for the bread to breathe and make sure the lid fits tightly. The issue is you still need to use a bag if you buy bread. Great if you make your own bread though.
Tip 3: Oven
If you don’t have a bread box or a reusable bag a great trick is to store your bread in the oven. It will mostly keep the light out and air too. The only disadvantage is having to remove your bread before baking!
Tip 4: Tea towel or old pillow case
Simply wrapping your bread in a tea towel is almost as good as a cloth bag. The only downside is that it is not so handy for purchasing and transporting your bread. An old pillow case is a great zero waste alternative as a great way to reuse without buying new. Just make sure it is made from 100% natural fibre like cotton or linen to avoid the trap of storing in plastic. Plastic makes artisan breads mold faster.
Pro tip: Never store bread before it has fully cooled or it will accelerate the moulding process and make it go chewy, especially if you live in a humid environment.
What to do with stale bread?
Sometimes you just don’t manage to eat your bread before it goes stale. This can be a challenge for single person households, especially if buying large loaves. Luckily there are loads of things you can do with stale bread. Here are a few our our favourite tips.
Perk it up
One of the easiest tips is to toast bread that is starting to go stale. Another great way to perk up a slightly stale slice of bread is to sprinkle it with water and heat it in the oven for 10 minutes or so. Just make sure you eat it before it cools otherwise it will be dryer and chewier than before heating.
Pro tip: If you reheat bread to perk it up make sure you eat it before it cools again or it will be worse that before!
This is super easy. Wait till the bread is really hard and dry but not moldy. Then place in a food processor and put it on full whack for about 8-10 seconds. You are looking for fine crumbs but not powder!
Gazpacho is a delightful cold soup that we eat widely in Spain in the summer months. Try our compleat zero waste gazpacho recipe and be sure to share your creations on Instagram!
There are a bunch of other great ways you can use stale bread in your cooking such as bread pudding, torrijas (a traditional Easter treat in Spain), croutons or ajoblanco (another great cold soup from Spain).
Next steps for zero waste living
Ready to step things up to the next level in the fight to reduce usage of single use plastics? Then be sure to read my post about plastic free grocery shopping.
If you’re ready to go from plastic free to zero waste then my post on 10 easy steps to live a more sustainable life will help you get on your way.
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