11 Ways to Use Stale Bread

dry bread

As 2011 comes to an end, we’re sharing helpful lists to help you save money, stay healthy, get organized, creatively repurpose, frugally gift-give, intentionally celebrate and more in our “11 Things for 2011” series throughout these holiday months.

If there is one thing that I truly disdain, it’s waste in my kitchen. I firmly believe that one of the most effective ways to learn to save money on your grocery bill is to buy less food because you’re wasting less of it.

Did you know that:

“At home, the average American family throws away 14 percent of their food, Jones said. In terms of money, that’s almost $600 every year in meats, fruit, vegetables and grain products. The best ways to cut the losses is for families to honestly examine what they actually eat, draw up menus and freeze leftovers so they spoil before you can eat them, Jones says’. quoted from The Nourishing Gourmet

I think we’ve all had times when the end of a loaf of bread begins to dry out before we have an opportunity to use it. Particularly those crust pieces, if you have family members (as I do) who prefer them less than the other slices.

Always on the lookout for more ways to maximize our food purchases and avoid waste, I’ve come up with a list of 11 ways to creatively use stale bread.

1. Bread crumbs

I keep a bag in my freezer at all times, where I chuck each loaf remnant or dry slice of bread. At these add up, I remove the bag from the freezer, let it thaw slightly.

I find it fast and easy to whir these pieces into fine bread crumbs, with the use of either my food processor, or my coffee grinder (best for smaller amounts). Then they can be used immediately, or re-bagged and store in the freezer until you want them, for making things like meatloaf, meatballs or fish cakes.

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Image by thebittenword

2. Croutons

Store-bought croutons are ridiculously expensive, and if you’re cautious about the grains and oils that you serve your family, you probably don’t want to each them anyways.

Here is a simple and delicious homemade crouton recipe.

3. Bread pudding

What better way to use up stale bread than to turn it into a comforting, warm dessert? Here’s a tasty Bread Pudding recipe for doing just that.

4. Stuffing

It always feels counter-intuitive to me that I have to leave perfectly fresh bread sitting out overnight in order to have it dry enough for making stuffing or dressing. If you always have a loaf that is drying out, why not take advantage?

This is a recipe that I enjoy making for special family dinners (but with whole grain, not white, bread and butter instead of margarine).

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Image by ralph and jenny

5. French toast

The key to good french toast is to ensure that the bread is thoroughly drenched in the egg/milk dip. Fresh bread will do this somewhat, but drier bread soaks up liquids with greater ease. Next time that loaf on the counter is starting to show its age, make this protein-rich and scrumptious breakfast that is one of our family’s favorites.

Perfect French Toast

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (we prefer raw, whole milk, and I usually use coconut milk when I need a non-dairy alternative)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (optional, but yummy)

Add ingredients to a wide bowl (important to make the dipping process easier). Preheat a frying pan to medium heat, while melting your choice of oil (butter tastes best, and coconut oil is also nice).

Whisk until well mixed, then dip pieces of bread until thoroughly coated, first on one side, then flipped over and dipped on the second side. Lift the soaking bread straight onto the hot pan. Cook until egg mixture is lightly browned, then flip and repeat. If you want to boost the protein content, cut bread into halves or thirds, so that each piece gets even more egg/milk coating.

6. Garlic bread

Put your oven on to broil, while you slather dry bread with butter and freshly minced or crushed garlic. If you’re like my husband, you might also like to add cheese, but it tastes great either way.

Stick slices on a cookie tray and pop under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until crispy and lightly browned. Serve with soup, stew, pasta or a large salad for a complete meal.

7. Casserole or pasta topping

Coarsely (or finely, depends on your preference) chop stale bread in a food processor. Lightly saute in a pan with some butter or olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and herbs of choice. Sprinkle on top of your favorite casserole or pasta dish, add a light sprinkle of shredded cheese if you like, then pop it in under the broiler for 5-10 minutes until perfectly browned and slightly crispy.

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Image by startcooking

8. Italian Bread Soup or French Onion Soup

Ingenius women throughout history have come up with recipes that made use of their old bread, and one such delicious option is to make a soup that uses bread for a thick, hearty base.

Try this recipe for Italian Bread Soup (Riboletta), or this one for a rich French Onion Soup.

9. Open-faced sandwiches

Lay bread out, top with roasted or grilled veggies, thinly sliced meats, cheese, pesto or anything else that appeals. Warm up under the broiler, or even on the top level of the BBQ in the summer, for delightfully warm, toasty sandwiches.

10. Bread salad

This is a new idea to me, but it stuck out when I was brainstorming ideas for this post. Here is a recipe that looks fresh and delicious.

11. Make it fresh again

After all of these options for using bread in its already stale state, perhaps what you really desire most is for it to be fresh again!

This article shows you how to put some life back into that tired loaf, to make your options for using it even more endless.

How do you use bread gone stale? Share your best tips or recipes with us!

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. About 50 years ago, an elderly lady taught me to make a savoury bread pudding to go with roast meats. Using a small baking tin, she layered stale bread, sliced onions, sliced tomatoes, salt and pepper , finishing with a layer of bread. It went into the oven with the meat. Each time she basted the meat with it’s own juices, a spoonful went over the ‘pudding’. It was delicious.

  2. These are great tips! It’s not often that bread goes stale around here, but printing this to keep for later use. Not a food related recipe, but you can also use slices of bread to make small batches of clay for crafting. Add a little acrylic craft paint and some glue and you got yourself some clay! :) I love the idea I found on Youtube that shows you how to make roses from stale bread.

  3. I can identify with Jenny’s comment that being a 50-something-year-old, she tries to instill the idea of “use it up” in her family. Usually, the parents of those of us in that age range lived through the great depression, as children. My mother’s family were farmers and they were able to raise a lot of their own food, so they never went hungry. My dad was raised by a single mother who had dropped out of the 8th grade. His father was supposed to pay child support but didn’t, and they often went without. He tried to teach us to be very frugal. It didn’t take with my younger siblings, but it sure did with me.

    The other day, I was at Old Gristmill with my daughter and saw a large bag labeled, “bread ends, 75 cents”. I couldn’t resist. I was disappointed that it wasn’t fresh bread, as I had hoped, so we aren’t making any cold sandwiches from it, but are using it up other ways. I’m getting ready to make a batch of bread pudding. The last time I made it, I had an idea that it might work out well to bake individual servings in large muffin tins. It worked great! It cooked faster and each serving had a browned edge and soft middle. I was planning to try freezing a few of them for later, but it was so good that my daughter and I ate it all within about 36 hours!

  4. When you make cookies, always add a slice or two of bread in the cookie container, it will keep the cookies from getting hard.

  5. We user our stale bread to make German bread dumplings. We serve these with goulash or beef stew. Would also be good with anything saucy like lentil soup or mushroom gravy. The only thing is that it’s not as nice with the heartier whole wheat breads or made exclusively from the heels of the bread. You can probably get away with a 50/50 mix of hearty vs “fluffy” bread. Just like stuffing, but in a dumpling form. I haven’t tried this specific recipe but it looks like the recipe I use: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/semmelknoedel-bread-dumplings/

  6. I keep a large freezer bag in the freezer for stale bread. Once it’s full, I let it sit on the counter overnight and go to work “processing” it the next day (French toast for breakfast, stuffing for supper (or pudding for dessert), a baggie of bread crumbs and/or croutons. I’ve made all of the above, except bread salad. One thing to use a crust – or “heel” – or even a broken piece of bread for is to make brown sugar fresh again. Sometimes it gets hard. Even a slightly moist piece of bread will go a long way to moistening and softening hard sugar.

  7. These are some great tips–especially since I eat GF bread, which can be expensive–we stretch it to the last crumb. I second the bread salad option, too, as my favorite dish in the summer is Cornbread Salad..and the older the better.

    Here is the link to the recipe that I had on my blog. (And don’t skimp on the bacon it gives it wonderful flavor! :) http://ssmast.blogspot.com/2011/05/recipe-corn-bread-salad.html

    Sarah M

  8. I love stale bread useage almost as well as fresh bread. I do share with my ducks and the wild birds as well.

  9. Cheryl Prether says:

    Breakfast casserole!
    1 pound ground pork sausage, or ham, or bacon or whatever meat you want
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    4 eggs, beaten
    2 cups milk
    6 slices bread tear into peices
    8 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
    Cook your meat
    In a medium bowl, salt, eggs and milk. Put the bread ina 9×13 greased baking dish, pour the egg/ milk mixture over, sprinkle the meat and the cheese. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    Cover, and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover, and reduce temperature to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until set.

  10. We keep our bread sliced in the freezer and just pull out what we need at a time, so it is always fresh (and my kids like it toasted anyways!)

    No one likes the crusts though… Our bag in the freezer is “duck bread” . When it is full, we head to the park for a play and to feed the ducks :-)

    Not a frugal kitchen use, but it makes for a fun and inexpensive afternoon out!

  11. These are great ideas. However this rarely happens at my house. We really have to watch the kids to make sure we aren’t giving them too much bread. Seriously I think its all my 2 year old would eat if given the opportunity. We seem to never have pieces that go stale since its eaten so fast, even with rationing! However I also try not to keep too much out at a time. We usually only have 1/2 or 1 loaf out at a time and the rest in the freezer.

  12. Jenny in CG says:

    I have one son who sneaks the last 1/4 of the loaf into the stale bread bag in the freezer while it is still fresh… Why? you many ask. He loves, adores, drools for bread pudding. He knows that when the bag is full, I’ll make some.

    As a fifty-something year old, I have been trying to teach the idea of “use it up” in creative ways to my younger friends. It’s a slow process but some of them are soaking it up and feel a new liberty in their own kitchens.

    • Jenny in CG says:

      I just remembered another use.

      Bread soup. This is a French peasant food.

      Saute some onion and garlic in a bit of butter. Fill pot with chicken broth and heat. To simmering chicken broth, add whatever veggies you want. The cook I saw make this used romaine and salad bowl lettuce just like you would spinach – I tried it and it is very tasty. Once the veggies are almost tender add crumbled stale bread – for 6 cups broth maybe 6-8 slices bread. Stir and cook just like a gravy – you see, the bread will thicken this soup and make it a lovely rich and flavorful, thick and satisfying soup.

  13. What a timely post! It’s just my husband and I, so I find myself with a lot of excess bread that goes stale before we can devour it. I’ve added the French onion soup to next week’s meal plan. The bread pudding sounds delish as well. Hooray!

  14. I never have enough stale bread around, it seems!! I’ve had to make fresh bread, to dry it for recipes in the past. ;-)

    We make:
    bread crumbs http://annejisca.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/breadcrumbs/
    croutons http://annejisca.wordpress.com/2011/07/15/homemade-croutons/
    overnight french toast http://annejisca.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/overnight-french-toast/
    as well breakfast casseroles, bread pudding and stuffing! Yum!

    Never heard of bread salad though! :)

  15. Wow. I have only ever used stale bread for breadcrumbs and croutons, the most obvious options. I had no idea there were other uses! I am especially liking the french toast one. Thanks for all these ideas!

  16. My family has the bad habit of never eating the heels on a loaf of bread. Usually they go to the chickens, but thanks for the great ideas on how we can put those to good use in the home.

  17. Kathleen K says:

    With 3 fast growing boys (and three appetites that grow faster) we have no stale bread problem. At all. Sometimes, we don’t even have a fresh-baked-and-ready-to slice problem because it was eaten while warm from the oven. I’ll keep the ideas in mind just in case someday we need them.

  18. Susan Alexander says:

    I keep mine in the fridge and haven’t had any issues with stale bread… But… I also buy it from the store – I still haven’t found a home made bread recipe that we like as well. The last try was so bad that I gave up for a while. :(

  19. Great post! I always tell people when I’m teaching that you should never just throw stale bread out. AHHHH! :-)
    Oh, and I LOVE bread salad. *Slobber*

  20. How about putting a slice of stale bread into a ziplock party with some stale cookies? Cookie resurrection. :)

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