I hate wasting money, and I hate wasting food—so stale bread really makes me mad! While I contemplated giving up bread altogether (both my wallet and waistline would probably thank me), it wasn't a realistic option for my carb-loving family. I found several tips to help keep bread fresh. Here's what I learned:

Learn the Bread Tag Freshness Color Code: Have you seen those primary colored twists/tie tags on loaves of bread at the grocery store? Well they're not just for decoration—the colored tags actually indicate what day of the week the bread was baked. Here's the freshness color code that is used by a large number of bread manufacturers:

When you buy your next loaf of bread, check its tag's color code. Ideally, the color of the tag should be the same day as the day you are shopping (i.e. if you're shopping on Thursday, you want to buy bread with a red tag on it). Wednesday typically gets no tag.

Don't Refrigerate Your Bread: For years I had been operating under the mistaken belief that bread stays fresh longer when you keep it in the fridge. Turns out, the opposite is true—the refrigerator actually draws moisture out of the bread. Bread stored in the fridge becomes stale three times faster than bread left out at room temperature. To maximize your bread's shelf life, store it in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Freeze Your Bread to Extend Its Life: A loaf of bread's "best by" date is merely a suggestion. If you freeze your bread, it can last for up to 12 weeks after its "best by" date. To freeze bread, wrap it in aluminum foil and then store it in a sealable plastic bag or air-tight container in the freezer. Also, it's best to freeze the bread in slices because it's easier to defrost that way. When you want to eat your bread, you can defrost it by placing slices of bread directly in the toaster. Do not use the toaster’s defrost button: the defrost function uses a lower power setting that will evaporate the moisture in the bread without cooking it, which leads to toast that tastes like cardboard. It's best to use the toaster on full power.

Revive Stale Bread in the Oven: Wrap your stale bread in aluminum foil and put it in a preheated oven for five to ten minutes at 450 °F. Remove your bread from the oven and let it cool while still wrapped in the aluminum foil. Eat your bread as soon as possible because reheating bread more than once will make it dry.

Repurpose Stale Bread: There are tons of ways to repurpose stale bread. Some of my favorites include French toast, homemade croutons, and bread pudding. You can even grind up stale bread into bread crumbs and use them to top macaroni and cheese or another casserole, coat fish or poultry, or to make flavorful meatballs or meatloaf. Bon Appétit!

How to Keep Bread Fresh