15 ideas of what to do with stale bread

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    The last time you went to the supermarket you grabbed a loaf of bread, but it’s rock hard now. So what to do with stale bread?

    From making fresh breadcrumbs to tying meatballs to adding to a salad, there are ways to breathe new life into an old loaf.

    This common scenario is annoying when you’re hungry and in the mood for a sandwich, but it’s also a huge waste of food and money to throw it away. The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the country’s food supply is wasted, with food waste occurring at every step along the food chain.

    However, a large part of the waste is generated in the household. We can all do better, but don’t be the person throwing stale bread away, make it a family dinner instead.

    15 ideas for using leftover bread

    If you have stale bread, you don’t have to toss it at the birds. These 15 recipes and ideas will turn leftover bread into a delicious, cheap meal.

    1. Egg in the hole

    There are many names for the recipes for this clever egg dish: Toad in the Hole, Egg in the Nest and Hole in One. Esser claims there are 66!

    Whatever you call it, Egg in the Hole is basically fried bread with an egg in the middle. Poke a hole in the center of your slightly stale bread, place it in a pan with melted butter, then beat the egg in the center. Turn and remove when you like the yolk – liquid, hard or somewhere in between.

    Don’t forget to toast the piece that you tore out along with the main event.

    This photo shows a stack of bagel chips.
    Photo courtesy Spend with Pennies

    2. Homemade bagel chips

    Once you learn how to make your own bagel chips, you will never look back.

    Halve a bagel in half, then cut the segments into 1/8 inch thick crescents and toast them. Serve with your favorite dip, like hummus or guacamole.

    3. Breadcrumbs

    Why buy breadcrumbs when you can easily make fresh breadcrumbs from something you wanted to throw away?

    Any type of leftover bread works well for DIY breadcrumbs. Grind the stale bread into crumbs in the food processor and then toast it in the oven until lightly crispy. Store in an airtight container or even freeze.

    4. Homemade croutons

    Homemade croutons work according to the same logic as breadcrumbs: dice old bread, spread it on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven until the croutons become crispy.

    Homemade croutons are much cheaper than store-bought ones, and you can store your homemade croutons in an airtight container indefinitely. Put croutons on the salad or in the soup.

    5. Grilled cheese

    Grilled cheese is an ideal use for slightly stale bread as you want the outside to be crispy anyway.

    This collection of 50 grilled cheese recipes can help you clean the refrigerator, save money, and reduce food waste.

    6. French toast

    Old bread that is rich and egg-like, such as challah, pain de mie or brioche, makes delicious French toast.

    Cut the bread into thick slices, soak it in a custard made from egg and milk before frying it until golden in a pan. Basic French Toast is one of those recipes that you can experiment with by adding fruits, nuts, and spices so you never get bored!

    7. French toast casserole

    This casserole version of French toast is perfect for brunch when you need to feed a crowd. Better still, you can prepare everything the night before and then bake it in the morning.

    8. Bread pudding

    A baked bread pudding is the most beneficial way to use stale bread. There are a lot of recipes out there, but we like this one for the good instructions.

    For the richest bread pudding, use an egg bread like challah or brioche or something naturally sweet like cinnamon and raisin bread.

    Mix up your bread-and-butter pudding recipe with commercials, from dried fruits and nuts to chocolate chips, or be extra and serve with ice cream or homemade caramel sauce.

    A baking dish is filled with layers.
    Photo courtesy of Once Upon a Chef

    9. Hearty bread pudding

    Strata, or hearty bread pudding, is an ideal dish for cleaning the refrigerator. And another good candidate for the company brunch.

    Refine this recipe by mixing vegetables, sausage, cheese, herbs and more with bread cubes, pouring an egg and milk pudding on top, soaking for at least an hour and then baking for a hearty bread pudding. If you enjoy having breakfast for dinner this is a good candidate.

    10. Panzanella (bread salad)

    This is a resourceful Italian dish that can be prepared when your bread is really past its prime. The olive oil drizzle is masterful at bringing it back to life.

    Made from stale bread cubes (or even homemade croutons) plus tomatoes, shallots, garlic, basil, and olive oil, the Italian panzanella salad is like a deconstructed bruschetta.

    To prepare the bread portion, toss stale bread cubes with olive oil and cook them at 350 degrees until crispy but not browned. This will keep it from getting mushy as it soaks up the sauce.

    11. Pan with tomato

    For a Spanish touch of bread and tomatoes, prepare the classic tapas dish Pan con tomate.

    In this dish, slices of bread are toasted and coated with a thin sauce of grated tomatoes with garlic and oil.

    Pro tip

    Take care of your knuckles when processing tomatoes or other ingredients through the box grater.

    12. Filling

    Some homemade sand cooks claim that stale bread is the best filling or dressing. Dried out stale bread works well for that classic Thanksgiving side as it can soak up the liquid in the bowl without getting wet.

    Filling is a super flexible recipe that can be made from any old bread you have on hand: baguettes, bagels, sandwich bread, or even corn bread. You can then use a waffle iron to turn your leftover fillings into filling waffles for breakfast!

    13. Meatballs

    Meatballs are a high protein way to save stale bread when made with your homemade breadcrumbs. The bread acts as a binder, and you can even consider it for crab cakes, but only use a little to hold those tender cakes together.

    This photo shows a plate of bruschetta.
    Photo courtesy of Cookie and Kate

    14. Bruschetta

    Bruschetta (pronounced broo-SKEH-tuh) is the ideal summer meal when it’s so hot you can’t stand the cooking but the tomatoes are at their peak.

    This mixture of basil, garlic and diced tomatoes is served on crostini, or small round toasted baguettes that you have coated with olive oil and baked. Use your stale bread for the crostini portion of the dish and head to the farmers market for the freshest summer tomatoes.

    15. Ribollita

    Ribollita is a hearty Italian soup recipe made from white beans, kale, parmesan, potatoes, tomatoes and leftover bread. The bread is used to thicken the soup like with gazpacho.

    Stick to the classic recipe or make your version to clean the fridge and consume old vegetables, carrots and other items.

    Pro tip

    Get more cheesy depth in the soup by tossing in a parmesan cheese rind while the soup simmered.

    Tips for storing bread

    It’s an understatement to say that fresh bread doesn’t last long. This artisanal bread from the local baker’s or farmers’ market will lose its appeal in one day, certainly two.

    And when you cut a baguette to go with your cheese platter, the part you don’t use will be stale in the morning. Supermarket bread stays soft and pliable for weeks because it is loaded with preservatives.

    In summer, bread can go moldy on the counter before you can use it. While moldy bread is fine for the compost heap, do yourself a favor and freeze slices of bread before they go bad.

    If you plan ahead, you can freeze any old bread before it becomes rock hard. Bread stored in the freezer tastes freshest within three months, but you can store it much longer and still enjoy the end product. Bagels, English muffins and other bread products also freeze.

    For best results, cut bread (or bagels) into slices before freezing, then wrap the slices individually in plastic wrap. Keep wrapped slices in a freezer bag, then pull them out as needed. Alternatively, if you’re planning a panzanella or strata in advance, you can cut the bread into cubes so it’s ready for the recipe.

    Penny Hoarder Writer Lindsey Danis is a Hudson Valley, New York City writer who specializes in food, professional counseling, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, NextAdvisor, Greatist, and others.


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