Do you always throw out the last two or three slices of bread in a loaf? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. The reasons for tossing them typically fall into either the stiff or space-saving categories — as in “the heel is hard” or “why waste precious fridge space on a couple cents worth of bread?”) Fair enough, but consider this startling global statistic: 24 million slices of bread are thrown away every day. Yes, you read that right. Every day.
While the window to enjoy fresh bread is admittedly short (stored at room temperature, a loaf can last up to four days after purchase), stale slices can be used in a lot of your favorite recipes. Refraining from tossing those last few slices will not only save you cash; it will reduce reduce bread waste and demand, which in turn, will allow farmers to grow more variable crops.
Here are three ideas for using the last bits of your bread loaf in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
Whip up French toast.
One way to breathe new life into stale bread is by making French toast. Stale bread is dry and slightly hard, which makes it ideal for soaking up sweet custard made with eggs, sugar, vanilla, and milk or heavy cream. French toast is often enjoyed as a weekend brunch treat, but whipping it up on a weekday will start your morning off on a high note. For French toast inspiration, try recipes that include stuffing the slices with Nutella or cooking them in a waffle iron for extra crispness.
Make croutons for a crunchy salad or soup topper.
Store-bought croutons don’t compare to those made from leftover bread. This recipe by Pat and Gina Neely turns day-old French bread into croutons with the help of ingredients like olive oil, salt, and pepper. Other breads, including sourdough or whole wheat, can also work for this recipe. Plus, adding fresh or dried herbs to the croutons before baking gives them a savory touch — perfect for topping over soups and salads.
Use homemade breadcrumbs for dinner and dessert.
Forgot to grab breadcrumbs at the store? Make your own with the bread you have in your pantry and the help of a blender or food processor. This homemade breadcrumbs recipe from Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery uses sprouted whole grain bread and will keep for up to three months in the freezer. With your breadcrumbs, you can dredge chicken cutlets, incorporate them into meatballs, or create a crunchy crust for mac and cheese. Plus, breadcrumbs come in handy when making a sweet treat: Martha Stewart’s brioche breadcrumbs recipe, used for a dessert called Topfenknödel (curd cheese dumplings), is a great example.
The Bottom Line
Bread ends don’t have to go to waste. Put them to use in your favorite recipes, and you’ll save money and support farmers! Looking for additional leftover bread suggestions? Take a peek at these four recipes for transforming crusty bread into a hearty soup and salad.