July 31, 2009 at 11:50AM
by Jeff Yeager
[In his ongoing but sporadic series -- "Don't Throw That Away! "-- the Green Cheapskate shows you how to repurpose just about anything, from soda bottles to clothing, saving money and the environment in the process. Send him your repurposing ideas and challenges, but whatever you do, Don't Throw That Away!"]
My great grandmother was born a peasant in Czechoslovakia, and she grew up eating super-crusty, European-style bread that had further turned to stone and was handed out for free to needy families by the local baker. As is often the case with things you experience early in life and have never known otherwise, she actually developed a fondness for stale bread.
Even once she moved to America and could afford fresh bread, she found it wholly unsatisfying. She would scour bakeries and markets for "day-old" bread, not just because it was cheap, but because she preferred it. Later in life, she took to buying fresh bread and laying slices of it all around her kitchen to allow it to go stale before eating it. Her house always smelled of yeast, rather like a brewery.
Every time I screw up and let some bread go stale, I think of her and say to myself, "Don't throw that away!" Here's what I do with it instead:
- Bread Crumbs. Whisk them in the blender, add some Italian seasonings, and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Croutons. Sauté stale bread cubes in plenty of butter and/or olive oil with a little Parmesan cheese for the best croutons you've ever eaten.
- Bread Soups. Use stale bread to thicken sauces, soups and stews. Bread soups are a popular, delectable and hardy dinnertime staple in countries around the globe. (Check out this recipe for French onion soup.)
- Feed the Birds. Bread crumbs and crusts will attract many a feathered friend to your backyard birdfeeder.
- Bread Salads. Ample quantities of stale bread cubes tossed in with tomatoes, lettuce and other fresh vegetables, and liberally dressed with olive oil and wine vinegar, makes an entire meal out of a simple salad.
- Bread & Milk for the Kitty. Many cats love a treat of bread and milk, but milk can sometimes cause diarrhea in cats, so go easy at first.
- Bread Puddings. Everybody's grandmother has her favorite bread pudding recipe; here's one of mine.
- Bread & Milk Poultice. A mixture of stale bread and warm milk wrapped in a towel or bandage has been used for centuries to bring boils and abscesses to a head. (NOTE: After you have successfully applied the poultice and extracted the infection, then you have my permission to finally Throw That Away!)
- French Toast. Use stale bread for your favorite French toast recipe. Did you know that repurposing stale bread was the original motivation behind that popular dish?
- Bring It Back to Life. You can also try reviving stale bread by dipping it in water and baking it in 370 degrees for twelve minutes. But that would just break my great grandmother's heart.
Jeff Yeager is the author of the book The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. His Website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.