The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
February 11, 2010

Bread: Buy It, Store It, Keep It Fresh Without Plastic

Wonder BreadWhoever coined the expression “the best thing since sliced bread” must have worked for the plastics industry. According to the American Scientist article “Twists, Tags, and Ties” excerpted in The Encyclopedia Britannica Online,

A machine to slice an entire loaf of bread in a single operation was invented by Otto Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa, who applied for a patent in 1928. Unfortunately, once a loaf is sliced, it does not remain fresh for very long, unless air is kept from it. In the 1930s, sliced loaves came wrapped in wax paper (and later cellophane) with the folded-over ends sealed with glued-on labels. This kept the bread flesh until the package was opened, but then it was not easily resealed. The polyethylene bag [developed in the mid 50’s] clearly solved that problem, because it could be closed, opened and reclosed easily with a twist tie.

Hazards of plastic bread bag closures.

What’s more, according to the same article, twist ties are often coated with PVC, one of the worst plastics.

Bread bag clipsBesides twist ties, many bread bags today are held shut by plastic bread clips, those flat little squares with a hole in the middle that I find scattered all over the ground near Lake Merritt here in Oakland.  Kind-hearted people bring bread to feed the ducks and leave a trail of bread clips behind.  In addition to harming wildlife, those bread clips have recently been found inside the gastrointestinal tracts of older humans! In a 2000 article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal [pdf file],

People older than 60 years of age who have either partial or full dentures seem to be particularly at risk for the accidental ingestion of these devices. If accidentally ingested, plastic bread-bag clips represent a significant health hazard. As the population ages, small-bowel perforation secondary to ingestion of such clips may occur with increasing frequency.

How people are swallowing them, I don’t know. I’m guessing maybe they are holding the clip in their mouths while taking the bread out of the bag. A less likely scenario might be somehow letting the clip fall into a sandwich and not realizing it’s there. The article doesn’t explain why people are eating bread clips, but it does go into graphic detail about the horrible things that happen in their intestines afterwards.  Perhaps we are no different from hungry albatrosses.

Just say no to plastic bread bags, twist ties, and bread clips.

I realize many people now are opting to make their own bread as an alternative to store-bought bread in plastic bags. But I don’t have a bread machine. Nor do I have the will to make bread the old fashioned way, although my friend Mark does it all the time. And since Oakland has several great little bakeries selling fresh bread, why not support them? Here’s what I do:

1) Take my reusable cloth bag to the bakery and ask to have my (unsliced!) bread placed directly inside it.

buy bread in cloth bag without plastic

buy bread in cloth bag without plastic

2) Bring the bread home. Slice a piece and eat it. Yum!

fresh bread without plastic

3) Return the remaining unsliced loaf to the cloth bag and store it in an airtight tin.

Metal bread box

My tin came from the Popcorn Factory — a gift from my dad. But any kind of tin or bread box will work, as long as the lid fits tightly enough to keep air out. Thrift stores are often the recipients of unwanted tins once the original contents have been consumed. I find that my bread will last, and stay soft, up to about two weeks in the tin. Depending on your climate, the length of time will vary. Those in more humid regions may not be able to keep it as long before it grows mold.

That’s it. For the longest time, even after beginning to remove plastic from my life, I kept one plastic grocery bag to wrap around my cloth-wrapped bread in the refrigerator. I reused that grocery bag over and over again. And I always felt there had to be another way. So I asked myself the question that I am constantly pondering: how did they do it in the old days?

Do you have other suggestions about storing bread? I’d love to hear them.

57 comments
John T
John T

I make my own bread in six loaf batches and them freeze them (in plastic bags). Any alternative suggestions for storing them in the freezer for about 3 weeks?

Dennis
Dennis

Of ALL the suggestions for storing bread that one eats everyday, most of which suggest some form of plastic/synthetic, yours makes the most sense and the one I will try first, albeit in a ceramic rather than metal vessel IF I can find one the lid of which is sealed with a ring made from pure rubber tree latex - a tall order but all thanks to your idea! Thanks(:

HTorrance
HTorrance

I think in the "old days" people did not store bread, they just ate it.  Second-day bread became french toast or was dipped in a soup/sauce, and third-day bread became crumbs for stuffing.

HTorrance
HTorrance

I think in the "old days" people did not store bread, they just ate it.  Second-day bread became french toast or was dipped in a soup/sauce, and third-day bread became crumbs for stuffing.

Karianne
Karianne

Pillow cases can be used as bread bags too :) Put the bread into the pillow case and wrap a soft elastic band around it.

miranda
miranda

We don't each enough bread for a whole loaf to last without getting stale or moldy. What I do is buy a loaf of bread from the bakery or farmers market (especially if it's the end of the day and they're half off!) take it home and slice it in half. Half, I put in the freezer wrapped in foil-the other half, we keep in a bag (I did re-use plastic ones, but that won't be the case anymore!) and slice as needed. When we finish that one, I take the frozen loaf out and just let it defrost on the counter and it's great!

catloveschanel
catloveschanel

I started making the Artisian Bread in 5 minutes which is good for you and frugal (44 cents a loaf) because my husband loves bread. Now I have perfected the sandwich load and I don't see why I can't store it in the non-stick metal Pullman pan which has a lid on it. It would be nice to not have to buy a bunch of stuff, but I do not think it is air tight.

perry shimon
perry shimon

Thanks for the article, which effectively highlights two very distinct segments of the population; those trying to eradicate plastics from their lives and those just trying not to swallow the bread clips.

Melissa Brown
Melissa Brown

Hi Beth, did I read somewhere that you'd transitioned to a bread box for some reason. Is there an update? Do boxes keep bugs out? I fear the weevil.

Annie
Annie

Great idea! We do re-use the plastic bags we get storebought bread in. But I've been storing my homemade bread in plastic bags that I bought at King Arthur flour, not realizing there were alternatives. I'm going to make some cloth bread bags and see what we can scrounge up for a tin. Also appreciate the reminder to use aluminum foil to freeze loaves.

EcoMonster
EcoMonster

Hi, I'm currently collecting plastic bread tags for a upcycle craft project. If you're interested in sending them my way instead of the landfills, email me at thoeyngo@gmail.com Thank you! EcoMonsters

joe woo
joe woo

I recently bought a loaf of Fresh Baked Bread , besides the cost of it the taste is better as well . I slice pieces individually with my electric slicer into various sizes . When done I put bread back into cellophane bag then into a plastic after ridding any air after which I put it in my microwave oven for storage , thats as well is semi- air tight , It works , cost and taste is better .

B1 with Earth » Blog Archive » News: C
B1 with Earth » Blog Archive » News: C

[...] At homeWhile it doesn’t seem like a green post at first, Case Ernsting writes aboutModernizing the Home Office, wanting us to keep one phrase in mind when redesigning : Simple. Modern designs focus on simplifying interior designs and staying natural and using eco-friendly materials are included his strategy.For a round up ofeco-gadgets and energy savingin the home, check out Ethical Superstore.When Brenda Pike ended up with a broken thermometer and mercury all over the place, she turned to the EPA for advice on how to clean it up safely.Here’s how.We know plastic bags are not so great for the environment. But did you know the plastic clips on bread bags can actually be lethal? Here’s a way to keep bread fresh without any plastic at all. Fake Plastic Fish gives usBread: Buy it, store it, keep it fresh without plastic. [...]

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Jenna. Actually, the tin is not lined with BPA. It's not lined with anything. BPA is used to line cans that come into direct contact with wet food. This tin is not lined, and it's also not rust-proof, so I have to remember to dry it out completely each time I rinse it out! .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Plastic-Free Dental Floss? Not Quite. =-.

Jenna
Jenna

Wouldn't the tins be lined with BPA also? I mean, if they're more recent tins? Thank you for the post, though. I was wondering how to handle this. :D .-= Jenna´s last blog ..On credit and houses and such =-.

Carnival of the Green # 214! at EcoStreet - A walk
Carnival of the Green # 214! at EcoStreet - A walk

[...] At home While it doesn’t seem like a green post at first, Case Ernsting writes about Modernizing the Home Office, wanting us to keep one phrase in mind when redesigning : Simple. Modern designs focus on simplifying interior designs and staying natural and using eco-friendly materials are included his strategy. For a round up of eco-gadgets and energy saving in the home, check out Ethical Superstore. When Brenda Pike ended up with a broken thermometer and mercury all over the place, she turned to the EPA for advice on how to clean it up safely. Here’s how. We know plastic bags are not so great for the environment. But did you know the plastic clips on bread bags can actually be lethal? Here’s a way to keep bread fresh without any plastic at all. Fake Plastic Fish gives us Bread: Buy it, store it, keep it fresh without plastic. [...]

Leanne
Leanne

I store my bread in my tummy! Fresh, crusty bread never lasts long enough in our house for us to need any type of storage! Yum!

chickadeescout
chickadeescout

Of late, I've been buying bread at a discount food store -- Pepperidge Farms brand -- which I don't feel as bad about. When I bake bread at home or buy an "artisan" loaf, though, we cut off a slice at a time, and then store the bread cut-side-down on a cutting board on the counter. The bread inside stays soft, and the outside stays crunchy. :)

margery
margery

This is fantastic! Thank you Beth! I've been thinking about tins and cloth bags, but it is so encouraging to hear that it actually WORKS! Thank you! .-= margery´s last blog ..yogurt and metronomes =-.

Daisy
Daisy

What a great use for the Popcorn Factory tins! Mine usually end up as wastebaskets or reused the following Christmas as gift wrapping. Now you've got me wanting to bake bread. .-= Daisy´s last blog ..I've got sunshine, on a snowy afternoon! =-.

Linda
Linda

Hi Beth! I haven't looked at your blog in a while. It is really great and fun to read. We happen to have a really old house with big metal lined drawers that I think were intended for dry goods, so we put our bread in there and it stays pretty fresh. We buy our bread from several of the great bakeries in Berkeley and usually eat it right away, so it doesn't have much of a chance to go stale and we try to re-use the paper bags over and over again. Just say "no" to plastic!

Manson
Manson

"The article doesn’t explain why people are eating bread clips, but it does go into graphic detail about the horrible things that happen in their intestines afterwards." Build a bigger audience. Include the gore!

Madz
Madz

Hey beth, I've just started making my own bread myself. Over the summer holidays my Nan taught be how to make Maori Rewana bread, which is sorta like a sourdough bread. It's really easy once you've got the bug going and the process right. Coming from a humid area on the east coast of New Zealand, I usually keep it in the fridge wrapped in a tea towel or used plastic bag. This usually works all good. However, when it does start to get a bit past I find it's still all good for toast. Microwaving on defrost also helps remoisture the bread. .-= Madz´s last blog ..WEEK 6: Plastic is all around me... =-.

Sierra Black
Sierra Black

SouleMama had a wonderful post last spring with these incredible bread bags that she made with her kids. I'm not quite as classy and crafty as she is (ok, not at all), but I was inspired by her to start storing our bread in cloth bags. We use the ones from sheet sets. You know, when you buy a sheet set it comes in a little cotton bag? We store bread in them. Her bread bags are easy to make and beautiful though, if you're looking for a weekend project. .-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Hide and Seek =-.

Peggy
Peggy

I have another "bread clip" danger: they break dishwashers! Really! One very expensive service call later, I've learned my lesson. Muslin in Tin for me! .-= Peggy´s last blog ..Super Bowl Sunday food =-.

Eleanor Sommer
Eleanor Sommer

I am so excited to read all these ideas for storing bread. I, too, live in a (mostly) hot, humid climate in Florida, and keeping bread is a nightmare. We like different kinds of bread for different reasons, and so we usually have 2 or even 3 kinds to save from mold. I feel guilty because I store in plastics bags (and often buy it in plastic bags because that is the only way it comes in some cases. Some of you have inspired me to start backing bread again. And the tins are a fantastic idea. I will be on the lookout for a breadbox or perhaps I can convince my husband to make us one for us.

Peggy
Peggy

I have another "bread clip" danger: they break dishwashers! Really! One very expensive service call later, I've learned my lesson. Muslin in Tin for me!

.-= Peggy´s last blog ..Super Bowl Sunday food =-.

Pheas
Pheas

I don't enjoy bread enough or consider it healthful enough to buy it, but I will occasionally bake it for a treat. I keep it in a glass container or wrapped in foil, then store it in the microwave. The latter is largely to preclude feline interference, but I presume it may have some of the qualities of a bread box. I often freeze half wrapped in foil because it is a challenge to eat it all in time.

Susie Collins
Susie Collins

Aloha Beth! I bake my own bread and after it cools, I wrap it in a pretty cotton kitchen towel-- I have towels dedicated to this use only. When I give loaves away to friends, I give it away in a towel-- later the friends usually return the towel, it works out well. I live in high humidity (Hawaii) and the bread stays moist for about five days in the towel. But it's usually all eaten by then anyway! I'd love to find an old fashioned bread box.

.-= Susie Collins´s last blog ..More blogging canaries =-.

Susie Collins
Susie Collins

Aloha Beth! I bake my own bread and after it cools, I wrap it in a pretty cotton kitchen towel-- I have towels dedicated to this use only. When I give loaves away to friends, I give it away in a towel-- later the friends usually return the towel, it works out well. I live in high humidity (Hawaii) and the bread stays moist for about five days in the towel. But it's usually all eaten by then anyway! I'd love to find an old fashioned bread box. .-= Susie Collins´s last blog ..More blogging canaries =-.

Jay Sinha
Jay Sinha

Great post, Beth. Yikes, just seeing that Wonder Bread makes me cringe. Your timing is pretty incredible. We just got in a bread bag made of 45% organic cotton, and 55% organic hemp, and it will be available on our website next week. One of the coolest features of them is that they are made locally by our belly dancing friend, Tracy. We've been trying one out ourselves and it keeps the bread nicely crisp on the outside and moist on the inside for a couple of days, but then it does start getting quite hard - great idea to use a tin to retain that moist freshness. We'll do that. Yes, I totally agree, we have so much to learn from the old days.

Amber
Amber

I have used just a cloth bag, and it's good for a day or two (like paper). I never considered putting the cloth bag inside something else, though, that's a great idea! .-= Amber´s last blog ..There’s No Time Like the Present =-.

MicheleP
MicheleP

I'm with Andrea. Artisan Bread in Five MInutes has changed my bread life, too! Have been using old reused plastic to store, but will try Beth's popcorn tin method. I have recently purchased several of them at the local Goodwill for storage and bulk shopping, but hadn't thought to store bread in them.

Ashley
Ashley

@Rob... We bought a bread box and kept forgetting that the bread was in there. When we'd clean it out to start over, our pet bird would take up residence in it and begin to nest. Our bread now lives in the fridge to keep it lasting longer (and to keep us from forgetting it). .-= Ashley´s last blog ..New Recycling Center Opens =-.

Ashley
Ashley

I thought about you and your blog today at work... having a dozen kiddies run up with their valentines in plastic bags (also had that Canvas Bag song playing all day in my head, but that's another story). I'm going to have to ask the local bakery about bringing my own "container" for bread. I adore their bread but other than the bird, we don't eat bread that often so running to the bakery for bread that we would never finish didn't make sense. I would consider switching and even sharing with the bird if I could get it at the local shop sans plastic. :)

Sharon
Sharon

Thanks Beth. I really like the way you have step by step pictures and story. You make it much easier for me take the actions and you make it doable. I very much appreciate what you are doing as I care about nature and want to do my best. I am always trying to think of ways to do things better and you help with your work.

Sue
Sue

Great idea...now I need to find a niced sized tin. If you ever want to make your own bread this is seriously the easiest and best recipe ever: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/Artisan-Bread-In-Five-Minutes-A-Day.aspx Anyone can make it and if you do the large amount then you can create 8 loaves of fresh bread a week. If not it can be stored in your fridge until you use it up. It's really the best...:) Thanks again for the great tip!

Taina
Taina

Great post. Cool idea about the tins! Yesssss!

Rob
Rob

I have no tricks on keeping bread fresh, Let alone a tupperware (which is not something you would use) . I reuse bags over and over to keep bread fresh. And I keep my bread in a bread box. (as in is it bigger than a) I bought my bread box off of ebay, Because ie reminded me of the one that sat on my grandma's counter for years. And like grandma I find i keep a variety of items in it! But sadly know no ways to keep bread fresh, other than the ones you already mentioned. .-= Rob´s last blog ..What's your Swede Furniture Name? =-.

LInda Anderson
LInda Anderson

I have a bread drawer that is part of my cabinets. It is lined with metal but I don't think it is air tight so I keep the bread in a -----PLASTIC BAG! I know that is terrible since I blog about getting rid of plastic. I use the same bag all the time, but I need to find a different way to keep bread in the drawer, maybe cloth that is tightly woven. We always make our own bread in a bread machine. When that breaks, I will make it by hand as I use to do 15 years ago. .-= LInda Anderson´s last blog ..February's Stupid Plastic Crap =-.

EcoYogini
EcoYogini

How weird! I JUST wrote a post about our first attempts at making bread... without ANY mixers. And how happy I was with the process (especially since I am SO far from a baker). I was thinking about how to preserve my bread without wrapping plastic-saran wrap around it (ick!). I have some cloth that would be perfect and now just need a tin or bread box :) also- as an aside, in elementary school we had a drive to collect "un million milli" which means 1 million bread bag clips (I went to a French school). It took from grade primary until grade 6 or 8, and then they were all recycled. seriously, I have no idea who thought up the idea on how to teach children the concept of one million..... but counting all those "milli" were a pain in the butt. at least they were recycled... :S .-= EcoYogini´s last blog ..Making Bread Sans Electrical Mixing Devices =-.

Erika
Erika

You never want to store bread in the fridge - either at room temperature, or in the freezer. I have a friend who goes through very little bread. She buys a loaf, slices it up, then pops all the slices into the freezer. Whenever she wants a slice, she just thaws it out! So clever! Thrift stores are an awesome place to buy bread machines, too. I bought mine at a thrift store for $7 and WOW have I gotten my money's worth! And never use pre-packaged bread machine bread mixes. Always just use flour and yeast and stuff, there are tons of bread machine recipes. .-= Erika´s last blog ..A Tale of Two Increases =-.

Sonja
Sonja

All the bread you get at the local bakeries gets wrapped in paper when you take it home. Everybody I know (including me) always stores bread in a bread box, it works best all around. So I was surprised to read in that wikipedia article that bread boxes "used" to be common. I have one made out of wood (and some plastic :-(); my mother has one made out of some kind of metal. The only household I know that has no breadbox is so big that they eat one loaf per day, thus having no need for it :-) Somtimes we also freeze a loaf, it keeps quite a while.

susanna eve
susanna eve

We have a tin bread box:) I do buy a lot of bread in plastic bags. But there is one local bakery that sells its bread in paper bags at the farmers' market and in plastic bags in some of the grocery stores. I cannot local non wheat bread except in a plastic bag with a twist tie:( It is almost impossible to get my 18 year old son to eat anything that I am wiling to buy so bread and bagels in plastic bags are not going to be gone from my house anytime soon. Great post though and I'll have to see about storing more bread not in plastic. I do freeze a lot of the non wheat bread and I haven't figured out a way to do that without plastic bags.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Andrea, thanks for letting me know about the campaign against unpackaged bread. Do you think you'd be able to find some info on it or ask your husband where he heard it? .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Eating Ice Cream for Breakfast — Plastic-Free & Zero Waste =-.

Julia (Color Me Green)
Julia (Color Me Green)

i'm like erin and keep my bread in my freezer because normally it will go stale before we can eat a whole loaf of my homemade bread. but i like this cloth idea - i might try that inside my bread box to see if it will last longer than just being in the bread box alone. thanks. .-= Julia (Color Me Green)´s last blog ..On- and Off-line Friends, and Crockpot Soup =-.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Perry, you should write my posts for me. They'd be much more succinct... and funny. Thanks for the laugh today. I needed it.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Thank you Pierre. Just added the page to Fake Plastic Fish page. Great campaign.

Trackbacks

  1. Carnival of the Green # 214! at EcoStreet - A walk down EcoStreet is a step in the green direction. says:

    […] At home While it doesn’t seem like a green post at first, Case Ernsting writes about Modernizing the Home Office, wanting us to keep one phrase in mind when redesigning : Simple. Modern designs focus on simplifying interior designs and staying natural and using eco-friendly materials are included his strategy. For a round up of eco-gadgets and energy saving in the home, check out Ethical Superstore. When Brenda Pike ended up with a broken thermometer and mercury all over the place, she turned to the EPA for advice on how to clean it up safely. Here’s how. We know plastic bags are not so great for the environment. But did you know the plastic clips on bread bags can actually be lethal? Here’s a way to keep bread fresh without any plastic at all. Fake Plastic Fish gives us Bread: Buy it, store it, keep it fresh without plastic. […]

  2. […] Plastic Bread Tags, Twist Ties, and Those Little Plastic Rings You Pull Out of  Juice and Milk Cartons – One day I walked […]

  3. B1 with Earth » Blog Archive » News: Carnival of the Green # 214! says:

    […] At homeWhile it doesn’t seem like a green post at first, Case Ernsting writes aboutModernizing the Home Office, wanting us to keep one phrase in mind when redesigning : Simple. Modern designs focus on simplifying interior designs and staying natural and using eco-friendly materials are included his strategy.For a round up ofeco-gadgets and energy savingin the home, check out Ethical Superstore.When Brenda Pike ended up with a broken thermometer and mercury all over the place, she turned to the EPA for advice on how to clean it up safely.Here’s how.We know plastic bags are not so great for the environment. But did you know the plastic clips on bread bags can actually be lethal? Here’s a way to keep bread fresh without any plastic at all. Fake Plastic Fish gives usBread: Buy it, store it, keep it fresh without plastic. […]