How to Store and Keep Bread Fresh Without Single-Use Plastic

Enough readers have asked me how to I store and keep bread fresh without plastic bags that I thought the question warranted its own post. Whether you bake bread or buy it from a bakery or grocery store in a reusable bag, these tips will help you keep it fresher longer and waste less of it.

Keep in mind: Sourdough bread keeps longer than its active dry yeast version

I have baked bread for most of my adult life. After going plastic-free, in a quest to buy as few ingredients as possible, I started to make sourdough with wild yeast I nurtured myself, rather than rely on store-bought active dry yeast to bake bread. Among its many benefits, wild yeast helps us foster some independence from Big Food.

Sourdough bread also keeps longer than homemade bread baked with active dry yeast and, in general, industrial bread, depending on the additives. (If it keeps forever, it’s not food. Real food rots.) As an added bonus, mold doesn’t develop on sourdough crust.

My sourdough stays fresh for about five days but we usually polish off a loaf in two days, maybe three. Sourdough—like all things fermented—helps preserve food and reduce food waste. Although delicious, the bread I used to bake with active dry yeast dried out the day after I baked it. I would make tasty croutons or breadcrumbs or bread pudding or french toast with it though.

Although I bake with wild yeast almost exclusively, my kids bake mostly with active dry yeast. These tips apply to those yeast breads also.

Store bread in the freezer

While I am the first to admit that bread and other foods freeze well in plastic, I’m the last person to use the stuff. I don’t want my food coming into contact with a plastic soup of toxins and I don’t want to contribute to the plastic soup in our oceans. Sure plastic makes life more convenient but at a huge cost to our very life support systems. I don’t mind going a bit out of my way to avoid the stuff.

To avoid plastic bags, I freeze whole loaves in homemade cloth produce bags. Sliced bread—not, in fact, the greatest thing—develops freezer burn around the edges when frozen in cloth. (This doesn’t happen with plastic bags but there is that whole life support systems thing.) I have a lifetime supply of rubber bands I collected during the before times (not those before times, my before plastic-free times) and I use these to close the bags.

I usually bake two loaves and, unless my kids are home, freeze one loaf for a couple of weeks at the longest (or give a loaf away). If I want bread in the morning, I’ll either remove a loaf from the freezer and place it on the counter the night before, or more often, very early in the morning when I first wake up.

Sourdough bread frozen in a cloth produce bags

Store bread at room temperature

I usually store bread made with active dry yeast on the counter in a cloth produce bag. With sourdough, I almost always simply store it cut-side down on a cutting board set on the counter unless I need the space to work, in which case the bread goes into a cloth produce bag.

Storing the bread cut-side down helps prevent the cut edge from drying out. The sourdough’s crusty exterior keeps the rest of the sourdough fresh. Over a day or two, we carve away at the bread until only crumbs remain.

However you store your fresh bread, keep it out of the refrigerator, where it will dry out.

Sourdough bread stored cut-side down on a wooden board

When your bread does dry out

Despite your best efforts, stale bread happens. You can either make some of the staples or dishes I mentioned earlier—croutons, breadcrumbs, bread pudding, french toast and so on—or you can revive the bread. I didn’t think the following trick would work the first time I tried it but it does.

  • Put the crust directly under a running tap—yes, directly under!—to get it sopping wet, avoiding the cut edges
  • Place the wet bread in a 300°F oven for about 7 minutes
  • If you accidentally soaked the cut sides, leave the bread in the oven for a few more minutes

The water will turn to steam inside the oven, which transforms your bread from stale back to scrumptious.

17 Replies to “How to Store and Keep Bread Fresh Without Single-Use Plastic”

  1. Wow! I never heard of the dousing method to freshen bread but I’ll keep it in mind. I usually store my sourdough in a linen kitchen towel on the counter.

    1. I was skeptical when my neighbor told me about this trick and it certainly seemed wrong to wet my bread the first time I tried it. But it works! Oh, a linen towel is an excellent choice also. Thanks for sharing that tip.

      1. I use a nice, pretty tea towel when I make bread and give it away as a gift. Mostly when I make Zopf. Looks a little like a wrapped baby. Sometimes people return the towel, or if they keep it, I am sure they use it.
        To freeze the bread I so far have still used plastic, used multiple times, but will try to use the cloth bags.

  2. Thank you for these great tips! I am definitely going to be trying the bread revival trick. I have a rectangular prism-shaped metal container that has a rubber seal to keep it air tight that I use as a bread box. I can fit six large bolillos that I get package free from my neighborhood Mexican bakery, or a whole loaf of my homemade sourdough.

    1. My pleasure! Thank you for your tip about the container/breadbox. I wish every neighborhood had a bakery like yours that offers package-free goodies.

  3. Are the waxed food wraps good for keeping bread fresh?

    1. I haven’t tried that but I think it would work. You could wrap the cut end of the loaf with one.

  4. Putting a loaf in a cloth bag to freeze! That never occurred to me. 😀 Thank you for the great tips, as always.

  5. Thank you for the tip on the cloth bag to freeze bread…wetting the loaf is something my mother taught me to revive the freshness it just goes stale that bit quicker I find but generally we eat it all anyway.

  6. Youare right. I wouldn’t believe that would work. Not sure I can stomach it though. Soggy bread. Bread pudding. Bleck. Your loaf looks beautiful.

  7. Tips for keeping bread fresh without plastic are better. Thank you 😊🌍

    1. My pleasure! Thank you for checking them out.

  8. I have a steam oven would just placing bread in that work or do you have to dose it ?

    1. Hi Mary,
      Wow, I would love to bake in a steam oven! I haven’t tried this in one but I would think it would certainly help. I’d try it without wetting the bread and see how it works.

  9. Lots of great info! I would have never thought of some of these methods but will definitely try them!

  10. We’ve been baking all sorts of bread this summer instead of buying and I am excited to try the cloth bag method for storing or freezing. Thank you!

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