The Best Thing Since Unsliced Bread
Let's talk about sliced bread. The expression "the best thing since sliced bread" has been a benchmark that's been thrown around for decades. I'm going to go out on a limb and just say it: it's time to go back and embrace... unsliced bread.
For all us bread lovers out there, we’ve likely taken sliced bread for granted. I know I grew up on PB&J, pulling out the slices of bread from the plastic bags after school and not thinking twice about it. Mothers have praised the soft slices as easy lunches that can be slapped together before the start of a busy day. But, to keep sliced bread fresh you need plastic bags. And, if you eat a lot of bread, that means a lot of plastic bags.
As a mom of two school-aged kids, I get it. I get why bagged sliced bread is so attractive—it’s convenient and easy to find in grocery stores. But as I became more and more concerned about our household waste, I began to realize how bread bags were a big part of my family's waste stream. Whether the bags were heading to soft plastics recycling or the dump, I knew it was a problem we needed to tackle.
So here it is, after testing out different methods of storage, I would like to present you with the best ways my family gets around sliced bread and the plastic bags that come with it.
4 Tips to Help you Avoid Sliced Bread in Plastic Bags
1. Getting Around the Slices
Ok, so this is probably the most challenging part, at least for me. It was so hard to wrap my head around cutting my own bread. As it turns out, the key here is a good serrated bread knife, a little practice, and finding unsliced bread that you love. I found that once I cut a few loaves of bread, I could achieve a thickness I really liked. Also, it didn't actually take that much more time!
Finding bread that my whole family enjoyed was a little more trial and error. I live in Vancouver and landed on The Flourist, Livia and Terra Breads for the quality of bread and their proximity to my life. I would love to hear where you buy your package-free bread in the comments below!
The other option to finding great bread is making it yourself! I take my hat off to all of you sourdough starter superheroes who are making our world a better place one loaf of sourdough at a time. There are more and more workshops popping up on how to make great bread, and perhaps one day this kind of DIY living will fit with my life. If not this life, maybe the next one.
2. Tackling Bread Freshness
There was a lot of trial and error keeping bread fresh in my household without single-use plastic. Here are some solutions I found:
Bread bags, like the ones from Dans Le Sac, are a beautiful way to keep loaves of bread fresh when they are whole. Once sliced, the exposed end will still get a little crusty and over time the whole loaf will start to harden.
Bread boxes are classic, old fashioned metal boxes that are an attractive way to keep loaves fresh. But again, any exposed and sliced bread will stale relatively quickly. However, if combined with a bread bag, or another method mentioned below, the bread box is quite successful.
Beeswax food wrap (like Abeego) was by far the most impressive way to store bread and keep slice after slice fresh and fluffy. Once the loaves were cut, I would wrap the end with my beeswax food wrap, then secure it with an old rubber elastic or string before putting it in a bread bag or bread box. BeeBAGZ carries a large beeswax bag that can be used independently to keep bread fresh as well.
Reusing old bread bags is also an effective way to divert plastic bags from the landfill, in addition to keeping your unsliced bread from getting stale quickly. Simply wash the bags with soap and water, and lay them out to dry. The Soap Dispensary in Vancouver carries a variety of bag drying stands at different price points.
3. Keep the Slices, Lose the Plastic
Bakeries like Livia and Terra Breads will slice your bread for you and put it in your reusable bread bag so you can have your sliced bread plastic-free! Check to see which bakeries near you also have a bread slicer.
4. Don't be too Hard on Yourself
At our house we’re still working on our zero-waste mission and sliced bread in plastic bags still shows up every so often. Take it in baby steps and don’t feel like you have to do it all perfectly. Find what works for you!
And, just remember, every time you don't buy bread in a plastic bag there is one less bag in the world. You got this.
Emily Sproule is the founder of Jarr, a mom of two young school age children and an environmentalist doing the best she can with the time she has. Emily lives in East Vancouver, is passionate about business as a force for change and is excited to bring package-free grocery delivery to the city she lives in.