Not long ago, a friend came over while I was cleaning out the freezer. Ordinarily, that’s not a chore I’d do in front of anyone, but she did come by unannounced, and I already had the contents of the freezer piled on my kitchen counter. She got a chuckle out of my bag of bread heels. “You’re not going to serve anyone these things, are you?” she asked. Well, of course not. I don’t know anyone who actually like bread heels, aside from my dear departed grandmother who grew up during the Depression. Even then, I’m not convinced she actually liked the heels. I think, like me, she just hated the thought of wasting anything.
We’re so used to a surplus of foodstuff that it seems not only old-fashioned, but downright silly to save things no one wants to eat. Silly, that is, until your family faces a financial crisis as we have with my husband’s medical bills. Then it suddenly makes perfect sense to get every penny’s worth out of the food you buy! Knowing how to use kitchen scraps can extend your grocery budget several times over, particularly when it comes to bread heels. Here’s how.
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- Breadcrumbs Whether you use breadcrumbs in your meatloaf, as thickener in a soup, or sprinkled over vegetable dishes, it makes no sense to actually pay for them. Tear bread heels and crusts into small sections, dry them for 20 minutes or so in a 200F oven, then run them through the food processor. Want seasoned breadcrumbs? Toss in a tablespoon of Italian seasoning for every cup of breadcrumbs. Store them in an airtight container in the freezer and you’ll always have some on hand.
- Panzanella: Although this wonderful Panzanella recipe calls for a fresh loaf of bread, this recipe is actually a traditional Italian housewife way of using leftover bread crusts and heels. It’s also one of the most delicious salads imaginable!
- Croutons: Leftover heels and crusts can also be cut into cubes then brushed with seasoned butter (minced garlic, a little basil, oregano and dried parsley) and baked in a low oven until golden brown for delicious homemade croutons. Toss them on salad, scatter them over a nice tomato soup, or just eat them plain like my son. (Yes, the very same one who ordinarily won’t eat heels or crusts.)
- Save them for stuffing: Why pay for that box of stove top stuffing mix which is nothing more than dried bread crumbs, seasoning, and dehydrated stock? Make your own with 2 cups of leftover bread crumbs dried in the oven for 20 minutes at 200F. Season with 1 teaspoon each sage, thyme, marjoram, and savory, and add enough chicken broth to moisten.
- Bread pudding: A simple, microwaveable treat like this bread pudding becomes economical when you use bread heels you’ve saved in your freezer.
- Soften brown sugar: Next time you buy brown sugar, toss a bread heel in the bag after you’ve opened it. The bread will absorb any moisture and prevent your sugar from turning into rock hard lumps.
- Keep cookies soft: A particularly handy trick to know around the holiday involves tossing a piece of bread in your cookie container to keep homemade cookies as soft as the day you baked them.
- Get smudges off walls: Strange as it sounds, a piece of white bread (even the heel) does an amazing job of getting greasy fingerprints off walls. Just rub the smudge, then wipe it with a soft cloth.
Do you know other ways to save money by using bread heels or other kitchen scraps? Share with other Housewife How To readers in the comments below!