Get the most from your loaf with these dough-saving tips.

By Sarah Zorn
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It's a well-known saying that bread is life. But how do we breathe extra life into our bread? It's a bummer to pull out a recently-purchased loaf, only to find that it's already tooth shatteringly stale, or riddled throughout with mold.

The shelf life of truly fresh (read: preservative-free) bread tends to be a fleeting two to three days. But that doesn't mean you need to carb-load in order to appreciate that crusty sourdough boule or spindly French baguette.

How to Keep Bread Fresh Longer

The first step, if you're storing bread on the counter, is to leave it in the paper wrapping it probably came in, covered with another paper bag if needed to swaddle the cut or exposed end. But whatever you do, resist the urge to coffin it in plastic. It may seem like a smart move, but the truth is, it prevents the bread from breathing and traps in moisture, encouraging mold spores to propagate faster. And be sure not to set it near heat-releasing appliances, like ovens or dishwashers.

For countertop storage, bread boxes are another good bet (as the name would suggest) for housing bread. Not only can they be an attractive bit of additional kitchen décor — such as this rubber wood box, 1950s-style container, sleek stainless steel model, and clever expandable option — they effectively let out air, all while keeping your bread safely closeted from pests.

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If you don't feel comfortable keeping your bread out, think twice before stashing it in your refrigerator. The heat the fridge gives off causes bread to dry out, while the moisture retained activates mold. The best thing you can do to truly prolong the life of your bread is to keep it in the freezer. Slicing it first (or at least, cutting it into big chunks), allows you to remove portions as necessary, so you don't run into the same problem of handling a whole loaf of bread. In this case, you can store your bread in plastic. Use either freezer bags or sheets of plastic wrap, to keep away ice crystals, prevent freezer burn, and get a tight seal. Remove the plastic when defrosting, so the moisture doesn't leach on to your bread, or stick it directly in an oven or toaster, for warm, fragrant bread that looks and tastes as good as new.

Ways to Use Leftover Bread

Looking for ways to make use of leftover bread? Tear off crusty chunks for this Easy French Toast Casserole, coated with a creamy custard spiced with cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar. Toss it in the food processor for a batch of all-purpose Toasted Breadcrumbs. Slick cubes of bread with tapenade, for Olive Croutons that are as enjoyable when eaten solo as they are strewn atop soups and salads. Or make bread the star of the dish in this rustic, Italian Panzanella, moistened with chopped tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and onions.

Once you've got a handle on proper storage, you can get a lot more bang for your buck — and your bread.