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How your stale bread can save you money and the planet

Stale bread and old crusts might not seem like the most appetising dinner, but you’d be surprised! Mim Skinner, one of the directors of food waste diversion project ReFuse, shares some inventive ways to use up bread that’s past its best.

Panzanella (bread salad)

Chop up stale bread into chunks and mix into a salad. Works best with tomatoes and an olive oil dressing made by simply whisking together one part red or white wine vinegar with two parts olive oil. Or for more of a crunch, bake the chunks on a low heat in the oven to make croutons.

Breadcrumb topping

Chop or blend the bread into chunky crumbs and use to add a crunchy top to shepherd’s pie, fish or pasta bake.

Pain Perdue

The French name for eggy-bread - it means lost bread! Dip the bread slice in a mixture of egg, milk, vanilla extract and sugar, then fry in a little butter. Delicious served with fruit, or banana and chocolate.


Breadcrumbs will make your mincemeat go a lot further when making beef burgers but you can use practically anything to make a patty. Try potato, bacon, shredded chicken, old vegetables or fish. Just add your chosen ingredient, along with one egg, then add enough breadcrumbs to form the mixture into burger shapes. Fry in

shallow oil and serve with ketchup on a bun. For other brilliant recipe ideas using leftovers visit

Use your loaf: top tips

  • Bread looking old? Cover the crust of a loaf with a little water, then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. It will taste as fresh and crunchy as when you first bought it!
  • Store bread in a cool, dry place, ideally a sealed bag in the bread bin. Don’t put it in the fridge: it goes stale quicker.
  • A good way not to waste bread is to put it in the freezer. When storing in the freezer, make sure it is wrapped. You can put slices straight in the toaster from frozen!

Counting the cost of our binned bread

Each day up to 44% of bread baked in the UK is binned. If you stacked it end to end, it would be 27 times the height of Everest. Every single day.

To make one slice of bread, 40 litres of water are needed. Most of this water is for producing wheat. This means a loaf of bread requires 1,250 litres of water, the equivalent of 25 showers.

So, UK bread waste is responsible for 960 million litres of water every day, 400 Olympic size swimming pools.

Feeding bellies, not bins!

In the North East alone, over 800,000 tonnes of food waste are generated every year. That’s over a third of food produced for us to eat. ReFuse thinks that’s rubbish and is on a mission to change things.

This not-for-profit project in Chester-le-Street collects and rescues food that would otherwise go to waste and redirects it towards the local community. It runs a community café, a ‘Pay What You Decide’ social supermarket and free emergency food parcel deliveries. They also do ‘Waste Not Boxes’ that are stuffed full of store cupboard essentials and some fun surprises – from packets of Percy Pigs to flowers – for just £13.

With the support of a £8,500 grant from Karbon, the ReFuse team has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to redirect food to those most in need. Since the beginning of the crisis, they’ve rescued 102,535kg of food from going to waste and distributed 8,971 food parcels to households around County Durham, putting an estimated 65,000 meals on the table. They’ve also partnered with local charity Handcraft Projects, to cook thousands of hot meals for those who can’t afford fuel to cook or who are living in hostels with few facilities.

They’re passionate about feeding bellies not bins and raising awareness about how food waste contributes to climate change. If you’d like to hear more, find their primary school resources, or support their lock-down provision, head to

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27 April 2021

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