If you buy bread at the store, it may not taste as good as homemade bread. However, it typically lasts much longer. Store-bought bread in the plastic wrapper could easily last a week and sometimes longer, assuming it was just made. Yet homemade bread lasts two to three days if stored in ideal conditions.
Why does it go bad so much faster? And what can you do about it? The biggest reason homemade bread develops mold much sooner is that it doesn’t normally contain the many preservatives that factory-made bread does. This list includes but is not limited to sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, and calcium propionate. These preservatives are found in bakery bread, bread loaves, and sandwich bread bought at the store.
If your bread is going moldy much faster than expected, you could have mold spores in the bread box. That’s often the case if the issue just started occurring, and the issue is more likely in wood bread boxes.
In this case, you can try to clean out the bread box, disinfect it with toxic cleaners, let it dry, and then resume using it. Or you can replace the bread box with a clean one.
Always ensure that the bread box is clean of crumbs and other debris, since rot on these food particles will spread to anything you put in it. Wrapping the bread in a plastic wrapper before you store helps minimize contact with moldy food and the shedding of crumbs that become moldy. You can also wrap it in foil.
What Causes Homemade Bread to Go Bad Faster?
Heat dries it out and fosters mold and bacterial growth when it is still wet. Light helps some mold grow. High humidity fuels fungal growth. Unfortunately, if you put the bread in the fridge, you’ll dry it out.
Freezing it will stop the clock so to speak. The bread is good if stored in an air-tight bag or container, and it can remain frozen without affecting the texture for up to three months.
Another factor that can contribute to homemade bread going bad faster is the trend toward gluten-free bread. You can find plenty of bread containing gluten at the store.
If your body can’t tolerate gluten, you either have to hunt for stores that sell it or make your own gluten-free bread. Gluten-free bread is more prone to mold than conventional bread.
The general reason is its higher moisture content. That’s why these bread are often sold frozen to clients even when they have preservatives, though these manufacturers tend to avoid preservatives as well.
In these cases, your best option is to keep the bread frozen until you’re ready to use it. Remove the part you want to thaw out and use in the next 48 hours and return the rest of the loaf to the freezer.
If you make your own gluten-free bread, you can minimize bread by making it and promptly freezing it.
How Can You Extend the Usability of Homemade Bread?
Store the bread in an airtight plastic bag like the ones you see at the store. This won’t prevent mold particles in the air from causing mold to grow on it, but it will stay soft as long as possible. Store it in a cool dark place like a bread box to maximize its life.
Anything that fosters bacterial growth will cause the bread to go bad faster. This means you don’t want to add butter to the top of your loaf and then let everything sit out overnight.
It means you don’t want to add sugar or icing to the top of your bread or muffins unless you’re about to eat them.
You might be able to cover it overnight and eat it in the morning, but don’t let homemade sugar-icing cinnamon rolls sit in the bread box for three days. You could be made sick eating it at that point.
You could use the refrigerated dough for biscuits and rolls. The store-bought dough contains preservatives, but it is also protected by the container and the cold.
That can last for weeks, though the oils inside of it will eventually go rancid. Make the rolls right before you eat them, and you don’t have to worry about them going bad. On the flipside, dough containing eggs and milk is very perishable.
Always keep it in the fridge if you aren’t going to use it immediately, and never let it sit out at room temperature unless you’re about to stick it in the oven.
How Can You Naturally Extend the Life of Your Bread?
In theory, adding salt will help kill bacteria and mold, but that alters the texture and flavor of the loaf. An easy alternative is to make sourdough bread.
The lactobacilli bacteria that make the sourdough bread rise creates lactic and acetic acid. On one hand, this makes the bread sour, hence the name.
On the other hand, it is a natural preservative. The impact is noticeable though not as great as modern preservatives. While homemade white bread may last up to 3 days, sourdough bread can last four to five days at room temperature if stored properly. In short, you’re getting an extra one to two days to use it.
Note that sourdough bread can grow mold, too. When you have sourdough bread, you have to pay attention for signs of mold growth like a worsening smell or altered appearance. If you see mold on it, discard the whole loaf.
If you decide to store bread in the fridge to extend its life, make sure there is no visible moisture in the bag. If there is, the cool temperatures plus humidity will cause it to go bad faster.
What About Other Bread Products?
Dried bread products like bread crumbs and crackers can last weeks in a sealed bag and days exposed to the air because they lack moisture, and mold needs that to grow.
This is, ironically, why bread dried out in the fridge may not grow mold as fast as one just left on the shelf. If you plan on using home-made bread in a recipe such as stuffing or bread pudding, dry it out in the oven before you store it for later use.
Once you use the bread in the recipe, consume the food immediately or treat it like any other leftovers.