Logo: Close up of fresh sliced loaf of bread (Adam Gault-OJO Images-Getty Images)
When Hostess Brands announced the imminent shutdown of the Hostess bakeries earlier this month, people seemed to be more upset about a world without Twinkies than about the loss of 18,500 jobs.

Resellers were asking as much as $60 a box for the spongy little cakes. Anyone who paid that much may kick themselves later, since the Hostess brands could be acquired by other companies.

Frugalists also have reason to mourn: Hostess-affiliated bakery outlets will be closing, too. That means no more discounted sandwich breads, bagels, hamburger buns, English muffins and other cheap carbs.

Fortunately, there's more than one way to get marked-down bread -- and lots of frugal, tasty ways to use it.

For starters, any supermarket with an in-store bakery probably has a "yesterday's baked goods" rack. Expect discounts of 50% or more on all sorts of breads.

Hostess isn't the only company with thrift stores. Use these locator tools to search for bakery outlets near you:

Local or regional baking companies have outlet stores, too. Check the Yellow Pages, either actual or virtual, for "bakery outlet" or "bread outlet."

Use it all

The lineup varies from day to day in both supermarkets and bakery outlets. Any time you see something you use a lot of, get a couple of extras to freeze. Some outlets mark down the bread as it gets closer to the sell-by date, so look for a "last chance" shelf.

Suppose you can't use a loaf quickly enough. Don't toss it! All bread -- even slightly stale bread -- is needed and loved. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

1. Toast it.
Make a grilled sandwich, or use it for French toast when you serve breakfast for dinner.

2. Make bread pudding.
As a savory side dish or a sweet dessert, this is a simple way to use up old bread. I like to add cinnamon and either diced apples or frozen berries.

3. Make croutons. The basic process is to toss bread cubes in seasoned butter or oil and then toast until crisp.  Do a Bing search for "easy homemade croutons" and you'll never pay for those things again. Try them on soup, since they make even canned tomato bisque a lot more interesting. Speaking of which…

4. Add to onion soup.
Toss small, thick slices of toasted bread (and cheese, if you want it) into the bowl before you pour in the onion broth. Not an onion fan? Then why not . . .

5. Make bread soup
This Tuscan dish, which is all the rage among foodies, can be as simple or elaborate as you like.

6. Use under meatloaf.
Stale bread placed in the bottom of the pan will absorb much of the fat during baking.

Tearing it up

7. Make stuffing mix.
Cut bread into cubes and allow them to dry out. Freeze until the next time you roast poultry. Or sauté onion and celery in a little butter, add seasonings and broth, and stir in bread crumbs to make a side dish for tonight’s dinner.

8. Make bread crumbs.
Cut off the crusts and leave the slices on plates or cookie sheets until they dry out. Grind them in a food processor. Use the results in meat loaf, or to coat foods before frying or baking. Store the crumbs in the freezer.

9. Make suet cakes.
If you're a committed feeder of birds, you know this stuff can get expensive. Recipes vary widely; a Bing search for "homemade suet" shows ingredients such as peanut butter, bread crumbs, lard, oats, black sunflower seeds, flour, raisins, shortening and nuts. Here's the simplest one I've ever heard of: Mix finely ground bread crumbs with chunky peanut butter and smear the mixture on pine cones.

10. Clean the coffee grinder.
The Thrifty Fun website recommends running a quartered slice of bread through the grinder to clean out coffee-bean residue. The post also suggests throwing the resulting bread crumbs out for the birds. Of course, that might make them too jittery to eat the suet cakes.

Readers:
How do you use old bread?

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