Every so often I stop by the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop near my apartment. Not to buy a sandwich, though: To spend 50 cents on one of yesterday’s baguettes, which I call “calypso bread.”
That’s because it’s day-old.
Any of you who aren’t laughing yet, follow this link. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Yeah, the pun is egregious (all the best puns are) but the bread is quite good. Unlike a traditional French baguette, its crust isn’t rock-hard the next day. It’s nice and chewy, and it went quite nicely with the soup I made this week out of the bones of that desecrated turkey.
Calypso bread, from a sandwich shop or a bakery outlet, can be a frugalist’s best friend. When I see per-loaf prices in the supermarket I wonder how working people can afford to pack lunches. I feel sorry for those who don’t live near bread outlets.
More than sandwich slices
Some folks are shocked to learn that I buy bread this way. Maybe they think “bakery outlet” means “riddled with mold.” But I grew up thinking that this was normal, because my mother would buy and freeze up to a dozen discounted loaves at a clip.
The outlet store in my neighborhood carries many varieties of bread plus rolls, bagels, cookies, English muffins, coffee, fancy mustards and jams, potato chips, and Bob’s Red Mill baking products. And, damn their eyes, Entenmann’s chocolate doughnuts.
Some is within a day of its sell-by dates, but some has four to six days left on the clock. I’ve seen stuff older than that in supermarkets – at full price. Here, though, costs range from 99 cents to $1.69 per loaf. I pay $1.29 for a 20-ounce bag of flour tortillas.
How can it be so cheap? Bread, even the kind saturated in preservatives, has a fairly short shelf life. That clock is ticking before the loaf is cool enough to put in a bag.
Here’s the thing, though: Bread freezes well. Buy the cheapest kind you can and put it on ice, then take out two slices at a time to pack your lunch.
The “used bread” store
Incidentally, “cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean “white bread.” You’ll find some pretty hearty whole-grain varieties shoulder to shoulder with Wonder Bread and Bimbo (I love that name) Pan Blanco.
In fact, the bakery outlet is a good way to try new varieties. Tuna salad or ham and cheese on whole wheat are pretty good, but an onion roll or some dark rye makes those brown bag lunches a little more interesting.
And if that rye turns out to be a little too dark for your suburban palate? Well, then you’re out only $1.29 instead of the four bucks you could expect to pay at the supermarket.
A couple of other tips:
- See if there’s a punch-card program. Locally, you get a stamp for every $2 you spend. (Clerks have been generous about stamping even a $1.19 purchase.) Ten stamps will get you a free Oroweat product – or an Entenmann’s one. Double-damn their eyes!
- Ask about senior discounts or any other promotions (e.g., “double stamp Wednesday”).
- Watch for coupons. Once or twice a year this outlet sends out mailers with a couple of BOGOs and a coupon for one free loaf, no purchase necessary. Most of my neighbors tossed theirs into the lobby recycle bin. Guess who gets a whole bunch of free bread when this happens?
- Shop carefully. For example, all the tortillas are the same price but some bags hold 11 ounces and others 20 ounces.
- The older bread gets, the cheaper it becomes. You might save 40 or 50 cents on the same brand if you buy it from the “last chance” shelf. Again: Just stick it in the freezer.
Seriously: Get over your squeamishness. Make a joke of it if you must. Call it a thrift store for bread. A friend of mine calls it the “used bread store.” But get over yourself. Look online or – retro! – in the Yellow Pages to see if there are any outlets near you.
Why spend $4 a loaf if you can get it for $1.39? That adds up to some serious savings if you go through several loaves a week. (Hi there, all you parents of teenagers!)
The money you save can prop other parts of your budget. That is, unless you choose to spend it all on Entenmann’s.