Calypso bread.

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.


Daaaaaaa-aaaay 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.

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  1. Okay, I’m sold! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the name you’ve chosen…calypso bread….

    I presently buy all of my bread at BJ’s. It’s about 20% cheaper, however, I wouldn’t mind finding a bread outlet and stocking up…

    Every penny counts, and thank you so much for sharing all of you awesome trade secrets to frugality!! I’ll be watching and reading very closely! 🙂

  2. Elizabeth

    Growing up my mom would purchase 22 loaves at a time of whole wheat bread at the bread outlet and put 21 directly into the deep freeze. My teenage brothers ate more than their share and the family would polish off a loaf at breakfast and another with the sandwiches we’d take in our brown bag school lunches. (Private schools – no hot lunch).
    A few years ago I lived in a city with a bread outlet, but was crushed to reluctantly admit that it was in an area just too dangerous for me to responsibly enter.
    No bread outlets near me now. 🙁 However, like you, I have found that regular grocery stores just try to sell their products right up to and even past the “sell by” date. I’ve complained to Dominicks (local Safeway store) about past dates on their shelves. If I’m going to buy bread close to dates, I want it at bread outlet prices! And, in all fairness to Dominicks, there was never a quality problem until Safeway bought them out. Safeway definitely has lower quality store brands and the stores just aren’t the same quality – trying to sell past-dated bread for full price on many occasions?!?!?

  3. priskill

    Calypso bread — HA! I love all the frugal suggestions and you make it fun and witty. . .

    I also check the clearance rack at my major groceries (Vons and Ralphs, here in SoCal) and find all kinds of good stuff, including bakery items (No Entenmman’s, sigh). The breads can be great but selection is dicey since demand seems to be outpacing supply these days — I have to elbow my way in to snag those marked down french loaves or whole wheat bagels . Best discovery ? Fancy pants pink champagne for $6.00, suitable for guzzling. I mean gifting. Less than half off the original price, and most of it went to presents, except for the portions that were sacrificed to quality control. Yup, we threw ourselves in front of the bubbly because We Care !

  4. Hard to believe but I got that! This is the one that I thought of, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPuRCetlHvc

    Now all I need is the day old store for milk!

  5. Donna Freedman

    @Sharon, Priskill: What’s life without puns? I ask you. (Anyone who doesn’t appreciate them can sue me for pun-itive damages.)
    @SonyaAnn: I was actually going to link to that, too, and maybe to the one in which Harry Belafonte sings on the Muppet Show. But the article was getting kind of long. Thanks for posting it — and those who haven’t seen “Beetlejuice,” rent it. It’s pretty darned funny. And boy, doesn’t Alec Baldwin look young and skinny in it?
    Thanks to all for reading.

  6. Susan

    I love your blog–thanks for all the thrifty tips!
    You can search for a bread outlet store near you at

  7. Donna Freedman

    @Susan: Thanks for the link. Those who use it should keep in mind that it’s for one particular chain of bakery outlets. I put in my zip code and it said there were no outlets within 10 miles of my apartment. In fact, there is one, and it’s only about a mile away. But it’s for a different chain.
    The link is very useful. However, if it doesn’t show anything in your area — and even if it does — you should still check the Yellow Pages or a search engine. There could be more than one place to shop, if you’re lucky.
    Thanks for reading.

  8. Oh man–I need to introduce to a group of my Facebook friends that I’ve lovingly dubbed as the “punsters.” You would so fit in with them!

  9. Tracy

    Cool. I started making sourdough last fall. Recently I realized that I can make up the dough on the weekend and leave it in the fridge until I want to let it rise for a few hours and bake it. Works for me!

  10. My grocery store of choice runs a weekly special on a particular brand of bread. $1.19 is hard to beat, especially when they have the Honey Cracked Wheat on sale. It’s good stuff.

  11. Love your articles but have trouble keeping up w/them cause one
    leads to another so they all go into a saved file w/your name so
    sometime I can actually get to read them all, if I live long enough.

    My granddaughter age 6 still has to have the crust cut off the
    sides of her sandwiches, great in bread puddin’ for me, but she
    loves the heels. Go figure. I’m not telling her that it is one
    big edge of her bread. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt my budget
    nor her mom’s.

    Keep up the good work, donna, very informative and a joy to

  12. donna gagne

    They make good French Toast also. If one is very “not inclined to
    eat ends make sure the bread side is up when you put it on the dish. Hopefully they will be so taken with the sweet stuff on it
    that they won’t even notice the other side. Have a nice day, donna.


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