Store Bread in a Bread Box

Drawing of a bread box
Household Arts for Home and School, Vol. 2 (1920)

Images sometimes jog memories of things that have been totally forgotten. I recently was browsing through a hundred-year-old home economics textbook and came across a drawing of a bread box. Suddenly memories of my parents stainless steel bread box came flooding back. And, then I remembered my Aunt’s white plastic bread box that had flower decals on it. . . . and our neighbor’s wooden roll-top bread box. Back then almost everyone had a bread box. Today, I don’t think any of my friends have one.

I’ve never owned a bread box, and just put plastic-wrapped loaves of bread on the kitchen counter. Are bread boxes just an old-fashioned way of storing bread, or do they help maintain quality?

Here’s what the old home economics textbook had to say:

Bread may be made ever so carefully, but if it is not properly cared for may not be palatable. After they have been cooled the loaves should be put into a clean tin bread box (Fig. 133). Before each baking the bread box should be washed thoroughly, scalded, and aired. Scraps of bread should never be allowed to accumulate, and under no circumstances should bread be allowed to mold in the box. Mold sometimes occurs when bread is wrapped in a cloth or when a cloth is used to line the box. Clean white paper makes a better lining.

Household Arts for Home and School (Vol. 2) (1920) by Anna M. Cooley and Wilhelmina H. Spohr

74 thoughts on “Store Bread in a Bread Box

  1. I never put bread in plastic. I think it removes much of the aroma and freshness, and it invites the mold. Since I’m a one-person household I always spend several days using up my loaf, so storage considerations are vital. When I freeze down bread, I put it in an open plastic bag, otherwise it will deteriorate in the freezer air, but it should be open. I don’t have a breadbox, mainly because it takes up too much space, I think. But I have a nice confined space for bread in my pantry, where it won’t harden too fast.

    1. I never thought about it until I read your comment, but you’re right – I never see old-fashioned lunch boxes anymore. It seems like take-out foods, and lunch tote bags and various types of plastic boxes with dividers, have replaced them.

  2. And along with the bread boxes, there were the cake and pie safes. I still can remember the traditional joshing between my dad and his mother:
    Dad: “Is there any cake left?”
    Grandma: “It’s in the safe.”
    Dad: “You know no cake is safe around me.”

  3. My mom’s kitchen was outfitted in the mid-1950s – she had a suite of yellow metal canisters (flour, sugar, tea) and a matching breadbox. She kept plastic-wrapped store bought bread and other goodies like that inside. Thanks for bringing back those memories!

    1. It’s nice to hear that this post brought back some good memories. I’ve always like the matched canisters. I wonder whether they still sell them.

  4. As you know, I’m British. I can’t think of anyone I know who doesn’t have a breadbox. We wrap our bread in a clean cloth before putting it in our (wooden) breadbox.

    1. It sounds like bread boxes are more popular in Britain than they are in the U.S. You store bread in a manner very similar to what was described in the hundred-year-old home economics textbook.

  5. My hoosier has a built in breadbox. The bottom larger drawer has a sliding metal top that has a few holes in it, and it think it works like a metal breadbox my mom had that also had holes in it. It kept the bread nicely.

  6. I remember grandma having a tin bread box. I just use a wooden one for our bread, it tucks the bread away from site when I clean up the kitchen . The butter goes in there too so no roving mice or bugs 😡get into it.

  7. I remember when I was a girl I’d see bread boxes on some kitchen counters when we’d visit relatives. My parents didn’t have one, instead putting the bread in its plastic wrapper on a cupboard shelf, usually on top of the stack of dinner plates. I’ve no idea why they didn’t have a bread box, now that I think about it.

  8. I had a breadbox when we lived in England ’80-’82. I think it was furnished with the kitchen, and I didn’t buy one to bring home. I doubt I would use one now, because it takes several weeks to use up a loaf. The freezer is our friend for bread.

  9. We had a bread box growing up in East Texas – it seemed to mitigate the humidity and heat and delay mold. When we moved to California the bread box stayed behind. In the dry heat here, the bread seems to stay forever in its plastic bag (or maybe it’s got preservatives that ae not mentioned on the label?) Tortillas, bagels, and pita bread do get moldy, but bread and English muffins almost never.

    1. Like you, I sometimes wonder whether store-bought bread has preservatives in it. It seems like it can sit on the counter for many days without going stale or spoiling.

    1. It’s nice to hear that this post bought back good memories. There’s a certain nostalgia associated with things like bread boxes.

    2. Did you get your fingers pinched in it? I’m not clear on my exact memory but I have an association of pinched fingers with the roll top kind.

  10. I used to have a bread box, especially when I had growing boys and bread disappeared in a day or two. Anything left for the week will get moldy. They were probably best when people were having big families.

    1. Similarly to you, I hadn’t thought of bread boxes for many years until I came across the picture in the old home economics textbook.

  11. My mother had a bread drawer. It had a sliding tin lid with some ventilation holes… She stored all her bread in that drawer and it didn’t take up space on the counter. I had one in the first house we owned that was built-in. My current house does not have a bread box but I store all our bread in the refrigerator in a special plastic bin that came with the refrigerator.

    1. It does sound like bread boxes should help keep bread fresh – though I don’t own one and have never felt like I needed one.

  12. While not a ‘thing’ maybe, bread boxes seem to still be around. I also use one. It’s new and commonly available in hardware stores. I find it keeps sourdough fresher than in the fridge. Anything beyond a day old also goes into plastic.

    1. I usually buy whole wheat bread, and it seems to stay fresh for quite awhile. Homemade bread is so much better, but it does seem to get stale more quickly.

  13. Hi Sheryl, Wow, yes, on the memories of the bread box. For the most part, a sliced bread loaf goes in the freezer for us and we take out slices as we want them.🙂

  14. Ah, yes, the bread box! My Mom had the wooden roll top for a while. I never owned one. I always thought the metal ones with the little floral decals were cute but also old fashioned. But…I like old fashioned! 🙂 I would bet that Tupperware may still have some type of a bread storage container.

    1. I bet you’re right. Tupperware has so many specialty pieces. Your comment makes me think about a Tupperware container I have for a slice of pie. From time to time my husband uses it to take pie to work for lunch. I’ve heard him say several times, “I hope this never breaks. I don’t know where I’d find another one.”

      1. It is amazing that they are still around! Who knows though, right? Good idea to never lose that pie container! They may, one day, not be around or maybe even just that one piece not available any more. That is pretty sweet that your husband enjoys pie for lunch so much that he never wants you to lose that one!

  15. We used to have a bread box. But eventually started storing bread in our microwave! Your post reminded me of my bread recipe post I just wrote. Remembering the simplicity of bread and the inclusion on grated carrots, a hidden vegetable!

  16. My sister was on the losing side of mice having decided that her kitchen was a welcome place to come for meals. The product most vulnerable seemed to be bread. She got a metal bread box, and that was it. The mice could only uselessly come to call. She worked on that inclination, too.

    1. I never thought about how bread boxes can prevent mice from eating bread, but it makes a lot of sense. I bet that over the years lots of people have had this problem. Maybe that is why bread boxes were so popular in days gone by.

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