As you know — and only because I write about it so much — I may as well be president of the Artisan-in-Five fan club for how the book and method of making bread have rocked my world.
Back when I was first learning to do this (it is so easy), I decided I needed bread bags not only to store partial loaves, but also for presentation. Let's just say that when you bake bread, you have a lot of friends.
Turns out bread bags are quite inexpensive, purchased in bulk. And when I say bulk, I mean a case of 1,000 bread bags. I did. I bought a case of 19-inch gusseted bread bags.
As I look back, I'm not sure what I was thinking. Apparently the idea of 1,000 loaves of bread ever coming out of my kitchen was overshadowed by a bargain-basement price on large bread and bakery poly bags when purchased in bulk. These slightly smaller bags are equally useful, for about half the price.
While I continue to bake bread as needed by my household of two people, I use one, maybe two, bread bags a week for bread. But for dozens of other uses around the house? These bags are the best thing since, well, sliced bread!
DECOR STORAGE. I fill bread bags with holiday and seasonal decorations like tree ornaments, string lights and pinecones. Because these bags are gusseted at the bottom, they expand to hold a lot. Plus, I can see exactly what's in each bag and nothing gets mixed up.
SHOE PACKING. I don't like the idea of shoes touching clean clothes in a suitcase. Bread bags are the perfect size for a single shoe or a pair, depending on the style and size.
TRAVEL HAMPER. I always pack a few empty bread bags in my suitcase for soiled clothes on my return journey.
PAPER TOWELS. I keep a roll of paper towels in my car — in a bread bag. The towels stay clean and can't unroll.
PET CLEANUP. If you have a dog to clean up after when you go for your walks, a bread bag makes that chore easy, neat and clean. Use it as a "glove" to pick up the poop and then just tie it off and it's all ready to toss when you get home. Use the same method to remove clumps from the cat litter box.
CRAFTY BITS. If you're crafty, you know the tyranny of little things. Thrown into a box, it's hard to find anything, which can lead to re-buying just because you can't find what you need! Keeping supplies in a cloth bag is even worse because you can't see what's at the bottom.
KID STUFF. My grandsons and I use bread bags for everything you can imagine — markers, puzzle pieces, socks, sandals, board games and toy parts. We keep precious things like rocks, leaves and twigs safe and secure in them, too.
LUNCHES. Now and then, I still pack lunches and find bread bags to be so much handier than zip-close bags (cheaper, too). They just work.
BREADING AND SEASONING. Bread bags are perfect for breading or seasoning foods. Just put the breadcrumbs or seasoned flour into a bread bag, add the meat or vegetables, shake and then proceed to bake or fry.
GLOVES. I slip a couple of bread bags on my hands when mixing a big batch of meatloaf or cookie dough and, yes, even to form loaves of bread dough.
By the way, it took about seven years, but I did manage to go through that entire case of 1,000 bread bags; I'm now working on the second case. I like the large 19-inch bags because they are so versatile. However, the 15-inch version bread bags are equally useful and even less expensive, at about half the price!
Since making this dubious purchase quite a few years ago, I've come to the conclusion that just about everything around my house is better thanks to my now half-empty case of disposable bread bags.
Want more clever ways to use bread bags? You'll find more, plus a resource for where you can get your own box of new, super cheap bread bags at EverydayCheapskate.com/breadbags.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.