Storing Bread on a Boat

I recently got a question from a reader named Dawn asking:

How do you keep bread (store bought)? I know there is a new Lock and Lock container but what about when I also have hamburger buns and bagels?

If you only have a single loaf, a plastic bread protector such as the Lock & Lock container can work well and doesn’t take up too much more space than the loaf.  But as you have more loaves — or buns, bagels or anything else — trying to keep each in its own plastic container just takes up too much space.

I developed a couple of other strategies.  Basically, you’re trying to keep the bread from getting squished and also keep it fresh.  Note that here we’re talking about typical store-bought bread and the like, not homemade.

I usually kept mine in one of the gear hammocks in the salon — I hung four gear hammocks from the overhead handholds so that they wouldn’t crash into anything with the motion of the boat. I put a large plastic bin in one and just piled the bread, buns and tortillas in — I left it all in its plastic wrappers and didn’t worry about putting a lid on top (since I wasn’t using the lid, I bought a cheapie instead of a good one).  Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of it, but the bin was about 18″ square (two loaves of bread would fit in one layer, side by side) and 9″ high.

At this point, you might be asking two questions:

  1. Why did you put a plastic bin in the gear hammock? Because otherwise the hammock itself would squish the bread.
  2. Didn’t the bread spoil faster, being near the ceiling where it was hot? We primarily cruised Mexico and used Bimbo brand bread.  Bimbo is known to last forever without spoiling — it’s great for cruisers, but I shudder to think what preservatives might be in it.

If that’s not practical in your boat, you could get almost any type of a plastic bin that’s large enough to hold all your bread supply and keep in in some out-of-the-way spot (you could set it on the v-berth or quarter berth during the day and move it when it was bedtime, for example).  I wouldn’t worry about getting a really good airtight container if you leave the bread in its wrapper and everyone aboard makes sure to always close loaves tightly.  Be sure to use the lid if you put it somewhere that stuff could fall on it!

It may not apply on your boat, but lots of cruisers use an oven or microwave as their “bread storage” and just take it out when using the oven or microwave!

Anybody with other ways of safely storing loaves of bread??

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  • Bruce
    Posted at 19 April 2012 Reply

    How long does regular bread actually keep under these conditions? I have bought whole wheat pan-de-sal here in the PI – ostensibly freshly made and in two days it had mold even wrapped in two plastic bags. I am guessing that there are probably no preservatives used.

    Speaking of mold, not being a picky eater I usually just pinch off the moldy bit and eat the bread anyway (figuring that bread mold is related to penicillin and possibly good for you). Is there anything dangerous about this? My Filipina girlfriend tosses moldy bread (but says that mold on fruit is ‘just on the surface’ and is OK with eating fruit that has moldy patches – with the patches removed though).

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 19 April 2012 Reply

      Yeah, bread with no preservatives will mold fast — with homemade bread, I always figured on eating it within about a day and a half when in the tropics. The heat and humidity are just too much for it.

      “Store-bought” (that is, not homemade or from a bakery) bread tends to do a lot better. In Mexico, Bimbo brand bread will last practically forever, making me wonder what it’s really made of. Most store-bought bread in the US will last at least 10 days, often 2 to 3 weeks — it depends on the brand. My thoughts on cutting mold off tend to be determined by how much mold there is — just a little on the surface, I’ll cut it off. More, I throw it out . . . or use it as fish bait. I’ve honestly never really researched it, that’s just how my mom did it when I was a kid!

      Tortillas have the same problem with mold when they’re made by a local lady in a fishing village or in a tortilleria (bakery that’s just for tortillas) — again, no preservatives. Get the ones in a US grocery store that are sold in the bread aisle (not the ones in the refrigerated case) and they’ll last weeks.

      On one hand, I prefer the preservative-free stuff, but it’s not always practical so I buy quite a bit of the long-life stuff too.

    • ben
      Posted at 19 April 2012 Reply

      Pan de sal always went bad for me within hours. Not moldy, but it stales to be inedible by afternoon. Tasty Bread should last a lot longer, though I’ve never tested to see how long it lasts, though I’d imagine it would be several weeks. That said, Filipino baked goods never really suited my western tastes (except for fresh pan de sal) so I would tend to stick to local staples plus foreign junk food. If you’re looking for local food to put into hammocks like that, check out any neighborhood tindahan to see what gets hung from the ceiling and what goes in bins.

  • Annette Baker
    Posted at 12 October 2012 Reply

    I’m enjoying “crusty bread” this week on board. It seems to last pretty well, a good 10 days so far. Whole grain wheat loaf. Harris Teeter La Brea brand. Good idea on tortillas. Best, Annette

  • Molly Stokes
    Posted at 12 October 2012 Reply

    Packaged tortillas last a long time for storage until you open them, Nice back-up for when you don’t have sandwich bread.

  • Suzanne C
    Posted at 24 June 2013 Reply

    My favorite product to store just about anything is Glad Press-n-Seal. Keeps bread fresh forever it seems, and I especially love that I can wrap a leftover onion in it and no smell seeps through. I wrap everything in it, lots less food thrown out since I have used the Press-n-Seal.

  • Anne Bryant on Facebook
    Posted at 24 June 2013 Reply

    Decoy bread. (teehee)

  • Diane
    Posted at 25 June 2013 Reply

    If I have the room, I’ll put it in the fridge…right on top so it doesn’t get crushed. Lasts even longer…we do this at home as well since we don’t eat a “lot” of bread.

  • Storm
    Posted at 25 June 2013 Reply

    I’ve never lived on a boat, but I did live in a camper in the hot & humid SE US. I had minimal A/C and the fridge didn’t work when I first moved in; I found out rather quickly the breads that kept best in my situation were rye (the “traditional” sort) and pumpernickel. I don’t know whether they’d be to others’ liking, or would work as well in various boating situations, but they worked great in my camper.

  • Christy
    Posted at 27 June 2013 Reply

    -We store our bread in the microwave (which we haven’t gotten around to uninstalling). Also learned a great trick to unstale bread: wet down the outside lightly, cover it in tinfoil and stick it in the oven for a few minutes on about 200F – works wonders!!

  • Peggy
    Posted at 11 July 2013 Reply

    We store our bread in the microwave too. We only store our jelly roll pan in the oven… hate having to have to find storage every time I bake/cook, so I like everything to have a home that is not a functional part of the galley. Want to get a galley drawer, counter or cabinet back? Install magnetic knife racks — they hold our utensils and knives securely, but we verify they are made of stainless steel that is magnetic before purchasing. Get knife bars that are coated in way that won’t rust. (Make sure the location doesn’t mess up your compass before installing too.) I don’t like to use a berth or head for excess storage either — we do store cockpit cushions in the head when it rains, but that is it. Happiest with less stuff nicely stored! Have often dampened and then “toasted” stale bread lightly in the oven to bring it back to life –recommend it.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 12 July 2013 Reply

      Thanks for the tips, Peggy! I have to admit that I’m not at all a fan of magnetic strips for knives because if the knives come loose, they’re very likely to cause an injury (not to mention damaging the knives). Since I originally wrote my article on knife storage, I’ve seen several more stories about knives coming off magnetic strips when beating to windward even in relatively modest winds.

  • Gord Wedman
    Posted at 13 November 2013 Reply

    I can vouch for knives flying off magnetic strips if your keel hits a rock ledge. No injuries except to the marine growth on the ledge.

  • Nicola
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    @Gord, Ouch! Glad you all are ok! We have a rule of “no magnets on the boat” due to our magnetic compass, but even so, I have found that “magnetic stainless” is not really stainless; it will rust. I have a knife block in a cabinet that does not take up too much room & half of our knives are ceramic anyway.
    Not really a bread topic, but I am one of the group that will tear off small amounts of mold on the crust and eat it anyway, but when it takes over a whole slice, or once the spores are enough to make the slice/loaf smell like mold, I would not. Using it for fish food is a good idea!

  • Peter Robertson
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    I still find the microwave oven as the best place to store perrishible baked goods. On St.Somewhere it’s seldom used so, bread, rolls, etc. even pastries do well when sesled tight in it.

  • Tricia
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    We have found several brands of Sandwich Thins. They are like bread but can be used as hamburger buns, too. Thin, don’t have to worry about crushing them, and they have a long shelf life. I also use my microwave or oven for storage when straightening up. We use a lot of baskets for extra storage, too!

  • tami
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    I have storage baskets like these. The wire framing keeps the baskets firm and the baskets look nice and allow air to pass through

  • Mary Kirkpatrick
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    Found a tip in a sailing cookbook…it worked for me. Baste/brush vinegar on outside of an UNCUT loaf…I’ve used pumpernickel and sourdough. Let dry and wrap in Saran then store in plastic bag. Loaf lasts fresh for 3-5 weeks! I tried this with organic natural vinegar it didn’t work so well as the ordinary store vinegar…perhaps the store vinegar being petroleum based has more preservatives…but it’s about keeping bread. I’m gluten free now but haven’t tried this method yet with that. Don’t use sliced bread.

  • Lynn Duggan
    Posted at 15 April 2014 Reply

    If you have a fairly good size freezer or just a frig this works well and what I do. I take the bread out of the package and places several slices…enough for a lunch in a baggie and then tuck the baggies around the freezer or the the frig. I have even used duck tape to secure the baggies to the frig or freezer sides. Once they have frozen you will not be able to squish or flatten them. Then I am only using the slices I need without exposing the rest of the bread to the air. I also take apart French bread, rolls, and buns and wrap them in single servings and store them the same way. I have kept bread etc for weeks using this method.
    As a side, another hint for lettuce storage is to was lettuce well and dry with paper towel.
    Then wrap lettuce in a very lightly damp paper towel, place in air tight baggie or plastic container and the most imprortant elelment…place a sterling silver spoon in the container and your lettuce will last 3x as long as for spinach too.
    For my sharpe knives I bought a wooded drawer knife holder and attached it to the inside of my under the sink cabinet door which has a strong latch..has never flown open in heavy seas!

  • Melinda Taylor
    Posted at 16 April 2014 Reply

    Ok this is off the wall but does work, buy a loaf that is not sliced, run it over with a clothe dampened with bleach, it will last longer as mould will be slow to grow. No, once dry you cannot taste the bleach at all.

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