Breaking the Bread Code: How to Get the Freshest Loaf
In America, we each consume around 53 pounds of it every year. It’s the one food eaten by people of every race, culture, or religion. And we all want the freshest loaf whenever we buy it.
But is there a way to spot it, other than squeezing, tapping, or simply guessing?
Well, it turns out that there’s a simple visual code that can take you straight to the freshest loaf in seconds. And it’s all contained in the twist ties or plastic clips around the top of the bread bag. (See also: Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, By the Month)
The Color Code of Freshness
I often wondered why they used different colors on those tags and ties. When I was a kid, I had hundreds of bread clips on the spokes of my bicycle tires, but I just figured the colors were for variety.
As it turns out, they indicate when the loaf was baked. The standard is as follows:
- Blue: Monday
- Green: Tuesday
- Red: Thursday
- White: Friday
- Yellow: Saturday
And here's a quick color key that you can keep on you, if you so desire:
An easy way to remember it, though, is to simply recall the alphabet. The colors run in alphabetical order, so the earlier they appear in the alphabet, the earlier in the week the bread was baked. And it’s true. Even the ever-cynical Snopes.com backs it up.
This whole system was set up to help the supermarkets and grocers identify which bread was new, which was getting old (so it can be put on sale), and which was out of date and needed to be removed from the shelves. As a general rule of thumb, you should only see two colors of tags on the shelves at any one time, or three maximum for those days when bread wasn't delivered. But that doesn’t stop the old bread from sneaking in though. Do a check next time and see for yourself.
So when you go to the store for your next loaf, make sure the color of the tag is the same as the day on which you are shopping. Blue for Monday, green for Tuesday, and so on. Please note that if it’s Wednesday, you also want green. Sunday, you want yellow. For some reason, the system does not include those days. Some say it’s because bakers did not used to bake on Wednesdays and Sundays.
There Are Exceptions to the Rule
Of course there are. Life would be too easy if everyone followed the same rules, made the same chargers for every cell phone, and used the same bread code.
So in some rare instances, you may see bread tags that are one color regardless of the day on which they were baked. They may simply contain a date. In that case, here’s what you need to remember:
The date on the tag is the sell-by date, not the date it was baked.
Ahh, but what if there’s just a twist tie that’s always the same color? Well in that case, you should see a date somewhere on the bread bag. The same rule from above applies.
Some Bread Makers Have Their Own Color-Coding Systems
Again, this is not the norm, but some companies have created their own color codes for various reasons. This is not helpful for them, because it makes the task of restocking that much more difficult for the supermarket.
If you’re really anal about having the freshest bread, and you want to check, just call the maker of your favorite loaf of bread and ask what their color-coding system is. It will usually be the one in this article, but better safe than sorry.
Now go, get your fresh bread. Unless you’re making bread-and-butter pudding, in which case buy the oldest loaf you can find.