What Do Those Colored Tags On Bread Mean (And Do They Matter)?

Long before the bread clip became what it is today, it was first crafted mid-air to preserve a packet of complimentary peanuts. In 1952, Floyd Paxton was enjoying his snack when he realized there was no efficient way to seal or save the rest of his peanuts for later. With little to no resources around, Paxton grabbed an expired credit card from his wallet and began whittling away at the plastic. 

As it would later turn out, the small horseshoe-shaped tag he created was not just an ingenious solution to saving his snack. In fact, it was the first bread tag to effectively safeguard internationally baked goods from exposed air (via Atlas Obscura). Shortly after, in 1954, Paxton created Kwik Lok, a manufacturer that crafts and produces sealants for open-ended packages. Today, they remain one of the sole providers of the beloved bread clips (also referred to as a clip, tab, or tie) that prevent various loaves of bread from their inevitable staling. 

Of course, as some of us have found out over the years, these bread clips have uses beyond their shelf life. They are also helpful in categorizing wires, allowing headphones to stay untangled, and even keeping pairs of socks together in the drawer. Or, as Kitchn reports, they can be the perfect tool to scrape between those pesky, hard-to-reach spaces surrounding our appliances. But before they reach our homes, they have an essential job in the store that ensures we get fresh bread almost every time. 

Those colorful tags actually have a purpose

As tiny as they are, those tags that appear on nearly all grocery store breads have a purpose – and it's not just to keep the air out. Those colorful plastic labels provide guests with the freshest bread by indicating when it was stocked on the shelves. And according to Eating Well, the code is pretty simple to crack.  

The colors of the tags correlate with a specific day of the week. Mondays are typically associated with blue, while Tuesdays are represented by green. Thursdays are red, Fridays are white, and Saturdays end the week with yellow. Wednesdays and Sundays do not have colored tags due to shipping schedules and pauses in manufacturing. While most grocery stores adhere to this code, some may change colors depending on the provider and location. 

To help you remember this code, All Recipes suggests referring to the alphabet to determine the day's specified color. For example, the first business day of the week is Monday, represented by the color blue. The letter "b" in "blue" comes close to first in the alphabet. Tuesday follows with green, where "g" is listed as the next proceeding letter. Sometimes, the bread tags even have a "best by," "sell by," or "use by" date printed on the label. Use accordingly, but keep in mind that the product is still safe to eat even after the specified date (as long as no mold is present). 

Stale bread can make some fantastic croutons

Whether you stash your loaves in the pantry, tuck them in the freezer, or keep them hidden away in the fridge, bread inevitably becomes stale over time. According to Insider, bread starts to harden once the water inside is reduced and redistributed, usually within five days. However, this number varies per method of storage. Some bread can actually last up to three weeks in the fridge and six months if frozen (via Lakeland Inspiration).

But if you still have some leftover slices that have become too hard or brittle, there are some unique ways to use them in the kitchen. Homemade croutons are some of the best foods to stem from stale bread. Not only are they a delicious topping for soup, salad, and stuffing, but they are also super easy to make. Delish recommends using sourdough or French baguettes for your crouton-making ventures, but really any bread will work. Cut your stale slices of bread into tiny squares before mixing them with olive oil and seasonings. Then, bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, flipping them over at the 7 or 8-minute mark.

You can also use stale bread to make Italian sweet bread pudding, per All Recipes. This recipe can be made by dicing the hardened bread, placing it in a pan, and topping it with a mixture of butter, raisins, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and eggs. Cook at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes, or until softened.