If you’re like me, you probably buy the same brand of sliced bread each time you shop for groceries. You know that some of the loaves are fresher than others, so you try to pick one that is as fresh as possible. You may be able to read a ‘best before date’ which might be printed somewhere on the bag, but is difficult to locate and hard to read. Even if you can find a date, since there are so many loaves this can be tedious and take too long. So you use the feel test and pick the loaf that is the softest.
The problem is not all bread is meant to be extremely soft and sometimes the firmness, as a test of freshness, is ambiguous. But, did you know that there is a more sure-fire way to determine the freshness of bread?
Different Color Twist Ties on Bread Mean Something
You may have noticed that the twist ties used to close loafs of bread come in different colors. You probably haven’t realized, though, that the same bread manufacturer will use several different colors of ties on the same loaves of bread.
Unlike less perishable items, bread is delivered to grocery stores by bakers several days a week. The bread company itself will sort the bread, taking away items that are past their prime, and will rotate stock so that the oldest bread is in the front, etc. However, they will also leave behind extra stock for the in-store stockers to use to keep the shelves full until next delivery. Using best-by-dates to sort bread would take too much time and be quite inefficient. Therefore, different color twist ties on bread are actually a code for both the delivery person and the stockers to use.
If a baker delivers bread on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday they might use blue, green, red, white, and yellow twist ties. Each color will signify a different day of the week. Blue might mean ‘Monday.’ So, a stocker, informed of the color-code, who is stocking the shelves on Saturday can know that a blue twist tie means the bread was delivered on Monday, and is the oldest in the store, ready to be pulled or put on sale, while others will be rotated to the front to be prominently on display. Most savvy shoppers know that the newest product is always in the back, so placing older product up front only works part of the time.
How to Pick the Freshest Loaf
Next time you shop for bread, you may see two or three colors of twist ties. Each baker might use their own color system, as there are certainly no regulations to make them use a particular code. However, the most common twist-tie color code is:
- Monday = blue
- Tuesday = green
- Thursday = red
- Friday = white
- Saturday = Yellow
If your loaf comes with those little plastic tabs instead of a twist tie, don’t worry, the tabs are probably color-coded as well. Conveniently, the colors run in alphabetical order according to the first letter of the color so the are easy to remember. B is for blue which is Monday, G is for green which is Tuesday, R is for red which is Friday, etc.
The easiest thing to do is to simply match the color to the day of the week you are shopping, and failing that to the day closest. If you’re shopping on Tuesday, look for a green or blue twist tie, for example. Notice there is no color for Wednesday, because bread is not normally delivered then. So, on Wednesday, you want to buy green to get bread baked the day before.
Plastic tabs may also have the date printed on them but use no color code at all. If all the tabs are white, but have a date printed on them, things become more difficult. Because the date does not tell you what day the bread was baked, it tells you the sell-by or the best-by date. When this happens, you want the date to be as far in the future as possible. When a company uses twist ties all of one color, the date will be printed somewhere on the bag.
Although it makes no sense, some companies may have their own color system and not use the common one listed above. If you are not sure what code your bread company uses, you might ask at the store, or you might visit the website of the baking company or call them to find out.
Presumably, the store stockers are rotating stock so that you don’t get a stale loaf, but this is not really the point, is it? Your mission is not to avoid a stale loaf as much as it is to buy the freshest loaf possible.
Having written all this, I know that most readers will use the color system if their bread company follows it, since it is easy and quick but failing that will just stick to the squeeze test, as not all of us are anal enough to do research for something that probably won’t make a huge difference in your life. But at least you now know an interesting tidbit of bread lore.