It's sad when a nice loaf of good bread goes stale, but it isn't completely tragic. There are several things you can do to transform stale bread into something so delicious, you just may start staling good bread on purpose.
Photo by alanagkelly.
Put it in Pudding
Bread that's just a bit dried out and a little too chewy is perfect for recipes with a lot of moisture, which is what makes it such a good candidate for custardy bread pudding. For sweet, I like Mark Bittman's simple recipe, which just uses two cups of milk, two eggs, two tablespoons of butter, 1/3 cup of sugar, and a little vanilla. It's good as is, but it can be customised almost endlessly with fruit, spices, or -- as Bittman suggests -- chocolate chips. If you're not feeling the sweetness, you can always make a strata (which is just a fancy word for savoury bread pudding). This one from the New York Times is particularly hearty and delicious, and you can swap out the mushrooms and kale for whatever vegetables you have hanging out in your fridge.
Yes, you could make croutons by coating stale bread cubes in a bit of butter and browning them in the oven, but I prefer to make the bread the star of the salad by whipping up a panzanella. Stale bread's tough character means it won't get soggy when exposed to dressing, and the resulting salad is one of my favourite meals. To make a panzanella, just cube your bread, cut up some juicy tomatoes, slice some onions, and toss it all together in a big bowl. (Feel free to add more vegetables if you like, of course.) Whip up a nice little vinaigrette, drizzle it on, and toss once more. Then -- and this is the hard part -- leave it alone for at least half an hour, to let the bread soak up the dressing and the flavours meld.
If your bread is too far gone for the above, you still shouldn't toss it, for there are bread crumbs to be had. Just tear or cut it up into little pieces, toss it into a food processor, and pulse until you have crumbs. If you want to get real fancy with them, you can saute them with butter and herbs, or grate some lemon zest up in there.