Sustainable Eating

10 Creative Ways to Use Food Waste

Not only is cooking with food waste a great way to reduce your environmental impact, but it can also help save money on groceries.

30 million tons of food is wasted each year in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While some food waste gets turned into compost and animal feed, much of it goes straight into landfills and decomposes, creating methane that contributes to climate change. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can reduce the amount of food you waste!  

Not only is cooking with food waste a great way to reduce your environmental impact, but it can also help save money on groceries. 

Here are 10 creative ways to use food waste in your home. 

1. Repurpose Fruit and Veggie Peels 

If you're like most people, you probably don't give much thought to what happens to your fruit and vegetable peels once you're done with them. But did you know that there are many ways to reuse peels? 

  1. Use carrot peel into salad or stir fry. 
  2. Cut apple skins into pieces and bake them in the oven until they dry out. Once they're dried, crush them into powder and use as a seasoning on breads or desserts like cookies. 
  3. Make potato skin chips by deep frying potato skins in oil or baking/air frying them.  
  4. Use banana peels to polish tarnished silverware. Make a paste by blending banana peels and water, scrub silverware with the paste, and then rinse with water to leave your silverware bright and shiny. 
  5. Freeze leftover lemon, lime, or citrus zest to add to drinks, desserts, or marinades.

2. Vegetable Scrap Stock

If you're looking to use up veggie scraps, turn them into vegetable stock! It's easy and a great way to add extra flavor to your dishes. Here's how to do it: 

  1. Freeze veggie scraps you create throughout the week – like tops/bottoms/skins/stems - avoiding Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or cauliflower as they add a bitter taste to stock. Note: These scraps can stay frozen for up to six months. 
  2. Fill a pot with a quart of veggie scraps as well as any vegetables that are going bad or wilting. Include onions, garlic cloves, celery stalks, carrots (peeled), thyme sprigs and bay leaves if desired.  
  3. Add water until the vegetables are completely submerged.  
  4. Bring the pot to a boil then simmer uncovered for an hour or two until they become soft.  
  5. Pour the broth through a strainer. Once strained, pour into an airtight container where it can be kept for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to 6 months.

3. Cleaning Spray

One way to repurpose citrus rinds is to make a cleaning spray. Add the rinds to a jar of vinegar and let sit for a week. Then, strain the mixture and add it to a spray bottle with water. This natural cleaning solution is great for countertops, floors, and more.

Fruit and vegetable harvests sit in a wood basket.

4. Regrow Fruits/Vegetables

One way to use food waste is to regrow fruits and vegetables from scraps. For example, you can regrow lettuce, pineapple and celery from scraps.  

  • To regrow lettuce, cut the bottom of the head of lettuce and place it in a jar of water. Put the jar in a sunny spot and wait for the lettuce to regrow. 
  • To regrow pineapple, cut the top off of a pineapple and place it in a pot of soil. Water it regularly and wait for it to grow. 
  • You can regrow celery by cutting the bottom 2 inches of the base. Place the base in water with sun exposure and wait about a week for it to regrow!

You can follow similar processes to regrow other items like green onions, potatoes, bulb fennel, carrots, beets, basil, and other leafy greens, root vegetables, and herbs. 

5. Puree Fruit and Vegetables 

Puree fruits and vegetables that might be overripe and freeze them to use in smoothies, sauces and soups.  

You can also turn overripe fruits into fruit leather by blending them with a little bit of honey/agave and lemon juice, and baking them on a prepared baking sheet at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8-12 hours. These healthy fruit roll ups are perfect to grab and go.

6. Dehydrate Fruit and Vegetables

Dehydrating citrus zest is a great way to use up food scraps and add flavor to your cooking. It's easy to do! Wash your citrus, then use a zester or grater to remove the zest. Spread the zest out on a baking sheet and bake at 170 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-60 minutes or until completely dry. Blend the dry zest into a fine powder, then store in an airtight container and use as needed for baked goods, salads, marinades, teas or more!

7. Cook the Stems

Stems of leafy vegetables are often overlooked and cast aside, but they are actually quite versatile in the kitchen. For example, cook them in soups or stews to add flavor and nutrition. You can also sauté them with other vegetables or chop them up and use them as toppings on salads or grain bowls.  

8. Eat the Skins 

Many fruits and vegetables have edible exteriors that have a whole host of health benefits when consumed, like kiwis!

Kiwis with skins skin on a table.

9. Reuse Coffee Grounds

If you've ever made a pot of coffee and then let it sit out for a while, you know that the grinds can get pretty stale. But before you toss them, try using them to make a homemade coffee scrub. Mix the grinds with sugar and olive oil/coconut oil, and voila! You've got a delicious-smelling scrub that will leave your skin feeling soft and silky. If you don’t want to use them as a scrub, you can also add them to your garden as compost.

10. Make Breadcrumbs or Croutons

Breadcrumbs and croutons are a great way to use up food scraps.  

  • To make breadcrumbs, simply tear or cut up old bread into small pieces and then place on a baking sheet. Cook at a low temperature until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Blend in a food processor until homogenous and you’ve made homemade breadcrumbs.  
  • Croutons are another great way to use food scraps. Cut stale bread into small cubes and then toss with olive oil and your favorite spices. Bake at a low temperature until golden brown and enjoy your homemade croutons on salads, soups, or as a snack! 

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