Food Waste: How to Use Food Scraps

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Food Scraps

How to use food scraps. One of the best ways to reduce food waste is to use every last bit of an item. Here are some great ways to use your kitchen scraps and repurpose your leftovers.

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How to Use Food Scraps

Vegetable/Meat Stock

Store all of your vegetable scraps and bones together in the freezer. Once your container is full, it is time to make stock. Saute all of your vegetable scraps in olive oil or butter until they are tender. Add any bones that were saved. Cover with water and simmer on low heat for an hour.

Loaf of Bread

Stale Bread

There are so many options to use up stale bread. You could make:

  • Bread Crumbs: Process bread in a food processor until it looks like, well, bread crumbs. Bake in a 300ºF oven, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.
  • Croutons: Brush both sides of stale bread with melted butter. Cut the bread into cubes. Bake in a 300ºF oven for 15 minutes. Let cool and then store in an airtight container.
  • Panzanella or bread salad
  • Bread Pudding

Create New Meals with Your Leftovers

  • Stir-Fry: Almost any combination of meat and vegetables can be turned into a delicious stir-fry. Start by heating some oil in a wok, add the ingredients one by one, adding the densest ingredients first. Sautee until the vegetables are tender. Top with your favorite stir-fry sauce.
  • Soup: Add some vegetables to a slow cooker with some chopped onion, a can of diced tomatoes, and a quart of stock. Add some seasonings and cook for 8 hours on low or for 4 hours on high.
  • Roasted Vegetables: Toss some vegetables with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400ºF oven until tender.
  • Frittatas: Saute your vegetables in an oven-proof skillet until they are tender. Top with fresh herbs and a little salt and pepper. Pour in a mixture of 6 eggs, a ¼ cup of dairy, and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Sprinkle the top with cheese and bake in a 400ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the egg mixture is set.
Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

  • Smoothies: Over ripened fruit makes excellent smoothies. You can also add the stems of greens, the tops of beets, strawberries, and carrots, fruit and vegetable peels, herbs, and broccoli stalks.
  • Flavored Water: Add wilted herbs, berry tops, and the peels from citrus fruits, apples, or cucumbers to a french press filled with water. Allow everything to soak for five minutes. Then press the plunger down to squeeze out even more flavor.
  • Candied Citrus Peels: They will keep for 6-8 weeks in an airtight container and can be used in fruitcakes, muffins, or other baked goods.
  • Banana Peels: Steep in cream overnight to give the cream a subtle banana flavor. Then use the cream to make ice cream or french toast.
  • Vinegar: To make your own flavored vinegar, steep fruit scraps in refrigerated vinegar overnight Strain the vinegar using cheesecloth or coffee filters. The vinegar will keep in the refrigerator for one month.
  • Infused Oil: Blanch your herbs (stems included) for 10 seconds. Then blend them with some olive oil until pureed. Strain the mixture through a coffee filter overnight. You can use this oil in vinaigrettes, drizzled overcooked fish and chicken, or as a bread dip.
  • Flavored Vodka: Steep leftover herbs, citrus, and fruit in vodka for 3-5 days. Strain the vodka into a sealed jar.
  • Potato Peels: Heat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle the potato peels with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast them for 15 to 20 minutes stirring once. Remove them from the oven and sprinkle with cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, and green onions.
  • Apple Peels: Heat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle the apple skins with melted butter and a pinch of salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast them for 12 minutes stirring once. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Then sprinkle them with a little cinnamon and sugar.
  • Pesto: Make a delicious pesto by blending a combination of broccoli stalks, soft tomatoes, wilted greens, or herbs with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. You could also add a little Parmesan cheese and your favorite nut.
  • Jam: Overripe fruit can be canned into delicious jam.
  • Pickle Juice: Pickle juice can be used to replace vinegar in dressings, marinades, and brines. You can also use pickle juice to clean your grill grates.
  • Almond Flour: After soaking almonds to make almond milk, spread the wet pulp onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake in a 170°F oven for three hours. Once it is dry blend in a food processor until it is the texture of flour.

Items You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

  • Greens: Beet Greens, Kohlrabi Greens, Carrot Greens all taste delicious when sauteed with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Cauliflower Leaves: Wash the leaves and then toss them in a bowl with some olive oil and your favorite spices. Bake in a single layer on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. The leaves should become crispy as they cool.
  • Melon Rinds: Once pickled they make a delicious topping for salads or a great snack.
  • Corn Cobs: Simmer in boiling water for 30 minutes. Remove the cobs and use the liquid as a base for delicious corn chowder.

Revive Wilted Items

Soak wilted vegetables in ice water for 5-10 minutes. This works great for celery, lettuce, carrots, greens, and broccoli.


Chips and Crackers

  • Toasting stale chips and crackers for a minute or two should help them to become crisp again.
  • Use the crumbs at the bottom of the bag to top casseroles and add some crunch to salads.

Too Salty?

If you over-salted your dish there are a couple of things you can do to fix it.

  • Try adding vinegar, citrus juice, or sugar.
  • Try diluting with water, diced tomatoes, or unsalted broth.
  • Add a raw peeled potato to absorb some of the salt. Boil a second potato and mash it together with the first potato to make delicious mashed potatoes.

Overcooked Vegetables

Overcooked vegetables can be turned into delicious soups or sauces. Just blend them up with a little stock, milk, or cream.

Cheese Rinds

Save cheese rinds in the freezer. They make a delicious addition to soups and stews.

Regrow Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs

There are many fruits, vegetables, and herbs that can be replanted and regrown from scraps. Some of these are: Lettuce, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Green Onions, Leeks, Kohlrabi, Lemongrass, Avocado, Yams, Potatoes, Pineapple, Onions, Mushrooms, Fennel, Basil, Turnips, Apples, Citrus Seeds, Chestnuts, Celery, Bean Sprouts, Ginger, Tumeric, Garlic, Pumpkins, Peppers, Tomatoes, Cilantro, Lemon Balm, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Cherries, Peaches, Nectarines, Plums, Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Radishes, Rutabagas, Melons, Mangos and Hazelnuts.

For more information on regrowing items from scraps check out No-Waste Kitchen Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters.

woman with cucumbers over her eyes

Skin Care

  • Mashed avocados combined with honey make a great moisturizing hair or face mask.
  • Coffee grounds mixed with coconut oil make a great body scrub.
  • Cooled tea bags or cucumber slices help to reduce eye puffiness.
  • Use lemons to brighten stains on your nails.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Deborah Davis

    Hi Erica, Your Zero Waste Using Food Scraps tips are just what I need as my family begins preparing for the seasonal holidays! I especially liked your skincare and food regrowing tips. I hopped over from the Homestead Blog Hop. Thanks for sharing this helpful info! I’m also sharing this on social media.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by. We have been implementing these tips a couple at a time. By changing our habits gradually none of the changes feel too hard or time-consuming.

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