Food waste is a huge problem. According to the USDA, 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted each year. That equates to a staggering 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food . I’m guilty of contributing to this problem far too often. My fridge is full of veggies past their prime and takeout boxes with a few leftover bites. Well not anymore! I’ve discovered some wonderfully weird ways to repurpose food scraps into delicious and useful items. Keep reading to learn 10 tricks I bet you’ve never considered to reduce waste and get the most out of your groceries.
1. Make Veggie Broth from Scraps
Instead of tossing those limp carrots, onion ends, and celery leaves, save them in a bag in the freezer. Once you have a decent amount, simmer them in water with some herbs and spices to make a nutrient rich veggie broth. I like to freeze it in ice cube trays for easy use in grains, sauces, and soups. This is one of the simplest ways to get more mileage from your produce.
Keywords: veggie broth, food scraps, vegetable scraps, reduce waste, frugal cooking
2. Dehydrate Meats, Fruits, and Veggies
Got some slightly mushy produce or leftover cooked meat? A dehydrator can turn them into delicious dried snacks! I was shocked at how well this worked the first time I dried some aging strawberries. They transformed into sweet chewy fruit leather. Cooked chicken makes great jerky. I season mine with a soy sauce marinade before dehydrating. And kale chips are one of my go-to healthy snacks. A dehydrator is a worthwhile investment if you hate to waste food.
Keywords: dehydrate, dried fruit, meat jerky, fruit leather, kale chips
3. Blend Vegetable Peels into a Smoothie
Don’t stop at blending just the flesh of your fruits and veggies into smoothies. Toss the peels in too! Blending vegetable peels into smoothies is a great way to consume more fiber and nutrients. I leave the peels on cucumbers, carrots, beets, apples, etc. Just be sure to scrub them well first. The only peels I avoid are citrus, banana, mango, and pineapple. They tend to add bitterness. This is one of the easiest food scrap hacks out there.
Keywords: smoothies, vegetable peels, fruit peels, food scraps
4. Make Homemade Stock from Bones
Save bones from meat in the freezer until you have enough to make a hearty batch of bone broth. I like using a mix of beef, chicken, and fish bones. Simmer them for 12-24 hours with some veggies for maximum extraction of collagen and minerals. Homemade bone broth is incredibly nutritious and healing for the gut. Sipping this liquid gold makes me feel like I’m doing my body good. And it’s so satisfying to get multiple uses out of animal bones.
Keywords: bone broth, homemade stock, bones, collagen
5. Pickle Vegetable Scraps
Pickling wilted veggies gives them new life! I love quick refrigerator pickles. Simply submerge your food scraps in a vinegar brine with salt and spices. Some of my favorites to pickle are carrot tops, red onion skins, jalapeno ends, and the bottom of celery. Let them soak a few days before eating. It adds refreshing zing to scraps that would otherwise get tossed. And they make creative garnishes too. I never knew food waste could taste so good!
Keywords: pickling, refrigerator pickles, vegetable scraps
6. Bake Vegetable Ends and Peels
Roasting transforms even the most gnarly carrot tops and beet stems into crunchy, delicious bites. I toss my chopped vegetable ends and peels with a little oil, salt, and pepper and roast them in the oven until browned and crisp. They get sweet and caramelized. Some of my favorite scraps to roast are broccoli stalks, asparagus ends, green bean tips, and cabbage cores. Such a simple way to give food scraps new life rather than throwing them out.
Keywords: roast, vegetable scraps, carrot tops, broccoli stalks
7. Repurpose Stale Bread into Croutons
Don’t let that half loaf of bread go to waste. Make your own croutons! I cube up stale bread, toss with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and bake until golden brown and crunchy. It takes just 10 minutes. They’re so much better than store bought. I like using whole grain and seedy breads. The texture and flavor transform beautifully into croutons. Use them to top salads and soups or eat as a snack.
Keywords: croutons, stale bread, food repurposing
8. Craft Fruit and Vegetable Scraps into Homemade Pet Food
Show your furry friends some love by crafting nutrient dense pet food from your food scraps. I process vegetable peels, cores, stems, and past-prime produce in the food processor until finely chopped. Then mix with some cooked meat, bone broth, eggs, or yogurt. Spoon into an ice cube tray or muffin tin and freeze. I’ve got happy healthy dogs and cats and zero food waste thanks to this trick.
Keywords: pet food, food scraps, vegetable scraps
9. Make Tea from Fruit Peels and Veggie Scraps
Don’t toss those leftover lemon, orange, apple or pineapple peels. Put them to use for making flavorful fruit scrap tea. Other fruit extras like mango pits, strawberry tops, and raspberry stems also work well. For an herbal veggie version, simmer carrot peels, mushroom stems, fennel fronds, and onion skins in water. Strain and enjoy. The peel and scraps infuse bright flavor without any bitterness. Sipping this tea makes me feel like a zero waste warrior.
Keywords: tea, fruit peels, vegetable scraps, zero waste
10. Turn Old Bread into Breadcrumbs
When bread dries out, use it to make homemade breadcrumbs rather than trashing it. Simply tear the bread into pieces and process in a food processor into fine crumbs. I like to toast mine in the oven for extra crunch. DIY breadcrumbs are amazing for coating chicken, fish, veggie fritters, meatballs, etc. Store extra in an airtight container for months of use. I’ll never buy breadcrumbs again now that I’ve learned this easy food repurposing trick.
Keywords: breadcrumbs, stale bread, food repurposing
With a little creativity, you’d be surprised how many food scraps can be given delicious new life. I love discovering innovative ways to reduce waste and get the most use out of my groceries. Hopefully these 10 weird tricks have inspired you to repurpose your food leftovers rather than tossing them out. I guarantee your cooking will become more resourceful, economical, and eco-friendly.