Food waste is a huge problem globally, with nearly 40% of all food produced in the United States going uneaten each year. This waste ends up rotting in landfills, releasing methane gas that contributes to climate change. However, there are many creative ways to repurpose food scraps that would otherwise be thrown out, which can reduce waste and save money. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain various unconventional strategies for making the most of food scraps in your home.
Repurpose Vegetable Peels and Scraps into Broths and Stocks
One of the easiest ways to use up vegetable scraps is to make broth or stock. Things like onion peels, carrot tops, celery leaves, mushroom stems, and herb stems that you would normally throw in the compost or garbage can be used to provide free flavor.
- Collect vegetable scraps in a bag or container in your freezer as you prep meals. Good veggies to save include:
- Onion skins
- Carrot, beet, and turnip tops
- Celery leaves and ends
- Fennel fronds
- Parsley, cilantro, and other herb stems
- Mushroom stems
- Garlic skins
- Corn cobs
- Place the scraps in a pot, cover with water, add any desired seasonings, and simmer for 1-2 hours.
- Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth.
- Use the broth immediately or let cool and store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for later use in soups, grains, etc.
This allows you to extract maximum flavor from ingredients you’d normally throw away, saving money on store-bought broths.
Make Vegetable Scraps into Pickles
Leafy tops, stems, peels, and any other firm vegetable pieces can be pickled for a crunchy, tangy condiment. Things like beet greens, carrot tops, onion bottoms, garlic ends, and herbs stems work well.
- Clean and chop the vegetable pieces into desired sizes.
- Pack tightly into a clean jar, alternating with spices like peppercorns, mustard seeds, dill, etc.
- In a saucepan, bring 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 1 tbsp sugar, and 1 tbsp salt to a boil.
- Pour the hot brine over the vegetables to cover.
- Let cool, then refrigerate, allowing the flavors to meld for at least 1-2 days before eating. The pickles will keep for several weeks refrigerated.
This yields crunchy, flavorful pickles while reducing food waste. The brine can be reused 1-2 times for making more pickles as well.
Bake Food Scraps into Veggie Chips
Sturdy vegetable scraps like carrot tops, beet greens, kale stems, broccoli stalks, and asparagus ends can be turned into crispy, nutritious veggie chips with just a quick bake in the oven.
- Firm vegetable scraps
- Olive oil or cooking spray
- Salt and other desired seasonings
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- Wash and dry the vegetable pieces well. Remove any decayed or mushy parts.
- Toss with a drizzle of olive oil or spritz with cooking spray. Season as desired.
- Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping once, until browned and crispy.
- Let cool and enjoy as a crunchy snack or salad topping.
These veggie chip snacks are deliciously crispy and full of nutrients. Mix up the blend of vegetables for variation.
Blend Vegetable Scraps into Soup
Soft vegetable parts and peelings like zucchini ends, potato skins, bell pepper cores, tomato tops, and wilted greens can be blended into creamy soups. The scraps provide texture and nutrients.
- In a pot, sauté aromatic veggies like onion and garlic in olive oil.
- Add chopped vegetable scraps and cook briefly until softened.
- Pour in vegetable broth and simmer until very soft.
- Blend using an immersion blender or regular blender until smooth and creamy.
- Finish with seasonings like salt, pepper, herbs, lemon juice, or nut milk to taste.
Virtually any combo of soft vegetable bits can be transformed into a tasty soup this way. Get creative with the seasonings and garnishes!
Dehydrate Fruit Peels into Chips
Citrus peels, apple peels, pineapple cores, and other fruit parts can be turned into sweet, crispy fruit chips using a dehydrator or oven.
- Fruit scraps (rinsed and dried)
- Parchment paper
- Cinnamon or other spices (optional)
- Line dehydrator trays or baking sheets with parchment.
- Arrange fruit peel scraps in a single layer, avoiding overlap.
- Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon or other spices, if desired.
- Dehydrate at 135°F for 6-12 hours, or bake at 200°F for 2-3 hours.
- Check for crispness and flip halfway through.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
These fruity chips make a deliciously sweet and nutritious snack! They can also be powdered in a blender to make citrus zest.
With a little creativity, it’s easy to repurpose vegetable and fruit scraps that would otherwise go to waste. Not only does this save money and reduce your environmental impact, but it results in nutritious, flavorful ingredients to use in all sorts of dishes. Next time you’re prepping produce, take a moment to think about how you can give the scraps new life!