How to Use Food Scraps to Cut Back on Waste in the Kitchen

Using food scraps is a great way to be resourceful and environmentally responsible in the kitchen. Food scraps are the inevitable pieces of food lingering after being prepared. Think stems of kale, stalks of broccoli, citrus rinds, eggshells, and any part of food that goes unused. Make the most of the food you spend your hard-earned money on with these clever ways to use food scraps. Additionally, save this to come back to when you find yourself wondering how you can use food scraps.

 

Featuring: The Zero-Waste Chef

Featuring: The Zero-Waste Chef

The Zero-Waste Chef, Anne-Marie Bonneau, is the founder of Zero Waste Chef, an online platform that serves as a resource for living a less wasteful, more environmentally responsible lifestyle. She is an expert on making the most of the groceries you spend your hard-earned money on and minimizing waste in the kitchen. Her new book, “The Zero-Waste Chef: Plant-Forward Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Kitchen and Planet”, outlines ways to be more resourceful in the kitchen through a series of excellent recipes and tips.

                                       Image: https://zerowastechef.com/about/

Leftover Herbs

More often than not, I find myself buying more herbs than I need. Specifically, I find pre-packaged herbs and big bunches of cilantro and parsley hard to use up. Here are some unique ways to use food scraps like parsley, rosemary, cilantro, mint, thyme, and any other herb you have leftover.

 

assortment of fresh herbs on a cutting board
Infused Oil
Infusing oil with leftover herbs is one of the easiest ways to utilize them. Anne-Marie suggests incorporating a few sprigs of herbs like rosemary, sage, or thyme into your oil. The herbs add a hint of flavor that will elevate any dish.

oil infused with leftover herbs in a glass container

Herb Butter
Similar to infused oil, Anne-Marie suggests incorporating herbs with melted butter and transferring them to an ice cube tray. Then, you conveniently have herb butter whenever you might need it.
Dry Them
If you’re having trouble finding ways to use herbs, drying will preserve them. There are a few ways to dry herbs depending on what’s easiest for you and what kitchen gadgets you own. Here’s an article on the different ways to dry herbs and how to do it.
Make a Scrap Sauce With Herbs
Herbs are especially great when incorporated into a sauce. The next time you make a pasta sauce or something similar, consider adding those leftover herbs depending on the taste you wish to achieve. Also, herbs will make the sauce much more flavorful and up your sauce-making game.
Tabboueleh
If you have way too much parsley in your fridge you can’t find a use for, make something that calls for a lot of it. Anne-Marie suggested tabbouleh as a way to use excess parsley. Tabbouleh is a finely chopped salad with parsley, cucumber, and tomato. Here’s a recipe from Cookie and Kate.

Tabouleh salad with parsley, cucumber, tomato, and red onion 

Tasty Herb Dip
This is another way to use up those leafy herbs with endless possibilities—specifically, green onions, cilantro, and parsley. There are a plethora of dips out there that call for herbs. All it takes is a roast and a blitz.

Stale Bread

Stale bread is a food scrap with immense potential. In fact, many recipes specifically call for stale bread. Most recipes in which bread is soaked in some kind of liquid work best with stale bread. The stale bread keeps the dish from falling apart and getting overly soggy.

 

Sliced stale whole wheat bread
French Toast
If you’re looking to spice up your morning routine, put your stale bread to good use and make delicious french toast. All it takes is eggs, milk, and vanilla, and you have a mixture to dip stale bread in and make delicious french toast on the stove.

classic french toast made with stale bread 

Bread Pudding
 Bread pudding is one of my favorite desserts. It’s easy to make and works best with stale or toasted bread. If you’re looking for a healthier version that’s just as tasty, check out this recipe
Stale Bread Stuffing
Stuffing doesn’t have to just be for thanksgiving. Once this dawned on me, I started getting overly excited every time my bread had become stale since I had the perfect excuse to make stuffing. Here is my favorite recipe for stuffing from Martha Stewart. However, I suggest passing on the celery and using granny smith apples instead.
Bread Crumbs
Turn stale bread into an incredibly versatile ingredient with an oven and food processor. Toast stale bread in the oven and throw it into a food processor to make bread crumbs. You can use bread crumbs for veggie burgers, breaded chicken, meatloaf, cauliflower nuggets, baked goods, or even as a garnish for baked dishes to add a crunchy texture.
Bruschetta
If you’re like me and tend to forget about that french baguette you bought from the bakery section of your local supermarket, bruschetta is a great way to bring a stale baguette back to life. First, make a tasty bruschetta, like this one from Jo Cooks. Then, cut the stale french bread into slices and toast in the oven until it turns golden brown. You’ll have a stunning snack in no time and with few ingredients.

Fruit Scraps

Next, making the most of your fruit scraps is all about practicing resourcefulness. In fact, food scraps like fruit cores, peels, or any other section of fruit are much more valuable than you might think. Specifically, fruit peels are high in fiber and dense with essential vitamins and minerals you don’t want to miss out on. Here are all the ways you can put your fruit scraps to use before throwing them out.

 

apple peels are valuable food scraps
Scrap Vinegar
During our interview, Anne-Marie discussed how she makes scrap vinegar from apple peels and cores. However, you can also try using pears or pineapple. Making vinegar from scraps is straightforward and only calls for apples, sugar, water, and about a week. Here’s a step-by-step guide from Anne-Marie for making vinegar out of scraps.
Simple Scrap Syrup
For simple syrup, add cinnamon, spent vanilla bean pods, apples, pears, peaches, or any other fruit. Simply cook fruit scraps down with sugar, water, and whatever spices you like for a syrup perfect for any occasion. To me, simple syrup out of fruit scraps is perfect for coffee.
Apple Peel Chips
Making chips out of apple peels is much easier than it may sound. Apple chips are especially great if you have lots of peels left from making a pie or tart. Just place the peels on a baking sheet and season them with cinnamon and sugar. Bake them at 250 degrees until they reach a consistency you like, about 25 minutes.
Jam
Jam is a great way to use fruit scraps and overripe fruit. First, overripe fruit gets sweeter as it ripens. Here’s our article on How to Make Jam That Will Make Your Friends Jelly. Moreover, you can collect fruit scraps and store them in the freezer to use in place of the whole fruit.
Fruit Scrap Smoothie
If you’ve peeled your fruit and aren’t sure what to do with the leftover peels, store them in the freezer until you’re craving your favorite smoothie. Feel free to implement other fruit scraps as well.

Citrus Rinds

Most of the time, I’m buying a lemon, lime, orange, or another citrus for the juice, not the rind. However, there are plenty of ways to use this prevalent and fragrant food scrap. Here are some ideas to get you started

 

Colorful citrus rinds as food scraps
Candied Citrus Rinds
If you’re a fan of sweet and fruity treats, try making candied citrus peels. It’s a relatively simple process and only requires unwaxed citrus rinds and sugar. Here’s a recipe to get you started.

Delicious candied oranges dipped in chocolate 

Zest Them
The Zero-Waste Chef, Anne-Marie, zests her leftover citrus rinds. For instance, Anne-Marie uses it as a baking ingredient and emphasizes how tasty orange zest is in chocolate cake. Rather, you can brighten meals like salads, cooked veggies, and plain proteins with citrus zest. On top of that, you can dry citrus zest and blitz to create a versatile and powerful spice. 
Citrus Peel Tea
Next, citrus peels or rinds make a great addition to tea. You can make tea by simply steeping the peel on the stovetop. Or, include dried or raw peels in your tea to add a bright citrus flavor to your morning cup of tea.
Limoncello
 When life hands you lemon peels, make limoncello says, Anne-Marie. Limoncello is super easy to make and is a refreshing drink perfect for any socially distanced summer get-together. To illustrate, simply mix vodka, sugar, and lemon peel together and let sit for a few days, and you’ll have transformed lemon rinds into something spectacular. You can find Anne-Marie’s recipe on her blog.

limoncello with lemon rinds

Food Scraps You Can’t Eat

Surprisingly, food scraps like banana peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, and anything else that makes you a little too uncomfortable to eat are great for your garden and face. Before you throw out food scraps that simply can’t be eaten, here’s how you can make the most of them.

 

a banana peel is a great food scrap for your garden
Eggshell Garden Fertilizer
Eggshells can do wonders in your garden. The calcium in crushed eggshells makes a great fertilizer for plants. Crushed eggshells can be sprinkled or mixed into garden soil.

crushed eggshells are a great food scrap for gardens 

Coffee Grounds and Garden Growth
Next, use coffee grounds to deter pests and support plant growth. The acid in ground coffee is perfect for plants that thrive in acidic soil.

ground coffee is very useful in a garden

Banana Peel Plant Food
Similar to coffee grounds, banana peels make excellent plant food. Soak banana peels in water for a few days and nourish your plants with water rich in potassium.
DIY Face Masks
Face masks from the store tend to be expensive and have hard to identify ingredients. So, try making a face mask at home using coffee grounds. Coffee grounds have potent antioxidants and may also protect the skin from dangerous UV rays, along with many other potential benefits. Here are some recipes for DIY face masks using coffee grounds.

Compost Your Food Scraps

Still, you might find that you have food scraps you aren’t able to use. For instance, you’ve used vegetable scraps to make a broth, and there are scraps left over. In this case, it is crucial to compost your food scraps when you can. When your food goes to the landfill, it doesn’t break down the same way as if you were composting it. Food broken down through composting produces much fewer emissions than when broken down in landfills. If you’re new to composting and want to learn more, here’s our guide with eight tips to get you started.

 

Food Waste

Overall, the way we think about food and how we should be using it needs to change drastically. The USDA estimates Americans throw away ⅓ of our food that doesn’t even get eaten. Like you, I’ve found myself buying a big bunch of cilantro at the grocery store to only use a small portion of it, where the rest goes to waste in the fridge. Much of our food waste comes from over-purchasing food and not using it to its full potential. If you want to understand food waste in America fully, we have an entire article about it.

 

Tips For Cutting Back Food Waste in the Kitchen

1. Get Scrap Smart:

For starters, one of the best ways to be more resourceful in the kitchen is to educate yourself by discovering new recipes and cooking methods. With more information in your arsenal, you’ll be cooking with less waste, spending less time in the kitchen, and saving money. Anne-Marie suggests, expand your horizon and add depth to what you already know by dedicating more time to the kitchen.

2. Practice Planning

On top of education, Anne-Marie suggests planning out grocery trips in order to cut back waste in the kitchen.

3. Get Creative: 

I cannot emphasize this tip enough. Creativity is essential if you want to use up leftover food scraps. Don’t let recipes constrain your cooking. Use what you have to create delicious meals and use food scraps to substitute ingredients you might not have. Anne-Marie suggests following “non-recipe” recipes to make the most of the food you buy. Here is a “non-recipe” recipe of Anne Marie’s for “shop the fridge” soup.

4. Reframe the Way You Think About Food Scraps:

Many of us have a shared narrative about how we can and should use the food we buy. Like, stale bread needs to be thrown out, don’t use the rinds of citrus if you’re only juicing it, and one can’t use apple peels and cores. If it’s edible, might as well experiment and try to use it.

5. Reduce Food Waste In Other Ways:

Here’s our article on 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste if you’re interested in saving food resources.

food scraps for soup with corn, peppers, and tomatoes

Do You Have Another Way To Use Food Scraps?

We want to see it! Tag us on social media @cookandculture.

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Olivia deGregory

Written by Audrey Madison