It’s a sad reality, that as a society we are incredibly wasteful creatures. The amount of waste created every day is staggering. Our grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through the Great Depression would be appalled at how little we value what we have and how wasteful we are with it.
We waste everything from bags and packaging to clothing and fabric. Metals and electronics to wood and building materials and the list goes on and on. But in a world where one in nine people are starving, one of the most outrageous things that we waste is food.
Globally, somewhere around 1.3 BILLION tons of food end up in landfills annually. That’s roughly one-third of all the food produced worldwide for human consumption! Of course, an obvious way to cut down on food waste is to simply use up what we buy before it spoils (or preserve it for later). But, did you know that there is a tremendous amount of waste that can be reduced by simply knowing how to use your food scraps wisely? Read on for our list of how you can reduce, reuse and recycle your kitchen scraps.
Regrow Your Kitchen Scraps
There are quite a few foods that will regrow if you plant them. Lettuce, green onions, celery, and pineapples, to name a few. This allows you to get more bang for your buck than just a one-time purchase. You can check out our list of 25 Foods You Can Grow or Regrow From the Grocery Store to read more.
Make More Food
Did you know that a lot of the food scraps we regularly throw away can actually be used to make more food or ingredients?
Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits have more nutrients in their peels than they do in the flesh and juice we’re used to consuming. And yet, so often, we throw the peels away! The zests or peels of almost any citrus fruit are perfect for making extracts or infusions in sugar, olive oil, vinegar, or even vodka! You can actually use citrus-infused vinegar as a DIY chemical-free cleaning solution. The infused oils, sugars, and vodkas can be used to punch up the flavor in recipes and cocktails or given as beautiful homemade gifts.
Apple peals and scraps have a lot of uses. You can do the basic, and turn them into a simple jam or jelly. Or you can use them to create your own pectin, you can check the instructions over on survivalmom.com. Additionally, the peels and cores can be used to make homemade apple cider vinegar.
Corn cobs are an item most people would compost or chuck in the bin. But add water sugar and pectin and you get a light fresh jelly that tastes a lot like honey. This year was my first time making Corn Cob Jelly and I will never throw away another corn cob again!
Did you know that you can use the rinds from watermelon to make watermelon rind pickles? Another use for this common compost additive is to slice the white part of the rinds into matchsticks and add them to stir-fry.
Veggie Peels and Scraps
Onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, and garlic, typically we peel and/or chop the root and stem ends off before we eat them. But, instead of sending them to compost, store them n a zip lock back in the fridge until you have a couple of cups worth, and then boil them down for a tasty stock or broth.
If you do a lot of canning, chances are you remove the skins from the tomatoes before processing. Instead of tossing them, you can dehydrate and powder them to make a tomato seasoning. The same can be done with pepper skins.
Carcasses and Bones
Any time you buy whole or bone-in cuts of meat you can use the bones to make stock and broth after you’ve eaten the meat. You can even add in the above-mentioned veggie scraps to fill out the flavor profile.
Stale bread is another one of those things we tend to toss on a regular basis, but it’s perfect for making croutons or drying out and grinding into breadcrumbs. Other uses include baking into bread pudding or turning it into a savory stuffing.
Improve Your Soil
Another great way to get more out of your kitchen scraps is to use them to boost the health of your soil so you can grow your own foods. After all, the kitchen scraps may not be what we want to eat, but they still possess a lot of nutrients your plants crave. You can of course simply vermicompost or compost them. But some items are better than others to use as a stand-alone.
Bananas are full of potassium, one of the key ingredients in good, rich soil. Before sending the peels to the compost bin, soak them in water (preferably rainwater) for a few days and then use them as compost tea to water the garden.
Coffee grounds and even leftover brewed coffee can be used as a fertilizer to increase the acidity of your soil. You can simply sprinkle dried grounds on the surface of the garden and water in or dilute and use leftover coffee to water your plants.
If you’re saving coffee grounds to use for later, be sure to dry them completely before storing as they will grow moldy quickly if put away wet.
Left Over/Old Milk
This is one we almost all throw away. But, you can dilute that leftover milk with water and use it to fertilize your tomato plants instead. Calcium deficiency is one of the number one reasons for blossom end rot in tomato crops. Keep this ailment at bay with your leftover milk.
Other Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Beyond the individual items we’ve discussed, there are other ways to reduce food waste that you can adopt.
Shop more realistically and only buy foods in quantities you know your family can consume within the week.
Instead of cooking in huge batches, cook in smaller more reasonable portions to reduce leftovers that can often be forgotten in the back of the fridge.
Make it a point to actually eat those leftovers you saved. Oftentimes in our house, we have “leftover night” where instead of making dinner each person is free to claim a dish of whatever leftover sounds good.
As a general rule cooked food is safe to eat for 3 to 5 days (depending on what it is.) If you know you won’t be able to get to it in time, freeze it for later use.
While saving and reusing your kitchen scraps won’t save the planet or solve world hunger, it will save you money, and help to keep perfectly good food out of the landfill. At a point in time when we are facing food shortages and rising costs the more people who begin to recognize, appreciate and preserve the value of food, the better off we will all be. Save your food scraps, stretch your dollars, and be part of the change that the world needs right now.
Are there any scraps you typically reuse or repurpose that we forgot to mention? Tell us all about it in the comments, and as always, until next time,