Are you ready to take reducing waste to the next level?? Before we compost, recycle, or trash anything, it’s important to get every last bit out of that thing’s lifespan! Giving your food scraps one final purpose in life is a fantastic way to make the most of what they have to offer. 

But Why?

We’ve talked about the 6 Rs before and why striving to reduce our excess and unnecessary waste is more important now than ever. We’ve also talked about how Americans waste up to 40% of all the food grown, processed, and transported within the U.S. every year. That’s roughly 40 million tons of food! It may seem shocking at first, but when I think about all the times I’ve thrown away leftovers, didn’t get to fruit or bread before it got moldy, forgot about spoiled milk… yeah, I can see my contributions. 

These statistics and their incredibly detrimental impact on the environment (as well as contributions to social injustice!) inspired my journey of reducing food waste. The following are a few blog posts I’ve written with my learning so far and hopefully they’ll help you, too:

One more way I’m challenging myself to reduce food waste is to give many food scraps one last purpose before composting them. Composting is a fantastic way to keep food out of the landfills and to prevent methane from being released into the air as it rots. However, so many resources contributed to producing this food (land, water, money, time, labor, energy, etc) and I paid for it… Why not make it last a bit longer?

If you’re ready to bring this journey of reducing food waste to a whole new level, check out these 10 hacks below!

1. Check If Peels, Stems, and/or Leaves Can Be Eaten

person chopping broccoli on cutting board with bowls of veggies surrounding it

The most simple way to use your food scraps is to actually eat them! 😉 Before we get into some of the unique ways they can be used below, it’s always worth checking to see if you’re throwing away something edible. Many nutrients are hiding in parts of our produce we’ve gotten used to tossing! For example, I only peel the gross looking parts of my potatoes and carrots now (if there are any) and keep the rest. Edible peels on fruits and veggies often contain so many vital nutrients, help fight diseases, and can keep you feeling full longer! (source) The same is true for certain stems/leaves, like broccoli and cauliflower stems or the tops of carrots. When in doubt, there’s always Google! 

2. Use Your Citrus Fruits For Cleaning

two lemon halves

Citrus is a common cleaning ingredient, not just because it smells fresh, but it powerfully cuts through grease and grime. Got some peels from oranges, lemons, grapefruit or other citrus fruits? Just collect them in a glass jar with a lid (I store mine in the freezer while collecting so they don’t mold). Once it’s full, add vinegar until you’ve covered the tops of the peels. Then, simply let the mixture sit inside the closed jar for 2 weeks on the countertop. Voila! Now you have a powerfully strong and natural cleaner with a lovely scent. I’d recommend mixing the cleaner with water (50-50) in a spray bottle — it’s that potent! You can also simply clean and shine many surfaces with a juiced lemon by itself. Check out this site for more ways to use lemons!

3. Make Your Own Veggie Broth From Food Scraps

bowl of broth on table

This is something I often forget to do and can’t believe how simple it is! Then I’m kicking myself when I have to go to the store and pay for something I could make for free. Vegetable broth/stock is used in so many recipes and it’s literally just water that was once steeped with veggie scraps. Not all veggies should be used because some flavors will clash, but here are the food scraps you can count on: carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, and mushrooms. Stay away from cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts) because they add a bitter taste. If you collect scrap parts from the veggies listed above in a container/bag and keep them in the freezer until you have enough, all you need to do next is boil them in water for 30 minutes or so and then strain the liquid. You can keep that in the fridge if using within 3-5 days or freeze the broth in portions that will be ready to thaw and use. (recipes here)

4. Care For Your Body With Super Ripe Fruit

woman lying on spa bed with a face mask being applied to her cheeks made from food scraps

This is one of my favorite hacks for using food scraps because the options are endless! I’m constantly finding new inspirations on Pinterest and realizing how much money I can save by using my overly-ripened fruits in so many ways. Here are just a handful of ideas: 

  • Throw your overly-ripe (but not moldy) berries and bananas into a smoothie! Or freeze them to add in later. Frozen berries are great for smoothies, oatmeal, baked treats, etc. And bananas can be put into the freezer still inside their peels with SO many future uses! Just thaw a frozen banana on the counter for about 10 minutes so you can easily peel it before use. Then you can add it to smoothies, make banana bread, banana “nice cream”, and even use the peel as plant fertilizer
  • Turn soft or bruised apples into applesauce and/or apple butter. This requires very little prep or effort, especially when using a crockpot. Plus, your whole house will smell amazing — Yummm! (check out this applesauce recipe and this apple butter recipe)
  • Apply some mashed bananas and avocado to your face and even your hair for some natural self-care! (Haha, didn’t see that one coming, did you?) 😉 You can even do the same with coffee grounds, as they make an excellent exfoliant. Check out this site for ideas!

5. Turn Stale Bread Into Croutons and Bread Crumbs

bowl of croutons on table

Another thing I tend to buy and then feel silly about are croutons or breadcrumbs. I mean… seriously. This is so easy! Check out this recipe for specifics, but basically you just break up stale (not moldy) bread pieces onto a baking sheet, drizzle with a little oil and seasoning, then bake until crunchy. Boom! Croutons. And if you want breadcrumbs? Crush them up a bit. Boom! Breadcrumbs. 

6. Cook With Old Wine

red wine being poured into glass

Ummm… Let’s be honest. I didn’t often have an open bottle of wine that stuck around for more than 2 days before I was pregnant… 😉 But if you do have wine that’s been open too long and no longer tastes appetizing to drink, you can still use it for cooking! Store the bottle in your fridge for up to 2 months and it can be used for additional flavor in many dishes. 

7. Mince and Freeze Leftover Herbs

minced herbs on cutting board

Before your herbs start to get too wilty and go bad, you can quickly chop them up and freeze them for future use! I prefer to freeze mine in cubed portions for easy tossing into my pan as needed. You can use an ice cube tray and place the minced herbs inside each compartment, then fill each (not quite all the way) with olive oil and keep in the freezer. One or two of these cubes melt down and make a great base when preparing your pan for a savory dish. 

8. DIY Pesto From Food Scraps

bowl of pasta with pesto sauce made from food scraps

Many veggie scraps can be used to create a delicious pesto! You can easily do this with carrot tops or other leafy parts that would usually be tossed/composted. Now you’re using up every bit of your food and you’re saving money by creating an extra pasta dish or an appetizer with toast/crackers. Check out this site for a few different pesto recipes using food scraps. Presto — you’ve got homemade pesto!

9. Regrow Vegetables Using Food Scraps

asparagus standing in jar with herbs growing in glass of water

I haven’t tried all of these personally yet, but these are 10 vegetables you can regrow from their scraps! Typically, all you need is a dish, some water, and some counter-space. Some of the veggies will need to be re-planted in soil, but some will continue to thrive in your kitchen with just a container of water, like spring onions! 

10. Turn Your Food Into Tye-Dye Creations!

hands covered in color from dye

Many food scraps have such strong pigmentation that you can harness this color and transfer it to fabric. This looks like an absolute blast to try with kids, but I’d also love to give it a go myself! Watch this video to learn how to use certain food scraps to create your own tye-dye works of art. 

Squeeze Every Last Bit Out Of Your Food (and Money!)

person squeezing lemon into mug to use every bit of those food scraps

There you have it! 10 ways you can use food scraps to reduce waste, save money, and gain every possible benefit that food has to offer. Don’t forget to compost whatever’s leftover when you’re finished! That’s the part that really seals the deal on how much you’re contributing to the 40 million tons of food waste each year. 

Got any ideas I didn’t share?? Leave them in the comments below! 

If you’re interested in some fun videos with extra resources, check these out: video 1, video 2  

Now, go ahead and play with your food! 😉