Salt 101

August 17, 2023

Zen & the Art of Creative Food Scrap Usage

When it comes to making eco-friendly swaps in your day to day life, most of the advice you hear involves some combination of the words “cut out,” “avoid,” “steer clear of,” or “give up.” While making the switch to reusable grocery totes and avoiding fast fashion brands in favor of more eco-conscious closet picks are important steps towards living a more planet-friendly lifestyle, not all of the changes you make have to involve giving something up. In some cases, they can even leave you with more than you started with—all you ned is a little bit of creativity…

In the U.S., it’s estimated that over 40% of all food grown is never consumed. This leads to an astounding amount of food waste and money going down the drain. All of this food waste is not only bad for our wallets, but also leads to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and drains a large chunk of our natural resources.

To help, we’ve created a list of 16 creative ways to limit food waste that go beyond more intentional shopping practices and can actually be pretty fun.

Regrow your vegetables

Contrary to popular belief, your vegetables aren’t actually born in the produce aisle of your local Whole Foods. They are grown and transported from all over the country and the world, resulting in a *lot* of carbon emissions in the process. To help limit your personal footprint, there are a whole host of vegetables that you can regrow from home just by using food scraps. Check out this link to learn how to grow your own potatoes, onions, garlic, celery, herbs, and assorted root vegetables from home.

Make broth or stock

Much like secret admirers or canvas tote bags, you can never have too much broth. Whether using it to cook or to sip like a warming, collagen-rich tea (check out my dear friend’s brilliant, sipping-specific broth brand—Art of Broth!), broth and stock are vital ingredients to have on hand. Luckily, they’re easy to prep at home—gather all of your vegetable scraps, chicken, meat, and fish bones, herb stems, and spices, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (I leave it for a full 24 hours for optimal flavor!), then strain and store the liquid gold in your fridge for the next few weeks or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Pickle everything

Something’s going off? Just pickle it. Quick pickling is easy, requires barely any work, is a great way to limit food waste, adds some color to an otherwise boring dish, and takes less than 24hrs. You can do this with watermelon rinds, berries that are on their way out, beets, assorted peppers and onions, and so much more. 

Make croutons or breadcrumbs

Sometimes finishing a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale is simply not in the cards. If this is the case, turning the sad slices into croutons is a quick and easy fix. Shop up the bread into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and top with salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and whatever other dried herbs or spices you have on hand, and bake. If you need breadcrumbs…just mash 'em up.

Live, laugh, love (chips)

Chips are difficult not to love. They can be sweet, salty, or spicy, they’re easy to snack on, transport, share, and act as a vessel for oh so many sauces, dips, and condiments. The best part? They’re also SO easy to make. Save your potato skins when you’re done peeling, coat with oil and your favorite spices and toss in the oven to make the perfect potato peel chips. 

Tie dye never really gets old

Quarantine resulted in the loss of our social lives, but in exchange, it did bring tie dying back into the conversation and for that I am ever grateful. The next time upcycling inspiration strikes, save your veggie peels and make your very own all natural fabric dye. Beets are great for reds and purples, red cabbage actually makes a great blue/indigo, yellow onion skins yield orange, spinach of course gives you green. Once you get started, there’s no stopping. You’ll have “produced” a whole new wardrobe in no time. 

There’s no such thing as too much jam

Jam is fun because it’s lawless. You can combine any assortment of fruits and berries, boil them with sugar, and create a concoction that, odds are, will taste pretty damn good. This is a great way to use up fruits that are too soft to enjoy as they are and give them a new life. 

Sauté leafy green stems and add them to a salad

Leafy greens and crucifers are great, but when you have to chop off the massive stems of your kale, chard, or broccoli, it can sometimes feel like you’re not really getting the best bang for your buck. If you don’t want to just chuck or compost those stems, try chopping them up small, sauteeing them, and adding them to a salad or stir fry. They are packed with nutrients and once mixed up with the sauce or dressing, their bitter taste will be near unnoticeable. 

Make a sauce or dressing

Because most sauces and dressings are blended, they are a great place to use the ends or less aesthetically inclined bits of your vegetables. Whip up a tomato sauce with onion and carrot peelings, and the ends of your celery and tomatoes or pop your herb stems in a blender with oil and spices for an easy salad dressing. 

Freeze ‘em

The difficulty with grocery shopping (especially if you live alone) is that often you won’t be able to use the eternity of every ingredient before they expire. In those cases, look up if they freeze well! Most herbs, tomato paste, sauces, ginger, broths, and other basic necessities freeze beautifully and all you have to do is defrost them before you need to use them. 

Use in your garden

Don’t know what to do with your old coffee grounds or eggshells? Your garden does. Both make for great fertilizer supplements to help your plants and flowers grow big and strong. 

Make tea

The cores, pits, peels, and scraps of your fruits have flavor and purpose too! Use apple cores and a bit of sugar or honey in hot water to make a cozy apple tea. 

Skincare, always

Exfoliate with coffee grounds! We can do all things through coffee which strengthens us…right?

Repurpose your wine

Leftover wine? Don’t pour it down the drain. Turn red wine that’s gone off into red wine vinegar and add it to a salad dressing or use old white wine to cook with or deglaze a pan. Because most of it will burn off, you won’t taste the fact that it’s gone a bit sour. 

Reuse tea bags

Tea bags are never really used to their full potential when you only use them once and they perform well in group projects. Save a few then reuse them to squeeze the last out of their flavor. 

Odds and ends

If you have asparagus trimmings, limp celery, carrot tops, parmesan rinds, or other bits and bobs left over after prepping a meal, save them or freeze them to add to your next stock, broth, soup, or stew for a bit of added flavor. Cheese rinds add a great richness to soups, pasta sauces, and risottos. 

Chickpea juice

Ok, so technically the liquid inside of a chickpea container is called aquafaba, but chickpea juice sounds funnier. Aquafaba is a great vegan replacement for any recipe requiring egg whites since they whip really well. Just add a bit of sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar and you have dairy and egg free meringue. 

Smoothie starter

If you can’t finish off your container of yogurt or the last of your salad greens, pop them in the freezer so you have a smoothie starter all ready to go for a busy morning. 

Make a martini

Finally, who doesn’t love a good cocktail? If you have a jam or marmalade jar that you can’t scrape anything else out of, use it as a shaker to make a flavored martini in a pinch.