Food is one of the largest expenses in most people’s household budgets. Throwing food in the bin is throwing money in the bin. You paid for your food, so you would want to use as much of it as you can. There are many food scraps you can eat, perfectly edible things that get overlooked. The key is to make the scraps more appealing.
Not wasting food is important for the environment because food waste is a major source of greenhouse gases, not to mention the resources that went into producing it. I also feel that reducing food waste is respectful to those who don’t have enough food.
- Cooking water from pasta, rice and vegetables can be added to soups, stews, sauces, and gravy. Cooking water from pasta and rice (if you don’t use the absorption method for rice) is good for slightly thickening foods.
Water from boiling or steaming vegetables is particularly nutritious. By saving this water and incorporating it back in whenever possible will save the vitamins and minerals from going down the sink. If you have more than you know what do with, you can use it to make bone broth.
Don’t use water that has been to soak or cook dried legumes (pulses). It contains substances that are irritating to the gut.
- Juicing pulp can be used in cakes, muffins, pancakes or in small amounts in savory foods like meatloaf, rissoles or bean burgers.
My favorite is pulp from homemade orange juice. It adds a lovely, subtle fragrance to vanilla cake and keeps the cake moist. I add 1/2 cup per cake or per batch of cupcakes.
Start by adding small amounts to see how recipes respond. Be mindful that you may need to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe.
- Citrus skins can be made into marmalade, you can save them in the freezer until you have enough. They can also used as mixed peel in fruit cakes or dried and used for flavoring herbal teas.
- Broccoli and cauliflower steams are often discarded. Grated with a cheese grater, they can be used to make broccoli slaw or simply added to stews. Sliced with a Julienne peeler, they are lovely in stir-frys. I mostly just slice them thinly and add them in with the rest of the broccoli or cauliflower.
Cauliflower leaves and the outer leaves of cabbages are also perfectly fine. Just give them a good wash, slice thinly and cook well.
- Chard, silverbeet and spinach stems often get thrown out. Just slice them very finely and add them back in to whatever you were using the rest of the vegetable for. Or if they’re going to be textually or visually unappealing, add them to a stew, or at a last resort, use to make vegetable stock.
- Stop peeling mushrooms, they don’t need it. Just clean them by wiping the cap with a moist cloth or gently brushing clean with a pastry brush. Or if you’re cooking them straight away, just go ahead and rinse them under the tap. And don’t waste mushroom stems either, just chop them up finely and add them back in.
- Oil from jars of sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes etc is usually full of flavorful herbs and seasonings. Use it to make salad dressings or add a tiny bit to pasta to stop it sticking.
- Radish, beetroot and turnip greens are all edible. Radish and beetroot tops are nice shredded and mixed with salad green. Beetroot leaves can also be added to borscht. Turnip leaves are tougher and they’re best finely shredded and cooked well.
- Juice or syrup from tinned fruit can be used to replace some or all of the milk in cakes. It adds a lovely flavor to cakes but you might want to reduce the sugar a little bit. You can also put it in smoothies or milkshakes, or freeze into ice blocks for a desert.
- The liquid from roasting meat can be collected (if you’re not using it to make gravy) and chilled in the fridge. The fat will rise to the surface and then you will have two products. The fat can be used for frying meat, or it’s lovely on roast vegetables. The liquid below the fat will gel into a lovely, rich stock that can be used anywhere stock or broth is called for. Roast chicken stock is the tastiest stock I’ve ever tried.
- If you’ve used the last of your bottle or jar of sauce add a bit of water and shake it up to dissolve the last little bit. Add this liquid to flavor soups or stews. The water from dissolving tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, mustard, tomato puree, passata, minced garlic, chutney and relish can all be used this way.
- Another use for the dissolving trick is for using up the remains of jams, jelly, ice cream toppings and syrups. Shake up the jar with milk and add to milkshakes, smoothies, or replace the normal milk component of cakes, or freeze into ice blocks.
- Make sure to freeze your surplus bread before it goes moldy. Collect up all your stale bread and bread crust ends and save them in the freezer so you can process them in a large batch. You can take them straight from the freezer, break them up a bit by hand, grind up in a food processor and put the crumbs straight back in the freezer until needed.
Bread crumbs can be used to crumb steak for beef schnitzels, crumb chicken pieces for homemade chicken nuggets, make stuffing for roast chicken, added to rissoles, meatloaf, salmon or bean burgers, or for crispy toppings for casseroles and baked dinners. You can even make cookies with bread crumbs.
Another use for stale bread or bread crust ends is croutons. Lightly toast the bread and then cut into crouton sized pieces. Season the pieces with salt, pepper and dried herbs and then fry them in a generous amount of olive oil until they’re crispy.
- Bones can be used to make bone broth. Keep any bones from roasting or boning out meat, you can freeze them until they’re needed. Put them in a large pot, cover with water (or vegetable cooking water), and add a small amount of vinegar (about 1/4 cup for a large pot, I use apple cider vinegar). The vinegar leaches the minerals out the bones and into the broth. Many people use the term “stock” if the bones are simmered for a shorter period of time and the term “broth” if they’re simmered for 6-8 hours or more.
- Cut off the yucky bits from fruit and vegetables that are going bad.
Puree fresh fruit or cook and mash then freeze in small portions. Make muffins, cakes, sorbet, ice blocks or smoothies with the fruit.
Vegetables can be chopped and frozen raw (they don’t need blanching if only freezing for a short period of time). Use wherever you would normally use frozen vegetables. Less appealing bits can be hidden in soups or stews, or added to broths (see above) in the last 2 hours of cooking.
- Banana peels are normally used in other countries when they are still green. Banana peels from ripe bananas have a strong banana flavour, making them better in things like banana cakes. You trim the tough ends and then I prefer to puree them with the amount of milk the banana cake recipe calls for.
They’re also meant to be good in smoothies (just blend the whole banana with the tough ends trimmed) but I’m not a huge banana consumer and haven’t tried this one.
- Strawberry tops have a kind of lettuce-y, strawberry-y flavour. Blend them with your smoothie for more greens.
- Watermelon rind sliced thinly and cooked well tastes a lot like squash or zucchini. It’s lovely in stir-frys or stews. It also really nice pickled – use a pickled squash/zucchini recipe.
- Food you really don’t like – maybe it’s something you’ve been gifted or a meal that hasn’t turned out quite right. This happens to everyone and the key is to disguise it in other meals (like soups and stews) a very small amount at a time. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, and you hide yucky (but edible) food in other meals 1tbsp at a time…
And if you have scraps leftover that you really can’t eat, consider feeding to chickens, then in the worm farm and the last resort is your compost bin.
What other “scraps” can you eat? Comment and let me know what I’ve left off my list.