Waste Not, Want Not

It’s no secret that I cook quite a bit. I’m also pretty keen on not wasting things–probably comes from growing up in a not-so-wealthy home & learning to do most things from scratch. Specifically in the kitchen, I like to save where I can. Here are some things I do to keep waste to a minimum:

Contents of freezer bag poured into a pot for making veggie stock
Contents of freezer bag poured into a pot for making veggie stock
  • Veggie scraps (onion trimmings, cauliflower leaves, tomato skins, carrot tops, kale stems, etc.) – these go in a freezer bag or storage container. When I get enough, I make stock. Sometimes, if I have a veggie that’s slightly past its prime, but not yet rotten it’ll also go in the stock bag. FYI, the dried skins of onions/garlic are NOT good in stock, nor are the roots!
  • Herb stems (rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, basil, etc.) – these go in the freezer bag for stock, too
  • Meat & poultry skins/bones/fat/cartilage – these go in a separate bag for non-veggie stock.  I sort them by meat type so beef goes in one bag, chicken in another, etc.
  • Fat from stock – save for adding into bread or pizza dough in place of 1/2 the oil; the flavor difference will surprise you
  • Extra coffee – ice cubes for smoothies, cold coffee drinks
  • Citrus zest (from juiced citrus) – peel/zest & soak in vodka
  • Citrus juice – why waste the juice, even if you only bought it for the zest?
  • Bananas past their prime – the obvious answer is banana bread, but I say freeze for adding to smoothies or just whiz in the blender with a few Tbsp of almond/soy/cow’s milk for a healthy treat (try adding peanut butter or a few chocolate chips)
  • Parmesan rinds – these are great flavor enhancers when added to soups or sauces, just simmer it for the last 20 mins or so of cooking, then fish out before eating

    Toasted brioche crusts from the layered french toast I made getting ready to be pulsed into bread crumbs
    Toasted brioche crusts from the layered french toast I made getting ready to be pulsed into bread crumbs
  • Stale bread – let it dry then blitz into bread crumbs, which can be used in all sorts of things from meatloaves to thickening sauces
  • Whey – that leftover enzyme & nutrient-rich liquid from making cheese makes a great addition to soups, sauces & smoothies–just be sure to taste how acidic it is first to understand how it might impact your dish

Whatever unusable non-animal sources of food waste you have can always go in a compost pile, which is way easier than it sounds–just be sure to research it before you start a pile so you can avoid common problems.

Another thing I’m learning to do–which is undoubtedly more important than anything else I’ve listed so far–is to buy less. This seems to be where the most waste comes from in our house. I buy too much at one time, thinking we’ll eat everything I buy or that I’ll use it before it goes bad. Then, when we choose to go out to dinner w/ friends or pick up take-out due to time constraints or laziness then the ingredients for the meal I planned on preparing sit around a bit longer.  It’s quite a challenge because I tend to be pretty impulsive, especially in relation to the kitchen.  Making a weekly menu in advance is another good idea, but it’s hard for me to commit to a regular schedule like that. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to improve my habits.  What is it they say, recognizing your problem is the first step to overcoming it???  Something like that.  ;o)

Aside: If you’re really interested in learning more about food waste on a global scale, check out this TED Talk by Tristram Stuart.  It really opened my eyes to the waste that goes on in the food industry–something we can each influence in our own kitchens by making even the smallest of efforts.

What sorts of things do you do to save money or waste less? Any ideas to share with others?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. I really liked this post. I’ve never done this before and it’s a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Rachel Tayse says:

    We do a lot of these things and two more:

    Cooking rice in whey is a great way to boost flavor and nutrition of the rice. Very common in India.

    You can also keep a jar of citus peels topped up with vinegar – the infusion makes a perfect household cleaner.

  3. Rachel Tayse says:

    We do most of these things and a few more:

    Use whey as cooking liquid in rice to add nutrition and flavor OR use it to start lacto-fermentation with sauerkraut, cucumber pickles, or more.

    Soak citrus peels in vinegar to make a scented household cleaner.

  4. Andrea says:

    Ditto! I save everything for use later at some point. I do the same with meat bones, sorting them by type and freezing them.

    I try to do make ahead stuff and store in the freezer like tomato sauce and beans.

  5. Maria P. Folch says:

    Can you explain why the dried skins of onions/garlic are NOT good in stock, nor are the roots!?

    1. elderjscott says:

      I am so glad you asked. When I originally wrote this (7 yrs ago) I had read about resistant molds and even botulism surviving boiling. However, I have since leaned better and changed my approach to this. In fact, I always put the skins in to deepen the color of the stock. Wow, I should go back through these and update them with all the things that I’ve learned since I originally wrote them!

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