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  • Karen Haralson

Food for thought: 13 Things To Do With Vegetable and Fruit Scraps (Don't Throw Them Away!)

Did you know that each year approximately 25-40% of all food grown, processed, and transported in the US will go uneaten? Most of the wasted food ends up in landfills and we as consumers are the largest contributor. But there's good news: we can do something about it.

Preventing food waste is one of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to save money, lower your climate change footprint, and conserve natural resources, all while finding ways to eat healthier. Preventing food waste can involve many levels of food management including thoughtfully regulating the amount of produce purchased, best practices for preserving supplies, repurposing food scraps, and utilizing channels for distributing excess supplies to neighbors or disadvantaged people before they spoil, and composting for soil restoration.

Since Nourishing Generations is all about nutrition education, the strategies for reducing food waste outlined here will concentrate on finding creative ways to recycle or repurpose fruit and veggie scraps so they don’t end up in the landfill! With a little effort and some culinary creativity, you will undoubtedly be surprised by all that fruit & vegetable scraps can do.

Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away each day from leftovers to spoiled produce to parts of fruits and veggies that could be incorporated into another meal or repurposed. Most people prepare their fruits and vegetables prior to consumption by cutting off stalks. leaves or ends, throwing peels away, or tossing the leafy portion of a root veggie. In addition, as fruits and vegetables ripen and begin to slowly decompose, we tend to discard them rather than make use of them in a way that disguises their appearance, but still manages to utilize their nutrients.

After combing through several sites listing tips for using fruit and vegetable scraps, it quickly became apparent that some of the many suggestions offered were either not practical or easily implemented. However, there was one site that is worthy of mention. So, if you need additional inspiration on the subject of repurposing food scraps after checking out the ideas listed below, check out the Save the Food Website section on recipes specifically calling for food scraps

Vegetable Scraps

1. Make a stock or Broth-Save carrot peels, potato skins, zucchini tops, and celery cores and leafy tops to add to a homemade stock or broth. Just freeze the scraps as you go, placing them in a reusable container with a good seal. You can also blend them prior to freezing to save space.

After adding water to your vegetable scraps, add a dash of white or apple cider vinegar. This will extract more of the mineral content of the vegetables. From there simply place the scraps (frozen or not) in a pot and cover them with water. You can also add other ingredients like aromatics, such as garlic or a bay leaf, to add more flavor. Cook the broth for 10 minutes only. Strain the broth through a sieve and store it in the fridge or freezer depending on how soon you plan to use it

It's always a good idea to have broth on hand to make all kinds of dishes. From soups, like a Comforting Mushroom Barley Stew, to risotto and casseroles. Substituting broth when cooking grains or pasta infuses the dish with extra flavor, try it next time you cook barley. Besides reducing food waste, making broth with veggie scraps saves money and helps you control how much sodium among other things end up in the broth.

Learn more about making broth in our Homemade Vegetable Stock From Scraps Recipe Blog Post.

2. Make Smoothies-Freeze leftover vegetable stalks and throw them in your blender when making smoothies! Delicious and easy.

3. Make Veggie Chips-Turn them into veggie chips. Make yummy potato peel chips out of your potato scraps. Cooking vegetable chips is another easy way to use up vegetable scraps or leftovers you might have. From the stemless ends of carrots and potato peels to the leafy greens from broccoli and so much more, you can easily bake, broil, or fry the scraps into crisp veggie chips. Not only will this solution reduce your food waste, but it will also provide a healthy snack that satisfies your need for crunch.

To make homemade veggie chips, you can always turn to a deep-walled pot and fry them on the stovetop. An air fryer should also work. But to bake your vegetable scraps into a delicious snack, simply slice them thin chips, toss them in a touch of oil (use olive oil, walnut or avocado oil) and seasonings, and spread the chips out on a baking tray in a single layer. Once prepped, just bake the chips for 10 minutes on each side in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven.

4. Start a New Plant-If you have enough of a vegetable's leftover, you can start new plants. Even the large seed in some produce like avocados can be used to sprout roots and regrow the produce. Retain the seeds, pits, and cuttings of your veggies and regrow them at home, saving money on seeds or seedlings and producing your own produce. Grow them into new vegetables.

Avocados can be used to sprout roots and regrow the produce. Retain the seeds, pits, and cuttings of your veggies and regrow them at home, saving money on seeds or seedlings and producing your own produce. Grow them into new vegetables.

To grow new vegetables from leftovers, you'll need to first trim the end of the vegetable. This allows the vegetable to take up fresh water and start to regenerate roots as well as new growth. Once the vegetable has been trimmed, simply place it in fresh water and set it somewhere with a good source of natural light. With time, the vegetable should grow, but be sure to refresh its water regularly when it starts to get cloudy.

5. Make a Sauté-If you prefer to put your leftover veggie

scraps to work in the kitchen by using them in your cooking, then consider a sauté. Sauté the stalks of greens such as kale to make a healthy side dish. This could also be done with other kinds of stalks such as those of Swiss chard, fresh broccoli, or even cauliflower.

To sauté leftover vegetables, simply add them to a hot non-stick pan or a skillet with some healthy fat such as olive or walnut oil. Toss the vegetables so they cook on both sides and remove from heat to enjoy or use as you'd like. Use them alone as a side dish or make a medley.

6. Make Some Soup-The reserved green “trunks” of your broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, or other leafy greens with a stalk make for a delicious soup on their own or they can be added to quiche or other dishes that call for chopped greens adding nutritional value along with some chunky, crunchy texture. They could also be used in other dishes such as quiche where the vegetables won't be as easily seen, you could also add in other kinds of vegetable scraps such as carrots or even the ends of zucchini if they are finely chopped.

7. Make Herb Cubes-Mince and freeze leftover herbs before they spoil in oil or water. If you do this using an ice cube tray, then you will have small portions ready for addition to sauces and soups.

8. Use The Tops-For vegetables that have leafy green tops, such as carrots, radishes, beets, and celery, among others, you don't have to discard the leaves. Instead, they can be used right alongside other greens such as spinach, arugula, and endive. While you can use the leaves in cooked dishes that call for steamed or sautéed greens, the easiest method is to toss them into salads or other dishes with raw veggies. Beet tops can be sauteed and eaten just like spinach as a side dish.

The best part about using vegetable greens in salads, wraps, or sandwiches is that they require very little effort to use. You just need to place them in whatever it is you are preparing. Of course, if you are preparing other things like pesto, smoothies, hummus, or a green juice, you can also add the scraps into those spreads and drinks as well. It's all about finding a creative place to put leftover greens just as you would greens that had been purchased.

Fruit Scraps

1. Make Jam or Syrup-Make jam from apple peels and cores, strawberry tops, and apricot peels. Overripe fruit can also be used for making jams as well as syrups, especially berries since their sugar level doubles when overripe.

2. Go Bananas-Bananas are quite versatile. Overripe bananas are great for use in banana bread. Rub the soft side of a banana peel on the leaves of houseplants to shine them up and remove dust. Drop a few banana peels into a bucket of water and let sit overnight. This will become a potassium and phosphorus-rich “compost tea” for use in your garden and house plants.

3. Freshen the Drain- Toss a couple of citrus peels down the garbage disposal to get rid of odors.

4. Freshen the Air-Make a homemade air freshener. Boil leftover fruit scraps in a little water on the stove to make your home smell sweet and fresh.

5. Cleaning Solutions-Dry lemon or orange peels, then add them to your homemade vinegar cleaning solution. The citrus oils will help dissolve grease and add antibacterial power.

Other uses for food scraps

1. Cook with old wine before you pour it down the drain. It won’t make you sick and is a great addition to simmering dishes like stews or risottos.

2. Use dried-out cheese or cut off the moldy portions to make macaroni & cheese.

3. Grind cleaned and cracked eggshells into a calcium powder for use in the garden or to remove limestone deposits in your bathroom.

4. Spent coffee grounds and cleaned eggshells can be added to the soil of potted plants to act as a natural insect deterrent and double as a great nitrogen infusion. Crush up the eggshells before adding the mix into the top layer of indoor potted plants.

5. Any unused breadcrumbs can be fed to the wild birds outside. Dog biscuit crumbs work too.

6. Place cucumber peels at entrance points in your home to deter ants.

By making small and simple changes in your daily life, you can actively participate in minimizing food waste. This article highlights some great tips and resources for using food scraps and creating a waste-free kitchen. There are all sorts of strategies you can adopt along the same lines of reducing food waste not discussed here that are also worthy of consideration. Rather than throwing away excess food, keep finding ways to manage it more thoughtfully from purchasing only what you need (meal planning) to composting at home and restoring nutrients to the soil. Anything that keeps food waste out of the landfill benefits us all and every little scrap helps.


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