15 Ways to Use Kitchen Scraps & Unused Food
We all know how it goes: you have to buy a whole bunch of parsley when you only need 1/2 tablespoon, a whole carton of heavy cream when the recipe calls for a 1/4 cup. As much as we all want to avoid food waste, sometimes, it’s just really, really difficult not to. There are ways around this, though. Read through to check out some clever ways to get the most out of your unused foods, leftovers and kitchen scraps. Have a great tip of your own? Tell us about it in the comments!
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1. Vegetable Scraps and Herb Stems.
Try: Vegetable stock.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds it painful to throw out all the parts of vegetables and herbs that we don’t use. Leeks, I’m looking at you! Start saving all those scraps, like:
- Garlic, shallot and onion tops and peels
- Broccoli and cauliflower stems
- Potato peels
- Herb stems
- Celery greens
- Carrot peels
- Pea pods
- Chard and kale stems
- Leek greens
- Any whole veggie that’s about to go bad
Save these in an airtight container in the fridge until you’ve collected about 5 cups. I had enough scraps from two meals, a veggie stir fry and a salad, so it might not take you that long.
1. Place vegetable scraps in the 5 quart stock pot. Fill to the top with cold water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, turn heat down and let simmer, uncovered, for about an hour. Check on it periodically to see if any “scum” has floated to the top. Skim off any that has.
2. Place a sieve in a large bowl. Carefully strain scraps out of stock.
3. After stock has cooled completely, store in fridge for a few days or freeze.
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2. Stale Bread.
Try: Bread pudding.
- 6-8 Slices bread, stale
- 2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
- 1/2 Cup raisins (optional)
- 4 Eggs
- 2 Cups milk
- 1/2 Cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Dash nutmeg
Oven Temperature: 350 degrees.
Pan Size: 8 inch square.
1. Using your hands, tear bread into small pieces and spread evenly over baking pan.
2. In a small saucepan, melt butter. Drizzle melted butter over the bread. Top with raisins.
Stir together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Pour mixture over bread and push lightly with a fork so that bread soaks up the mixture.
3. Bake until the top springs back when the bread pudding is tapped lightly, about 45 minutes.
Recipe Adapted From: AllRecipes.
Other Ways to Use Stale Bread:
3. Bread crumbs.
5. French Toast (as long as it’s not too stale.)
6. French Onion Soup.
7. Stuffing. Who says it’s just a holiday food?!
8. Wilting Greens and/or Fresh Herbs.
Try: “Anything Goes” Pesto.
Pesto isn’t just for basil — you can make it with pretty much any type of green or delicate herb. You can try a few at once — parsley-sage-kale pesto, anyone? You’ll want to use this up within a day or two if stored in the fridge. You can also freeze it for a few months.
If it turns out too bitter for your liking, add a few splashes of lemon juice. Here’s a basic recipe:
- 4 cups packed greens/herbs
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 1/4 cup Parmesan (optional)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Blend greens, nuts, garlic and parmesan in a food processor, adding in olive oil gradually while it is running. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Other Great Ideas:
9. Citrus Peels: Dry them in a 200 degree oven and add to soups or sauces.
10. Parmesan Rinds. Great for soups and stocks, tomato sauces, and to flavor steamed veggies.
11. Fresh Herb Stems. Add to soups and stocks, and on top of veggies on the grill.
12. Overripe Fruit. Banana bread is the obvious choice, but strawberries and apples past their prime are fine for muffins, other baked goods, and smoothies or juices.
13. Fresh Herbs. Make compound butter or infused olive oil. If you are infusing your own oils, though, make sure to follow the directions carefully — improperly produced and/or stored oils can be dangerous.
14. Plant ‘Em. Alliums like onions, leeks, and scallions will all grow from their roots. Just planting a clove of garlic will work, too!
15. Freeze ‘Em. Many fresh foods will store well in the freezer, even if they’re already chopped. And that way, you’ll eliminate the need to buy more, and waste more, in the future!