The Thrifty Kitchen: Cooking with Fruit and Vegetable Scraps

We try to shop organic as much as we can, and sometimes organic produce is considerably pricier than conventional. When you pay a premium for organic food, you want to get your money’s worth! Before you throw those fruit and veggie scraps into the compost bin, check out these ways to use the bits and pieces that you’d normally toss.

Swiss Chard

Chard leaves are the star in lots of tasty veggie dishes, but after chopping up all of those greens, you’re left with a pile of stems. The stems, or ribs, are actually great in recipes, too! They’re crunchy and slightly tangy. You can treat them like celery or onions and add them to stir fries, casseroles, soups, and stews.

Celery Leaves

Margie, the woman who operates the local Atlanta CSA Vegetable Husband, has a great suggestion for the leaves on the top of celery. She adds them to soups and stews for a deep, celery flavor. Celery leaves also work really well in salads of both the greens- and mayonnaise-based varieties. Just chop them up finely and mix them right in to add a little kick!

Mushroom Stems

Many stuffed mushroom recipes call for chopping the stems right up into your filing mixture, but these tasty leftovers have more uses than just that! Once you remove the tough part at the very bottom of the stem, try adding them to everything from soups and casseroles to salad dressings. You can toss your dressing into a food processor with some mushroom stems and process until smooth to add a nice, earthy taste to your salads.

Citrus Peels

After peeling that orange or juicing a lemon, you can take advantage of the zest before composting the rest! Citrus zest is the dark-colored part of the skin, and it’s perfect for adding a citrusy flavor to baked goods. You can remove it using a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Just wrap the zest in wax paper and put it in a container in the freezer. It should last a couple of weeks.


Home made, organic vegetable broth is a great catch-all for your scraps! You can save veggie leavings – like onion and garlic peel, carrot ends, mushroom stems, and stems from fresh herbs and spices – in a container in the freezer. Once you have enough, just put them into a pot with enough water to cover and bring to a rolling boil. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour, then strain out the scraps. What’s left is a wholesome, tasty veggie broth that’s just as good as (if not better than) the store-bought sort!

Image Credit: cizauskas on Flickr.


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogersabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogersabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing.

Edvanir L.
Edvanir L.3 years ago


J.L. A.
JL A.4 years ago

great ideas to avoid food waste

Silas Garrett
Silas Garrett4 years ago

Interesting. Not sure I'll use most of these tips, but it's worth filing away in the back of my mind.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Sheri P.
Sheri P.5 years ago

Great ideas, thanks!

Heather D.
Heather D.5 years ago

I don't think it ever occurred to me that it would be possible to cook with food scraps! We routinely separate food scraps from the rest of our trash; now I will be a little more selective in where I toss my scraps!

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Good tips. Thanks for this wonderful posting.

ESC Chocolate
ESC Chocolate5 years ago

My compost pile is going to go hungry once I impliment these tips! :)