Give Kitchen Trash a Second Life–35 Quick Tips

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Healthy & Green Living

Old tea leaves in the litter box? Grapefruit peels for a skin tonic? You can get pretty creative with your kitchen trash when, say,  the eleven families in your eleven-family building fill up the compost bin in a month and you’re left having to throw perfectly good food trash away! Maybe you aren’t able to compost–or you don’t have a recycling program that composts for you. For whatever reason, if you find yourself tossing those earnest, used coffee grounds in the trash or pouring out that last splash of wine in the bottom of a bottle–give them a second life!

Egg Shells
• Cleaned egg shells can be sprinkled on the ground in the garden to deter garden pests and provide nourishment to the soil.
• Make some ridiculously cute seed-starting pots, here’s how.
• Help nesting birds–save the (calcium-rich!) shells of eggs you use. Grind up the egg shells and stir them into cornmeal, sprinkle the cornmeal/calcium mix around the feeders, on a platform if available.

Next: Creative ways to revitalize fruit and vegetable peels, used coffee grounds, stale bread, leftover wine and more!

Fruit and Vegetable Peels
• Grate the outer layer of oranges, lemons or limes to make zest for marinades, baking, flavored vinegars and oils–you can also freeze it if you wrap it well.
• Strips of peel are good in cocktails, sparkling water, and tap water–or to make candied citrus peels.
• Infuse honey, olive oil, or vinegar with citrus peels.
• Rub juiced lemon or lime halves on greasy pans, splattered stove tops, stinky sinks, counters or cutting board to clean and refresh.
• Leftover orange or grapefruit peels can be lightly rubbed on your face (watch out for your eyes!), then gently rinsed with warm water, for a nice skin tonic.
• Lemon peel can help lighten age spots–strap or tape a small piece on the spot and leave an hour.
• Rub the fleshy part of a piece of avocado peel on your face for a luscious quick moisturizer.
• Potato peelings are a great puffiness-reducer: apply the moist side of the fresh peels to your skin and allow to remain on for 15 minutes.

Vegetable Leftovers and Trimmings
• Vegetable scraps are filled with flavor and vitamins. Use them for vegetable stock–if you don’t have time now, freeze them for future use.
• Put herb stems in your soup stock too.
• Toss leftover salad in a blender with tomatoes or tomato juice and make an instant gazpacho or vegetable juice.

Brewed Coffee Grounds
• Coffee grounds are a great natural exfoliator–make a body scrub with coffee grounds, coconut oil, and a little brown sugar.
• Use coffee grounds as mulch for acid-loving plants, such as rosebushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens, and camellias–they’ll appreciate your used coffee grounds for their natural acidity and the nutrients they’ll add to the soil.
• Sprinkle used grounds around places where you don’t want ants, or on the ant piles themselves. Used grounds are also said to repel snails and slugs.
• Before cleaning the fireplace, sprinkle with still-damp used coffee grounds–this weighs down the ash dust and makes cleaning much easier.
• Soak used grounds in hot water and use as a dye bath for Easter eggs, cloth, and paper.

Used Tea Leaves and Tea Bags
• Cool tea bags provide relief when applied to bug bites and minor burns, including sunburn.
• Tannins in tea are known for anti-inflammatory effects, so put a chilled tea bag on puffy eyes.
• Use tea leaves to feed your garden plants–green tea is high in nitrogen–and they will even ward off pests and insects.
• Tea leaves have a long tradition of being used as a deodorizer. Tea has antibacterial properties, which makes tea leaves great for fighting odor.
• Sprinkle used, dried, tea leaves on your carpet and let sit for tn minute before vacuuming to help reduce odors.
• Sprinkle used, dried tea leaves in litter boxes and pet beds to help reduce odors.

Cheese Rinds
• Cheese rinds (without the wax!) can be placed in soup stocks to add surprising flavor.
• Also add to sauteed green with lots of broth.

Stale Bread
• Ouch, did you let a whole loaf go stale? Not to worry, make bread pudding! Here are my two favorites: Strawberry Rhubarb Bread Pudding and Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
• Blend stale bread in a blender until course for a ready supply of homemade bread crumbs–add salt, pepper, and seasoning if you like.
• For croutons: slice stale bread into cubes, toss with a bit of olive oil, dried rosemary, salt and pepper–bake at 300F degrees until lightly browned. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Leftover Wine
• Keep unused wine corked or transfer it to another bottle–use it for cooking pasta sauces, marinades or risotto.
• Use to poach pears or marinade strawberries.
• Add to salad dressings for some added sass.
• Make wine vinegar–instructions here.


W. C
W. C4 months ago


William C
William C4 months ago

Thank you.

Sonia M

Great article with useful tips thanks for sharing

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kimmy H.
Kimmy H3 years ago

Thank you for the tips.

Vita Pagh
Vita P4 years ago

Thank you for good tips.

Winn Adams
Winn A4 years ago


Sonia Minwer-Barakat Requ

Great tips,very useful thanks for sharing

Day R.
Day R5 years ago

Useful tips to start using right away... Thank you...