Mother Nature will thank you.

Whether you’re a seasoned home chef (pun intended), a self-isolation baker or a rookie cook rotating your favourite pantry meals, making food at home is pretty much unavoidable right now. I mean, there are only so many restaurants on Uber Eats.

Two young men sit next to each other on a couch with an array of fast food items in front of them. The man on the right is holding a large brown paper back with the words "Uber Eats" printed on it.

More home cooking means more kitchen scraps. If used properly, these can help make your household more sustainable—so, don’t toss them! Your assorted shells, peels and skins are colourful pieces of eco-friendly potential.

Here are five creative ways you can put your kitchen scraps to good use:

1. Eat ’em

Your fruits and veggies have way more cooking capacity than you think. With a bit of imagination, the produce you’re used to throwing out could become the star of your next meal.

Homemade croutons

Stale bread can easily be transformed into croutons. Chop it up, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and your favourite dried herbs then bake until crispy.

A white veramic bowl is filled with golden brown croutons.

Or, swap out the bread for potato skins and repeat the process to make your own chips—the perfect snack for your next movie night!

Veggie bread

You know that zucchini in the back of your fridge that’s gone a little wrinkly, but can’t bring yourself to throw out because it’s your third one this month and you’re definitely, maybe, going to use it soon, probably?

Wash it, grate it, squeeze out the excess water and add it to your favourite batter for a vitamin boost in your baking.

Seven muffins are arranged in a circular shape on a white tray.

This method also works great for past-their-prime carrots and cucumbers.

Simple stock

Whenever you cook, hold on to the odds and ends from your vegetables. Freeze them until you have about four cups, cover them with water in a large pot and simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes to make a veggie stock.

A bowl of meat and vegetable soup in a white bowl on a red background.

Stock is an incredibly versatile kitchen staple. Try it once, and you’ll never boil rice in water again.

2. Grow ’em

You’ve heard of buy one, get one free. How about buy one, get many more for free? That’s essentially the deal when you buy fruits and vegetables—they can be regrown!

Cartoon time lapse of a potted plant being watered and growing.

Leafy greens like romaine lettuce, bok choy and cabbage are incredibly easy to grow from scraps. When you chop up a head of leaves, hang on to the very bottom (sometimes called the “heart”) and place it in a bowl of water in the sunlight. Change out the water every day. After a few days, you should start to see roots form and new leaves sprout—that’s when it’s time to transfer it into soil.

The same system can be used to regrow celery and scallions. Cut off the bottom, place it in a bowl of water, leave it in the sun, transfer it into soil after a few days and soon you’ll have a farmer’s market right in your home.

Scene from "Parks and Recreation" where a female citizen in a purple cardigan with brown hair holds up a piece of broccoli and says, "Look at this tiny tree!"

If only everything worked like this… I want a T-shirt tree.

3. Beautify ’em

Leftover produce can be used to achieve radiant, glowing skin. Turn your kitchen scraps into a homemade body scrub or face mask—or, if you want to get really fancy, try diluting homemade apple cider vinegar into a calming toner.

A young woman with dark curly hair in a bun wears a sheet face mask and dances playfully.

When mom said, “Eat your vegetables,” what she really meant was, “Eat most of your vegetables and use the extra for skincare.”

4. DIY ’em

Anyone who’s made a jack-o’-lantern knows kitchen scraps are just art projects in disguise. And, pumpkins aren’t the only orange food that can be upcycled. Orange peels can easily be made into all-natural scented candles that are sure to brighten up your next bubble bath.

Scene from "Love & Hip Hop" depicting a man with a towel wrapped around his head sitting in a bubble nath with a class of champagne and a candle.

Used coffee grounds can also serve a second purpose. Dry them out, place them in a bowl and light them like incense for a DIY insect repellent.

Finally, you can dye fabric with food. Cabbage, beets, onion, and berries can all be distilled into homemade dyes and used to spruce up that old camp shirt from when you were 12. You know the one.

Cartoon animation of a person with long brown hair growing taller while wearing the same oversized U.S. Space Camp shirt. As the person grows, the shirt begins to fit them more comfortably.

5. Compost ’em

Friday, May 29 is Learn About Composting Day. Why not do just that?

Composted food waste is a fantastic fertilizer for your garden or potted plants. Better yet, it’s super simple to make—collect it, aerate it, and add it to your soil for happier, healthier herbs.

You already have everything you need to reduce food waste in your kitchen. Go forth, conserve and help preserve our beautiful planet.

Stop motion animation of planet Earth hugging two humanoid creatures. Both the creatures and Earth are made out of yarn. Earth had large black eyes with distinguished eyelashes and a small smile.

For more on sustainable living, check out how this Guelph-Humber student went zero waste for a week.

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