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.
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.
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.
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.
This method also works great for past-their-prime carrots and cucumbers.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For more on sustainable living, check out how this Guelph-Humber student went zero waste for a week.