Over the last couple of months, I think it is safe to say that most of us have learned the value of being as sustainable and resourceful as possible when it comes to food. By doing this, we are actually reducing food waste – which is helpful for the environment AND saves you a surprising amount of money as well as time. With the creative food waste hacks listed below, you are guaranteed to get the most out of your kitchen!
1. Save Scraps for Stock
This is one of my favorite and most beneficial food waste hacks! Turning your food scraps into stock. Whether it’s vegetable peelings, discarded bones, potato skins, mushroom stalks, or herb stems – you can use almost anything to create a stock that will help fortify future dishes.
A quick how-to: put scraps into a heavy-bottomed pan or pot, season with a little salt and cover with plenty of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for a couple of hours. Once the mixture has thoroughly infused, strain the liquid into a food-safe container then let cool before storing it in the fridge. You can use this stock to add flavor and consistency to soups, casseroles, cooked grains, re-heated leftovers, and more!
2. Use Fruit Ends for Infusion
This is a fun way to jazz up water, iced teas, or even some liquors! Instead of tossing your cucumber skins, tops of fruit, or citrus peels into the trash — put them into a strainable bottle or use a jug with a built-in infuser! Pour your desired liquid into the container and then place in the fridge to sit overnight. This will give your drink the perfect hint of flavor without any added sugars or artificial substitutes.
3. Turn Leftover Wine into Vinegar
Do you have an unfinished bottle of wine laying around? (This concept is somewhat of a mystery to me but I hear it does happen…) You can use a small amount of real vinegar to combine with the last of your wine to create your very own vinegar!
You can also use the wine on its own: after wine has oxidized, it takes on a mild acidity. This is perfect for adding complex tastes to sauces or deglazing a pan to ensure all the flavors of your dish stay consistent.
4. Use Stale Bread for Croutons
Before I get to the part of using stale bread… just a reminder that keeping bread in the fridge will actually make it last longer! Now, if you do end up with any pieces of bread that have gone stale…All you need to do is to cut your bread into cubes, and toss them with a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Then lay them out evenly on a baking sheet and put them in the oven on 350 for about ten minutes. Once the cubes are crispy and crunchy, let them sit before storing in a food-safe container in a cool, dry place.
5. Freeze Produce Before it Goes Bad
Some of the best advice I can give you in terms of food waste hacks is to keep an eye on your produce! Fruits are great to always have on hand but tend to go bad quickly compared to other items. Before your produce starts to turn, cut into smaller pieces and then freeze them. Once frozen, you can use this fruit to make smoothies, spreads, and even healthy ice creams (try my Healthy Chocolate Banana Ice Cream here!).
Frozen vegetables require a bit more preparation: blanch and shock vegetables by boiling them briefly, drain from the pot, then plunge into ice water. Dry each piece thoroughly before placing into freezer bags / containers.
6. Put Leftover Herbs into a Bottle of Olive Oil
Herb-infused olive oil is great for making your own salad dressing, garnishing a pasta dish, and to use as a dip! Making it yourself is easy, fun, and adds a chic decoration to your kitchen counter. All you need is a quality extra-virgin olive oil, a sealable glass bottle (or canning jar), and your leftover herbs.
Once you have accumulated enough leftover herbs (fresh is best) – gently wash them and let dry overnight. Then, bruise your herbs gently to expose their flavor and put into your bottle / jar. Cover the ingredients with olive oil, seal, and let sit in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks before using. This infused olive oil will generally keep for up to one month, especially if kept refrigerated.
7. Save Coffee Grounds
If you are like me, you are brewing coffee almost every day. That is A LOT of grounds being thrown into the trash! Instead of tossing them out, pour your grounds into a bowl or plate to let dry out completely. Once they are dried, you can use them in a variety of creative ways that will help benefit the health of yourself and your home!
Ways to use old coffee grounds: put a bowl of used grounds in your fridge to deodorize it, sprinkle fresh grounds onto soil to give plants a nitrogen boost, or mix the grounds with grapeseed or coconut oil to make an exfoliating body scrub. If you are wanting to repurpose food into more food: make coffee flavored baked goods like brownies!!
8. Freeze Citrus Zest
Before cutting into a piece of citrus or juicing it, remove the zest using a citrus grater. Wrap the shavings tightly in wax paper or plastic wrap, and freeze it for future use. These can be used for a bug repellant on windows and doorways, pasta sauce flavoring, sore throat remedy, in DIY cleaning products, and so much more! Lemon peel is a great antioxidant and gets rid of bacteria so its uses are numerous.
Try the tips above and feel confident that your efforts can help reduce food waste. Living a more sustainable life is beneficial to the health of the environment and teaches us to be more resourceful. It’s a win-win!
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