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Don’t Toss That! Part III: Kitchen Scraps for House and Body

Welcome to the third and final installment in my blog on minimizing food waste. (For the others in the series read: Resourceful Ways to Use More of Your Produce and Creative Uses for Everyday Food Scraps.) 

Making the most of groceries doesn’t have to stop with cooking. I’ve found some terrific ways to upcycle kitchen scraps for cleaning, skincare and more, and I think they’re pretty fun.

Remember, as with any new formula for cleaning around the house or for body care, always start by trying it out on a small area first to make sure your household surface or your skin doesn’t have a sensitivity to it. Play it safe, even with all-natural ingredients.

Lemon Rinds

You’ve used the juice and maybe even the zest, now what do you do with the leftover lemon shell? Purée it in a blender or food processor until you have a thick, fairly smooth paste, adding a little water as needed. Store it in the fridge for up to a week.

For a cleaning paste excellent on porcelain or metal, stir in baking soda until you have a thick mixture — about 1 part lemon to 1 part baking soda works well for me. Work it into your surface with a damp rag, then rinse and dry.

For a smoothing body scrub, stir in sugar, about 1 part sugar to 1 part lemon. Massage it all over your skin and then rinse it off. It’s terrific on elbows!

Orange Peels

The oils concentrated in orange skin are wonderfully aromatic, but as an added bonus they pack awesome cleaning powers and leave behind a great shine on metal. I use them on my kitchen faucet and on the stainless-steel fridge and dishwasher.

Plus, it’s super-easy: Next time you peel an orange to snack on, aim to keep the peel in large chunks. Refrigerate it for up to a week. When cleaning the kitchen, have the peels at room temperature and rub the skin-side of the peel over metal surfaces as you would a sponge — be vigorous to lift grease stains and to release the oils. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove any pulpy bits, then buff with a dry cloth.

Cucumber Ends and Peels

Cucumber is a favorite spa ingredient for cooling, soothing and calming skin. You can save ends and peels for some easy at-home treatments.

For a traditional skin tightening facial mask, blend ends and skins from a small cucumber in a food processor with a teaspoon of honey and an egg white (save the yolk for another use). When smooth, pour the mixture into a small bowl, then scoop up the mousse-like foam from the top and pat it on clean, dry skin. Let it dry, 20 to 30 minutes, then rinse off and enjoy the silkiness.

You can refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days; rewhip the mixture to make another batch of foamy mask.

Tea Bags

I drink a lot of tea, hot in winter and iced in summer, so I was thrilled to find a way to reuse the bags: Cut off any strings or tags and lay the damp, used bags flat in a freezer-safe container. You can freeze them for up to a month.

Anytime you have tired, puffy eyes lay a bag over each closed eye lid and sit back for 5 minutes. I find this works best with green tea.

Wine Corks

Real corks, made from cork trees, are increasingly rare these days, so when you get them you might want to hold onto them.

I often just put a cork on the floor, where it becomes a wildly popular cat toy until it’s batted under the stove.

For a more lasting use, try turning them into a trivet (I’ve just started mine). Start with three corks and use a serrated knife to trim any long ones so that they’re all the same height. Use super glue to stick them together upright to form a triangle. Keep adding corks as you get them, making a circle eventually large enough to accommodate the bottom of a pot.

Candle Nubs

Candles can be re-melted and used to make new candles. You’ll find wick material at craft stores, and you can even melt old crayon nubs along with the wax to create new colors.

Melt the scraps over lowest heat (in a pot that’s not your favorite! Wax is tough to remove), set wicks in small glass jars like baby-food or spice jars, and pour in wax. Let cool, and you’ll have some fun homemade candles.

Finally, Roses!

And here’s a sweet note to end on. A bouquet of roses doesn’t have to be thrown out when their heads begin to droop. The petals make beautiful potpourri. This recipe for Homemade Lavender Rose Potpourri even reuses some orange peel. Give it a try!

Homemade Lavender Rose Potpourri

What are your favorite household uses for kitchen scraps?

Keep in mind that these are the author’s home remedies and ideas. Actual results may vary. And, as with anything new you put on your skin, you should first test for any sensitivities.