Over the last few years I’ve been challenging myself to use more and throw out less in the kitchen. And I’m in good company. Food waste is a hot topic, and I’m thrilled that home cooks are reconsidering what was once deemed “trash” and thinking up resourceful ways to get more out of what they buy.
Here’s my post on how I use all parts of my produce opens in a new tab and below are some of my other favorite strategies for reducing kitchen waste. Many involve freezing small bits and bobs until I have enough to “upcycle” them into a new dish. I’ve found that gallon-size zip-close freezer bags labeled and stored in the freezer are super- convenient, and I add to them as scraps accumulate. The freezer bags last for several years and are easy to open and close, but just about any freezer-safe containers will work too.
For a few years now my son has insisted that I trim the crusts when I make him a sandwich. This started me collecting bread bits in the freezer, including bread heels, stale slices and other random morsels.
When I have several cups’ worth accumulated I have some delicious choices: Use them for stuffing, for bread pudding, or dry them out on a sheet pan in a 250 degree F oven until crisp and grind them to fine crumbs in the food processor.
This savory Brunch Bread Pudding with Asparagus and Sausage opens in a new tab is a treat, and using a variety of different bread types (whole wheat, white, sourdough, etc.) makes it even more interesting.
Pickles are in, and pouring all that great juice down the drain when you’ve eaten the last spear isn’t necessary.
You can “repickle” right in original jar by adding some of your favorite veggies and letting them soak for a few days: blanched green beans, carrots or cauliflower florets; sliced cooked beets; garlic cloves; and more. I even add peeled hard-boiled eggs for old-fashioned pickled eggs.
Chicken Bones and Carcasses
Inexpensive homemade stock is one of the greatest benefits of saving kitchen scraps. Keep a “stock bag” in the freezer and load your chicken bones, giblets and necks into it.
This recipe for Golden Chicken Broth opens in a new tab is perfect when you’ve got about two chickens’ worth. And you can replace the whole carrot, onion, and celery stock with 2 to 3 cups trimmings from these vegetables.
Carrot, Onion and Celery Trimmings
A good homemade stock relies on these aromatic vegetables, so I never throw out carrot peels, celery ends, and onion skins and scraps. Tough fennel stalks, scallion and leek trimmings and sprouting garlic cloves are also good to add to the mix.
When you have a few cups worth you’ll have enough to add water to and boil up into broth, either with a few herbs for flavor for with meat or chicken bones.
Scrub your potatoes before you peel them and you don’t have to throw out the peelings. If you plan to make veggie stock, freeze the peelings to add depth of flavor and even some body to your broth.
You can also make a quick, crunchy snack: Place the peels on a sheet pan, spray with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkle with sea salt, then roast in a 400 degree F oven until browned and crisp, about 20 minutes. Enjoy them warm!
Most recipes call for just the tender leaves, but herb stems are packed with terrific flavor as well. Parsley and thyme stems are excellent to freeze with your stock ingredients. Rosemary, dill and basil are a bit strong for stock but are perfect for infusing into tea or other beverages.
Try using stems in place of whole sprigs in recipes like this Herbal Sun Tea opens in a new tab.
I try never to throw out the fat that’s rendered after I cook bacon. I pour it into a glass jar, seal the jar and store it in the refrigerator; it keeps for months.
I love to add it to the oil I use to fry chicken — even a small amount adds wonderful flavor and aroma. It’s also great for roasting potatoes or cooking eggs.
There’re always some crushed cookies left behind after my family finishes a box or batch of cookies. I store the uneaten fragments in an airtight jar in the cabinet if they’re crisp and dry or in a small zip-close bag in the freezer if they’re moist.
I add whatever I have to the mix when I make a graham-cracker pie crust or streusel toppings. You can also grind them in the food processor and use them to dust the tops of muffins or quick breads before baking.
These yummy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles opens in a new tab calls for two different kinds of cookie crumbs and includes them in both the filling and as a garnish — pretty resourceful!
What are your favorite uses for kitchen scraps?