Do you feel bad throwing away food? Even just the scrapings! Landfills are packed with food waste — with roughly one-third of all food produced in the world ending up in the trash. Not only does food in landfills take longer to decompose, it emits harmful methane gases that affect the environment. There are also a lot of resources that go into creating food — land, water, labor — that get wasted when food is thrown away.
The benefits to reducing food waste aren’t just environmental. Using more of the food you buy can save money and add extra nutrients to your diet! Here are some ways in which you can get creative and utilize more in the kitchen:
Power Up with Greens
Did you know the leafy greens on top of many root vegetables can be eaten? We’re talking carrots, beets, radishes, and turnips. These greens are full of nutrients and can be enjoyed similar to other greens like spinach and chard. Try eating them raw in salads, sauteed with oil and garlic, or added to soups. Each green has a unique flavor, so experiment to find out what works for you!
Eat the Peels
Believe it or not, many fruit and veggie peels can also be eaten. Some of our favorites include potato, citrus, apples, and even banana peels!
- Potato skins contain more nutrients than the potatoes themselves. Bake them with olive oil and seasonings to enjoy.
- Citrus peels can be zested for added flavor in smoothies, baked goods, and other dishes. You can also save citrus peels and infuse them into vinegar to be used as a natural home cleaner. They add a great scent to sour vinegar and add an extra cleaning boost. Learn more about making your own natural citrus home cleaner!
- Apple peels can be eaten while on the fruit for added fiber and nutrients. However, many prefer to remove them. Don’t throw out these bits! You can use apple peels to make jam, juice, or even wine.
- Banana peels and fruit have been studied for their ability to combat depression and anxiety. While not commonly consumed in the West, many Asian countries regularly eat banana peels along with the fruit for added nutrients. If you wait for the fruit to ripen, the skin becomes thinner, sweeter, and easier to enjoy. To add banana peels to your diet try blending them into smoothies raw or baking/boiling/frying for 10+ minutes and adding seasonings like cinnamon. Don’t forget to wash the skin well with water beforehand! If you don’t feel up to eating banana peels, they also have a ton of household uses — like polishing silver, feeding houseplants, and improving complexion.
Use Veggie Scraps for Broth
The scraps of veggies still have value! Save your papery garlic and onion skins, squash peels, green onion ends, carrot peelings, herb stems, and celery leaves. Throw it all together, add water, and simmer for 30 minutes to make a nutritious vegan broth. Make sure you rinse all of your vegetable scraps well before using. You can also use vegetables that are out of their prime — like soft carrots and celery. Check out this list of veggies to include or exclude from your broth for inspiration. Once made you can enjoy broth in soups, on its own, or freeze into cubes for later use.
Some fruits and vegetables can be easily regrown from parts of the produce. These include lettuce, basil, avocado, carrot greens, celery, ginger, hot peppers, onions, pineapple, potatoes, pumpkins, and tomato. Learn more about the process for growing each.
We love using fresh herbs in the kitchen! Unfortunately, we often struggle to use them all up before they turn. Many herbs, especially those with a firmer texture, keep great frozen. These include basil, chives, dill, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. The first step is to wash and pat herbs dry. Next you can spread leaves in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze. Alternatively, you can add herbs to an ice cube tray in pre-measured amounts and add water or olive oil before freezing. In either instance, you will want to transfer the frozen herbs to a closed storage container and mark their date. Herbs can keep for up to a year in the freezer.
Repurpose Stale Bread
Stale bread or uneaten toast is far from useless. In fact, some things are made even better with the extra crunch. As long as there is no mold present, you can use bread that is no longer soft to make croutons for salads, to thicken soups, or for bread pudding. Stale bread also works great for french toast! Try using hardened bread in this recipe for Coconut Oat Crusted French Toast made a with Svelte® Spiced Chai protein shake for an extra boost.
Utilize Coffee Grounds
Used coffee grounds can be utilized in a number of ways:
- Plants love nitrogen rich coffee and simply sprinkling some of your used grounds on top of the soil can act as a natural fertilizer.
- The coarse texture of coffee makes it a great scrub! Use coffee grounds to scour pots, pans, and hard to wash dishes. You can also use coffee to exfoliate your skin and nourish your hair.
- Pests do not like coffee. As such, grounds in the garden or set around outdoor areas can keep certain insects at bay. Coffee can be effective in deterring mosquitos, fruit flies, fleas, and beetles. You can also try running used coffee grounds through dogs fur and rinsing thoroughly to keep fleas away. Try a small area first to make sure your pet has no allergies. Please note: Coffee grounds are toxic to dogs if eaten and should only be used externally.
- Coffee does a great job neutralizing odors thanks to its high nitrogen content. You can place a bowl of used grounds in your fridge or freezer to absorb odors in the air. You can also leave a bowl of coffee grounds in your sink and use to scrub hands after chopping garlic and onions. It will help naturally remove the pungent scent left behind.
For other food scraps think about composting. Some major cities offer a composting/yard waste service in which you can include produce scraps, paper goods (like paper towels, napkins, etc.), and other food waste. You can also compost on your own to make a rich garden fertilizer. Check out what should and should not be included in your compost pile.
Try a few of the tips above! Reducing your food waste has a number of benefits for both yourself and the environment.
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