How to Use Food Scraps to Reduce Kitchen Waste and Benefit Your Wallet

Growing up I remember how resourceful my grandmother was in the kitchen and stories from both sides of the family about how my great-grandmothers would save absolutely everything from food scraps to household goods as they would find a way to use them. Now these stories have followed me into adulthood and running a house of my own. Being quite the avid cook and penny pincher, I have looked for ways to save and use up kitchen scraps. So here are all of my ways and reasons as to why you should save and use your kitchen scraps.

Why Save Food Scraps?

Some food scraps can be used to make new foods and others can even be used to grow new plants. I know some people who use these scraps to make beauty products and household cleaning products. Think coffee scrubs or using the juiced lemon to scrub your sink with baking soda. If nothing else, nearly all of these items can be used to make compost that will benefit your garden.

Promote Environmental Health

As we have all been taught a thousand times over, we should do our best to reduce, reuse, and recycle to keep items out landfills. I have heard that around a quarter of what is thrown into landfills is food waste. Even though food can decompose, it is still wise to apply this principle. Being that we throw our garbage out in plastic bags which take significantly longer to decompose, we often will impede the process of food decomposition. Another factor to take into consideration is that not only did we waste the food itself, but we also wasted all of the inputs needed to produce said food such as water, fertilizers, the gas to transport the seeds themselves and so forth.

Compostable Food Improves Your Soil

Food scraps can help improve the quality of your garden soil when used to make compost. As a garden lover and foodie, I thoroughly enjoy and take pride in growing my own produce. Food scraps and other organic matter attract life to your soil by creating an environment ideal for earthworms and other decomposers. Earthworms along with bacteria, fungi, and other organisms will breakdown these food scraps into amazing compost. This compost aids with damaged soil, replenishing nutrients, and overall improving growing environment of your home garden.

Saving and Using Food Scraps Save You Money

In today’s economy, this might be one of my favorite reasons as to why you should save your food scraps. Many articles have reported that by saving and finding ways to use food scraps it could save a household over $350 per person per year simply by reducing food waste. For a family of two like myself it could potentially be easy to scoff at $700. However, when I look at in a way that it could be used for a weekend retreat for two or could have been used to pay for at least two months of groceries, it’s a significant amount of money. This doesn’t only save you money on food but depending on what you turn the food scraps into it could also save you money on soil, fertilizer, plants, beauty products, or cleaning products.

Food Scraps That Can Have a Second Use

There are so many food scraps from cooking, where does one even start? Here are some parts of food you likely chop and discard that are great to save:

  • Seeds from fruit and vegetables
  • The ends of vegetables (lettuce, onion, squash, celery, etc.)
  • Herb stems
  • Fruit and vegetables peels, skin, and rinds
  • Fruit cores
  • Nut or other pulp (from making nut or oat milk)
  • Coffee grounds, tea bags (unbleached only), and tea leaves
  • Stems (from mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, etc.)

How to Use Kitchen Scraps

Make Vegetable Stock

I often find that I can use vegetable stock in many recipes where it calls for chicken stock without altering the taste much if at all. Homemade vegetable stock also tends to be more flavorful that many of the commercial stocks I have purchased. To make vegetable stock from food scraps, save your vegetable scraps in a resealable freezer save bag or container. The scraps you want to save for a stock are peels, stems, and ends from carrots, onions, herbs, squash, zucchini, potatoes and so much more. The only things I do not recommend you use for broth are things like broccoli, brussels sprouts, or really any kind of cruciferous vegetable as it will turn the stock bitter.

Once the bag or container is full, combine the scraps with water in a large pot. There should be enough water to allow the vegetables to float and fill the pot about 3/4ths of the way full. Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for at least 30 minutes. This is generally enough time to allow for good flavor development and for the nutrients to be released into the stock. Once the time is up, strain the solids and you are then left with a delicious vegetable stock that can be kept in the fridge for up to five days or can be frozen and stored for around 3 months.

Grow New Plants from Scraps or Seeds

I have often saved the seeds from bell peppers and jalapenos amongst other vegetables to use in my garden the next season. Leafy greens and herbs are also pretty easy to regrow. I often will take my chives and put them in a glass of water to leave on my countertop and within a matter of days it seems a whole new plant will have regrown. Other plants I have had good success with are carrots, celery, cilantro, ginger, and lettuce.

Create Your Own Beauty and Cleaning Products

This is the area in which I have the least experience as I have only made a DIY exfoliator and have made a select handful of cleaning products. I have many friends who have used coffee grounds to make an exfoliating scrub that they swear by. Just mix coffee grounds with coconut oil and a little of sugar. For a household cleaner, you can combine citrus peels with vinegar to make a super quick cleaning spray. I also have tried the trick of using a lemon or another citrus fruits to clean a stainless-steel sink. Simply sprinkle on the baking soda and scrub the sink with the lemon or other citrus fruit. Then simply rinse it out and you are left with a sparkling stainless-steel sink.

Now Get to Being Smart with Your Food Scraps

Not only will it help your wallet, but it will also help the environment in the process. I hope you take even just one of these tips to apply to your own life. If you do, please feel free to comment your experience and how much money it has saved you!

As always, I hope you have a happy and wholesome day!


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