Australians waste, on average, up to 30% of all food purchased. In NSW, that’s about 315 kg of food per household, and more than $1,000 wasted each year. It’s a terrible shame, isn’t it?
It’s not only money wasted when we throw food in the bin – it’s also the vast amounts of resources, energy, and water it took to produce, process, store, refrigerate, transport, and cook that food.
Food wastage has deeper consequences than its monetary value, being just as much about moral significance and environmental impact as it is about saving a few dollars at the checkout. Australians threw away $8 billion worth of food in 2012 – just imagine the number of hungry mouths that could have fed!
The reality is that today’s world faces some dire scenes of pollution, climate change, water shortage, poverty, and hunger. And – surprise, surprise – food plays a huge roll in all those issues. The more food we waste, the bigger those issues will be.
So how can you reduce your waste?
Well if you cook, chances are you’ll end up with kitchen scraps. And with this in mind, let’s look at ways you can use these scraps instead of throwing them away. For some this could mean composting and worm farms; for others it could mean making a broth.
Here’s how you can reuse food scraps in the kitchen, both to eat and not to eat, with a few recipes to show you just how good it can taste and feel to reduce waste.
5 ways to use food scraps in cooking
Make a broth
Celery tops, onion and garlic skins, carrot peels, leek greens, and other veggie scraps are perfect for creating your own stock or broth. Simply save the scraps in a freezer-safe container until you have enough to cook up a big batch, and once the solids are strained out, toss them on the compost. Brown onion skin actually has tannins in it that when simmered slowly add a gorgeous caramel-coloured hue to your stock – although onion shouldn’t be added to your compost bin. For some flavour, add bay leaves, parsley, and thyme to your scraps and leave it simmering for at least 45 minutes, or in a slow cooker for up to two days. If you eat meat, save up leftover bones and add them to the broth as well. Bone broth has been shown to be beneficial for some people suffering from arthritis – so if you add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help extract nutrients from the bones you could be making something tasty that’s good for your health as well.
Make a pesto
The green tops of carrots and radishes are perfectly edible – blend them up with some nuts and a little garlic for a delicious, waste-free pesto that’s a great alternative to the traditional basil and parmesan version. The carrot tops are deliciously sweet and pair quite well with macadamias. Your friends will surely be impressed!
Make a thick soup
Stems, like those from broccoli or kale, are great for making healthy soups that are full of fibre. Simmer them along with some onion, carrots, and celery until soft, blitz a little with a blender, season, and top with a sprinkle of cheese.
Tea tastes even more delicious when it’s been lovingly homemade, and scraps like ginger, banana, orange, and apple peels are perfect for a quick infusion/tisane. Just add the peels to some boiling water with a little honey, leave to infuse, and enjoy.
Add flavour to oil
To enhance the full flavour of extra virgin olive oil, why not clean some olive pits to add to the bottle? Olives can be pretty expensive so you may as well get as much from them as you can – adding the cleaned stones really does give the oil a fruitier flavour. You can also try adding leftover bits of garlic, chilli, and the stalk of herbs like rosemary or thyme for different types of tasty infusions. Just remember to use a smaller bottle for this and keep it in the fridge, as adding ingredients can reduce the shelf-life of your oils.
5 mouthwatering food scrap recipes
Pickled chard stems
Original recipe by Angela Brown
The leafy, iron-rich green part of swiss chard isn’t the only edible part. Don’t throw away the stems – turn them into this delicious treat that’s perfect to serve with cheese & crackers.
2 large bunches chard stems
1 cup white wine vinegar
½ cup water
3 tbs sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbs yellow mustard seeds
- Thoroughly rinse the stems before blanching them in boiling water for one minute. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- In a small saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to boil.
- Tightly pack chard stems into a mason jar and set aside.
- Remove vinegar mix from heat and let cool for several minutes. Pour over chard stems.
- Seal jar tightly and refrigerate for up to two weeks.
Apple and onion schmaltz
Original recipe by Carla Nicoletti
Most people who eat meat throw away the fat and excess skin from chickens, but if prepared in the right way it can be delicious. Save a bag for the fatty offcuts of meat in your freezer until you have enough for a schmaltz.
Fat and excess skin from one chicken
2 overly ripe apples, or the peel and core (seeds removed) from four fresh apples
1 small onion
1 sprig thyme
- Render fat and skin of chicken over medium-low heat until skin is golden and crispy.
- Add apples or core/peels, onion, and thyme, and continue to cook until onions are caramelised and apples are mushy.
- Remove from heat and take out the thyme stem.
- Blitz using a hand blender to form a thick paste.
- Cool completely in the fridge before whipping to a butter-like texture.
- Season to taste, and serve with crostinis made from old bread crusts.
Pickled watermelon rinds
Original recipe by Nancy Manlove
One of the quickest and most popular summer treats is fresh watermelon – but what to do with all that leftover skin?! Try this tasty recipe once, and you’ll never throw the rind in the bin ever again.
12 cups of cubed watermelon rinds (mainly the white part, but a bit of green skin is ok)
3 cups sugar
1½ cups apple cider vinegar
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
4 tbsp mixed pickling spice
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
12 whole cloves
8 thin slices fresh ginger
3 cinnamon sticks, broken
2 tsp whole allspice
- Place cubed rind in a saucepan, and fill with water to cover. Bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
- Meanwhile, add all other ingredients to a medium saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool.
- Place cooked rind in a large jar with a secure lid. Pour over vinegar mix and keep sealed in the refrigerator for 3-4 months.
Strawberry top water
Original recipe by Marian Bull
Both the red and the green part of the strawberry are edible! but if you just don’t want to eat the green bit, get maximum nutrients from it this way…
10 discarded strawberry tops
- Rinse strawberry tops to remove any grit.
- Add tops to a large glass and fill with water.
- Let sit for one hour to infuse.
- Add ice just before serving.
Sopa de ajo (garlic soup)
Original recipe by Marian Bull
A great way to use up stale bread – because you shouldn’t be feeding the ducks in the park bread anyway!
5 slices stale bread, cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp smoked paprika
6 cups water
2 tsp salt
4 bay leaves
3 eggs, beaten well
- Add water, bay leaves, and salt to a saucepan and bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a small pan, add garlic, and cook until fragrant.
- Add paprika and toss to coat.
- Add bread mix to boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove bay leaves and season to taste.
- Stir the pot in wide circles while slowly streaming in beaten eggs.
- Serve immediately.
5 ways to reuse food scraps, without eating them
Stop brown sugar from hardening
Place a small amount of citrus peel in your brown sugar to stop it from hardening. Just ensure you keep the sugar in the fridge to stop the peels from rotting!
Clean cookware with apple peel
Apple peel is a natural cleanser that’s cheaper, safer, and much kinder on the environment. Simply place the peels with some water in your dirty aluminium cookware, bring to a boil, and let simmer for around 30 minutes. The acid in the apple peels will remove stains and discolouration.
Make carrot oil
Carrot oil is wonderful for the hair and skin, and can easily be made using scrap carrot peel. Start by saving your carrot peel in the freezer until you have the peels from around 12-15 carrots. Place them in a saucepan or slow cooker and add coconut oil – or any oil of your choice – to cover. Using the lowest temperature setting, infuse the oil for at least 24 hours before straining with a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. Pour in a jar and store for 6-8 months.
Keep pests away
Prepare yourselves for a life-changing tip… Cucumber peels are one of the most natural and cost effective pest control solutions out there! Use the peel to reduce minor pest problems, such as ants, moths, mites, wasps, and silverfish. The more bitter the peel, the more effective it is at keeping bugs at bay. Just add the stips to a spray bottle with some water and apply around window frames, doorways, cupboards and the pantry.
Refresh your garbage disposal
If you have a sink-composter, you should occasionally throw citrus peels in this garbage disposal unit to remove unwanted smells. You can also freeze some peel in an ice tray and throw in a citrus ice cube every now and then to freshen the system and help knock off any debris caught on the shredders.
Put it into practice
You see, there really is no end to how you use your food scraps! They can be pickled and stored in the fridge, boiled and transferred into broth, infused into oil to make skin and hair feel soft, and used for all-natural cleaning. You can compost them, regrow them, crisp them up in a microwave, make delicious drinks with them, make sauces and soups with them, create coulis, pie filling and jam with them, and infuse them to make tea. And this is just the beginning!
There’s no excuse for not prolonging the life of your food scraps and making the most out of every part be it fruit, vegetable or protein. So put your thinking cap on and get creative in the kitchen and you could save well over $1,000 per year on your grocery bills. We hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how great food scraps can be.
Do you have a great use of food scraps you’d love to share? Have a food scrap recipe that’s simply delicious? We’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page.