Big fan of reducing, reusing, and recycling? You don’t have to just focus on paper and plastics. Here’s the good news, you can follow the same principles in your cooking too.
It’s been said that around 37% of weekly rubbish collection consists of food scraps. But why leave perfectly reusable and edible food to rot in the rubbish bin when it can be regrown, reused, and repurposed in fresh and exciting ways?
Home chefs, if your heart races at the thought of reducing waste and saving money at the same time, then read on. Here are 5 clever ways you can eat your food and then reuse it again.
Grow new veggies
What better way to reuse a vegetable than by using it to grow even more vegetables? Some kitchen veggies are so easy to regrow, you’d be surprised you never tried it in the first place. You don’t need a green thumb to do this, either! Regrowing veggies takes little effort and no expert gardening skills. Only two things are needed: water and good old patience.
Veggies that can be regrown from the root include celery, romaine lettuce, green onions, fennel, and lemongrass. How to do it? Instead of cutting off the root and tossing it in the bin like usual, save this part and use it to grow more. Stand the root upright in a glass of water and change the water daily. You should start seeing new growths in about a week, and the veggie should be able to reuse after around two weeks.
The longer you wait, the more greens you’ll have to use in your recipes. If you really have the patience, then wait for the veggie to grow new roots and replant it in a pot or in your garden. The water-in-a-cup method should allow you to regrow the veggies at least once if not more.
Make a pesto
Big fan of Italian pesto? Try shaking things up from the traditional basil recipe by making your own pesto using food scraps. Some ingredients you can use in a pesto include the stems from basil, parsley, coriander, and mint bunches, as well as carrot tops and radish leaves. All of these parts are often thrown in the bin, but are perfectly edible and contain just as many nutrients as the rest of the vegetable.
To make your own pesto, blend your leftover greens with olive oil, salt, garlic, Parmesan, and pine nuts. For extra reusing power, use garlic skins instead of garlic, pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, and lemon zest instead of lemon juice.
Make a rich broth
Make your own food scrap vegetable broth once, and you’ll never throw away leftover veggies again! You can use any number of veggie peels, skins, tops, and scraps to make your own deliciously rich broth at home. Some ideas include: celery tops, onion and garlic skins, carrot and potato peels, and leek greens.
Save these scraps in a container and refrigerate or freeze them until you’ve built up a sizeable collection. Try exercising that good old patience again and wait until you have enough to cook up a big batch of broth. Mix your scraps with plenty of water, and add bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and peppercorns to add a dash of flavor.
If you’re a meat-eater, you can also save your bones to throw into the broth as well. Add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the stock to help extract the beneficial nutrients from the bones. Bone broth is incredibly healthy for gym-goers and can help with muscle growth and recovery thanks to the amino acids.
Flavor sugar and oils
Bakers, take note! If you’re often using cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cardamom pods, and orange or lemon zest in your baking, keep these aside. You can reuse these scraps to make your own flavored sugar.
First, rinse your pods then leave them out to dry. Once dried, pop the used cinnamon sticks, pods, or zest in a jar of sugar and let the aromas infuse. That’s a whole new ingredient you can enjoy in your baking.
Non-bakers can also infuse food scraps to make flavored olive oil. Save your garlic skins, olive pits, chili ends, and stems from coriander, basil, parsley, and throw them in a jar of olive oil for a delicious infusion.
Make your own fertilizer
A lot of people like the idea of composting but don’t have space in their house for a compost pile. The good news is, you can still use the nutrients from leftover food scraps to feed your plants! Here are some examples of food scraps that make nutrient-rich fertilizer for plants:
- Eggshells: Eggshells contain calcium carbonate, magnesium, and other healthy salts that reduce acidity in the soil. To use them, just rinse your eggshells with water and leave to dry. When dry, crush the shells and leave to soak overnight in your watering can. The next day, use the water to water your plants and throw out the remaining eggshells. You can also crush your eggshells to a fine powder and throw directly in the soil. Note: some plants actually like acidic soil, so it’s better to keep eggshells out. These include hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and berries.
- Coffee grounds: Rich in potassium, nitrogen, and phosphates, coffee grounds are the perfect food for plants with weak, yellow leaves. Unlike eggshells, coffee grounds have high acidity so they are perfect for hydrangeas, rhododendrons, roses, and berries. First, let the coffee grounds cool and dry completely to inhibit mold growth. Then just mix them into your soil, and voila!
Food is the gift that keeps on giving
The benefits of food don’t just stop at nourishing our bodies. There’s really no end as to how we can use and reuse nature’s goodness to feed ourselves, our plants, and our gardens. Escape Waste even let us into a surprising idea for reusing banana peels. They are packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants which can help with various skin problems.
Before applying the banana peels to your face, make sure that they are fresh and from organic fruits. Then rub the internal part of the peels all over your skin until the peels turn brown. This action will exfoliate your face and pull out the accumulated dirt. Leave the mask for 5 minutes and then rinse with lukewarm water. Magic!
As you can see, the ideas extend beyond what we’ve listed in the article – as well as making your own face scrubs, you can also create natural cleaners, soaps, sauces, teas, and pie fillings! Once you’ve opened your mind up to the idea of using every single part of a fruit or vegetable, you’ll find opportunities for reusing everywhere you look.