On average, about 30 to 40% of food in the US is wasted, and a great proportion of this is done at the consumer level. Of course, this is no small issue given the empty bellies of many people and the overstuffed landfills that exist but, apart from this, using food items that we normally overlook is actually quite fun.
From transforming humble ingredients into delicious sauces and stocks; to finding a use for all that pickling juice or old wine, you'll find it's satisfying to make use, not waste. Now, in many cases, we can cut down on food waste by balancing our grocery bills with our cooking and eating habits. If you habitually end the month with a bag of wilted greens in the back of the fridge, make the majority of your greens frozen or learn how to store your vegetables so they last. If you like to save money by purchasing larger-sized items, like gallons of milk, consider buying powdered milk instead, or freeze a portion of it to use later.
For the remaining food scrap scenarios, read our guide below.
We've all experienced it—that bunch of carrots you forgot about, or that rutabaga you have no idea what to do with. But, you don't always have to toss them. You can make a vegetable stock that's perfect as a base in falafel-spiced couscous or in wild rice and mushroom pilaf. You can also make a thick, creamy soup with the base of vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, or peel their stalks and shred them into a delicious slaw.
Of course, the leaves on herbs are great flavor boosters but what many people don’t know is that their stems are useful, too. With woodier herbs like rosemary and thyme, you can infuse their stems in herb oil, drizzling it on roasted potatoes, or mixing it with citrus or vinegar for a dressing. And if you have nubs of ginger or turmeric leftover, why not simmer together a tea? You can do the same for any parts of fresh lemongrass you don’t use in your recipe, too.
Citrus fruits are quite versatile since you can do far more than simply juice them. For example, did you know that their peels have a unique flavor in comparison to their flesh? Make candied orange or lemon rind, liqueurs like limoncello, or zest their peels in delicious grain dishes, like orange rice. For these recipes, you’ll want to avoid using the pith of the citrus fruit, which is the bitter white layer between the fruit and the peel. Though, if you’re making pectin for thickening preserves or marmalade, you’ll actually want to include it.
Stale Bread and Cereal
There are few things tastier than fresh bread, but stale bread may be one of them. There's Panzanella, an Italian dish made from day-old bread and a drizzle of vinaigrette, and then there's Fattoush, the Middle Eastern equivalent. Cereal is a pantry staple in many homes, but its uses don't stop at a bowl and some milk. You can make this cornflake crusted cod or soak old cereal in milk for at least 30 minutes to make cereal milk and use it in milkshakes or ice cream. Or perhaps, a no-bake cookie appeals to your palate—either way, there's a world of tasty opportunities.
After opening a bottle, wine doesn't tend to last long—normally one to five days, when
corked and stored in the fridge. That said if you notice its taste is only a tad off, you can still use it. To this end, make a marinade, wine jelly, or a reduction. Though for wine that's really gone sour, well, you can make wine vinegar too. So you see? A bottle of wine doesn't have to be decanted and finished right away to be good.
These days, we tend to eat lean beef, choose white over dark cuts of poultry, and buy meat that's already been deboned and skinned. But there are plenty of ways to use the trimmings, bones, and even organ meats to make delicious dishes. Ever heard of schmaltz? It's rendered chicken or goose fat and is simply magical on roasted vegetables or stirred-in mashed potatoes. You can also buy bone-in cuts or ask your butcher to provide you some bones to make a broth from since the marrow is rich in both fat and nutrients. Even the organ meats and unwanted trimmings can be used! Fry-up Moroccan style liver, bake a steak and kidney pie or simmer a pot of Caribbean beef tripe soup.
Pickling juice is as good as gold since it can be reused multiple times and in many ways. You
can pour some into these pickleback shots, or pickle vegetables and watermelon rinds. Also, try escabeche, a classic Mexican condiment that's served alongside tacos, or used in chicken escabeche. From pickled ginger, eggs, garlic, and even shrimp, pickling juice is good for just about anything. Oh, we forgot, it's great as a marinade for meat, too.