Stop Throwing Away Your Food Scraps: 11 Ways to Repurpose Them and Save Money
Throwing away food scraps means throwing away money.
Macy MeyerEditor I
Macy Meyer is a N.C. native who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2021 with a B.A. in English and Journalism. She currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., where she has been working as an Editor I, covering a variety of topics across CNET's Home and Wellness teams, including home security, fitness and nutrition, smart home tech and more. Prior to her time at CNET, Macy was featured in The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer, INDY Week, and other state and national publications. In each article, Macy helps readers get the most out of their home and wellness. When Macy isn't writing, she's volunteering, exploring the town or watching sports.
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While Stop Food Waste Day, a national day of action to focus on the fight against food waste, takes place every April, each day can be an opportunity to minimize your waste. And the best way to begin is simply to start being more mindful about how much waste you're throwing away in the trash.
When preparing a meal at home, many of us don't give a second thought about throwing out the bones, peels and scraps that aren't going to be used in the dish. And after the meal, we scrape all the leftovers on our plate into the trash or down the garbage disposal. While this may seem like the easiest way to clean up, most of the food you're tossing out is edible or reusable, resulting in huge amounts of food waste -- and wasted money.
While much of that waste does occur during the production and distribution stages before the food ever makes it to the grocery store, about 39% of food waste occurs in our own kitchens. With grocery prices still inflated, finding ways to save money just makes sense. And eliminating food waste in your kitchen is one great method to save. Here's what to do with those food scraps. (For more kitchen tips, check out these expert-approved cooking hacks that actually work and how to store groceries so they last longer.)
There's a difference between food loss and food waste.
The USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) defines food loss as "the edible amount of food, postharvest, that is available for human consumption but is not consumed for any reason." Food loss is specifically about what is edible, while food waste is often expanded to include foods not edible to humans like banana peels, bones and egg shells.
For the purposes of this article, I'm going to define food scraps as anything edible or nonedible that is being thrown away. I am using this more expansive term because many scraps like bones and peels can still be recycled for cooking or other purposes. As I'll explain down below, so many of the items you put in the trash can be reused, recycled or at least composted. Here are some of the main things you can do with the food you might otherwise throw away.
But once you already have the food, what should you do with it? I have some recommendations. Not every part of a fruit or vegetable can be saved; sometimes you will just have to throw food out. But if you're going through your fridge or pantry with the intent of throwing stuff out, try these tricks instead.
Use onion peels, tips of carrots, broccoli and celery trunks, and scallion and garlic bits to make a vegetable stock. You can simply place the scraps (frozen or not) in a pot with water. Add seasonings to taste and boil for about 10 minutes.
Use leftover bits of your tomato (the peels, ends and juice) to use for a tomato sauce.
Mince and freeze leftover herbs in oil or water. You can even grow your own to save extra money.
There are many creative, unexpected ways to use those leftover food scraps. Not only will you feel like a pro in the kitchen, but you'll save money by stretching out your grocery store trips and the food you purchase. And that's not to mention the environmental benefits of reducing the food that heads to the landfill. Reducing food waste will in turn reduce methane emissions and your carbon footprint.
Plus, if you can't reuse your scraps in the kitchen or around the house, you can always use grounds, rinds, peels, cores, clippings and legumes to start a compost pile.