Reducing food waste starts with meal planning. This process helps align purchases with household needs. Additionally, we can be more creative with how we use food scraps. Remember, it’s perfectly edible food, it just needs a little TLC.
Food preparation often ends with food scraps or waste. This is more evident during holiday food preparation. This is different than food loss, which is a result of spoilage, food waste refers to edible portions that are thrown out rather than consumed. While it may not seem significant to toss little bits of food here and there, it adds up fast. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that within the U.S. we toss out 30 – 40% of our food supply, or 133 BILLION pounds of food a year – now that’s a big number!
Stems, seeds, leaves and peels are common portions of produce that we’ve become trained to discard. And if you think about it, they make up a significant portion of the plant. Here are a few creative ways to repurpose food scraps, save money and eat well.
STEMS: non-woody such as greens, herbs and mushrooms
- Thinly slice and sauté dark leafy green stems (kale or chard), toss with potato salad or use in place of celery for soups and sauces
- Cut into matchsticks for a stir-fry (broccoli and cauliflower)
- Dice the stems of parsley and cilantro, mix with dried chile, chopped roasted seeds and a splash of olive oil. Use as a topping for fish, chicken or meat. Add to mayo for a seasoned sauce on your sandwich.
- Finely dice mushroom stems, sauté to remove moisture, then add to ground meat for tacos or burgers. Use in pasta dishes such as lasagna, stuffed shells, spaghetti or spicy Mexican pasta. Dehydrate and powder if you can’t use right away – use as a spice for any savory dish.
SEEDS: winter squash and melons
Saving up: Rinse and allow seeds to dry on a paper towel. Place in the freezer until you’ve saved enough to make use of them.
- Lightly coat seeds in oil, toss with salt and assorted spices such as chile, cumin, oregano, or lime zest. Roast at 350 degrees F for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Smaller seeds will need less time.
- Try a sweet version. Roast seeds, same as above but with warming spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom. Mix with mini-chocolate chips and dried fruit peels for a sweet treat. Or, add to oatmeal breakfast cookies.
- In a food processor, mix seeds into store bought or homemade hummus (or, try beet hummus).
- Add roasted seeds to salad for added crunch.
Leaves: from root vegetables or celery
- Chop and add to a green salad – they add a ton of flavor!
- Chop and mix into a whole grain salad for a quick lunch. For example: cooked barley, lemon zest, olive oil, roasted seeds, chopped carrot top and celery greens, diced carrots, fresh tomato, olives, fennel fronds, and salt and pepper. Add Parmesan cheese or meat if you desire.
- Thinly slice and add to soup or beans, right before serving.
- Dehydrate, powder and add to fruit smoothies.
Peels: cucumber, carrot, citrus, beets, apples, potato
Wash with water and remove any seeds from fruits.
- Dehydrate and add to oil and vinegar for salad dressing.
- Make candied peels for an after dinner sweet treat or add to homemade quick breads.
- Flavor water with cucumber and lime peels.
- For root vegetable peels, try turning them into chips with an Air fryer or lightly coat with vegetable oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 425 degrees F for 9 – 15 minutes.