8 Ways to Cook with Food You Might Otherwise Toss Out

Do you toss out cauliflower leaves and stale bread? Cook with them instead!

Food waste is a huge issue globally, and many of us may not even realize that some of the food we are tossing out is perfectly edible - and great to cook with!

First, it helps to know why food waste is so bad.

Food makes up 20% of the garbage in landfills. Because landfills are designed to entomb their contents, not biodegrade them, food inside a landfill does not decompose. Instead it sits, creating methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, thus becoming a huge contributor to climate change. Consider this is after accounting for the energy required to grow, pack, ship and shelf food along its journey from the farm, to the factory, to the shop and into your home! For food scraps that aren’t edible - banana peels, egg shells for example - composting is the best way to keep these scraps out of a landfill.

Aside from the impact on the planet, throwing away food is also a giant waste of money. The average American household throws away $2,200 of food each year. In some parts of Europe, the numbers aren’t much better. One third of the food produced globallyis wasted every year, with fresh fruits and vegetables having the highest waste rates of any food.

Meal planning, proper food storage and having an “eat out the fridge night” can help prevent food waste. But many times, we might not even realize that we are tossing out food that is perfectly edible. Utilizing all of the food we buy and throwing less away can have a great impact on the planet and your wallet.

Here are 8 ways to use up all the food you buy and reduce the amount of food you throw away.  

1. Eat the skins.

Did you know that a potato cooked with skin can have 175% more vitamin C than a potato without it? The skins of other fruits and vegetables - apples, potatoes, carrots, beets to name a few- also pack the highest concentration of nutrients, so it’s a shame to remove this part of the food and throw it away. Just wash and scrub food well to remove dirt, and you’re good to go.

2. Freeze zested citrus peels.

The same seems to go for citrus: the peels are actually more nutrient dense than the meat. Zest citrus peels before you eat the fruit, and freeze the zest for mixing into salad dressings, on pasta, or whenever a recipe calls for it. You can also use citrus peels to make super simple non-toxic all purpose cleaner. The peels of citrus create millions of pounds of trash each year - let’s not let them go to waste!

3. Use stale bread for crumbs and croutons.

French toast, egg strata, homemade croutons and Tuscan tomato bread soup are all recipes which call for stale bread. Stale bread and the ends of sliced bread loaves are also great ground up as bread crumbs or chopped to use as croutons. If you’re not ready to use up your stale bread just yet, store in the freezer until you’re ready to cook.

4. Use scraps for vegetable stock.

Celery, onion and carrots are the key ingredients in vegetable stock. So, when you’re chopping vegetables and are left with scraps, save them to make a stock. It turns out really flavourful. You can keep adding them to a jar in the freezer them until you’re ready to make soup. This is what many chefs do, so do as the pros.

5. Save it for a smoothie

Whenever one of my kids takes two bites of an apple or eats half the banana and loses interest, I cut up the rest and stash in a glass jar in the freezer. Then I have on hand chopped frozen fruit to add to any smoothie.

6. Use overripe bananas for baking or ice cream

Ripe bananas have more nutrition and natural sugars than their yellow counterparts, making them superior for baking! My go-to for ripe bananas is banana bread, but you can also freeze and blend for vegan ice cream, and add to pancake batter. Check out my super simple banana bread recipe for using up ripe bananas. Banana ice cream takes less than 75 seconds to make: just put a frozen banana in a blender until it looks like the real thing. Add nothing more and serve. My three year old nephew loves this healthy “ice cream” treat!

7. Use the leaves and stems

The leaves or green tops of root vegetables are nutritious and becoming a more popular ingredient in dishes. Beet leaves and cauliflower leaves are tasty sautéed with olive oil and salt. If you are using broccoli and cauliflower in any recipe, add in the leaves and stems for more flavor (remove the tough skin of the broccoli stems first with a carrot pealer) . Sliced and baked broccoli stems also make a good french fry substitute. Bottom line, get creative with the entire vegetable and eat it up!

8. Make it into an omelette.

Whenever I find myself having way too many bits of vegetables or herbs in the fridge - a half onion here, leftover parsley from a dinner recipe there - I make an omelette. Adding eggs is a great way to use up the odd vegetable leftover or vegetables that you want to use up before they go bad. An “eat out the fridge omelette” makes an appearance many Saturday mornings in our house.

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