A pint of fuzzy strawberries in the back of the fridge probably happens more often than we'd like to admit. Toss 'em, feel minimally guilty, vow to do better next time, repeat.
As an occasional mistake, it only costs a couple bucks. But when we do it regularly, it costs a bit more. $1,500, actually! That's the amount of money the average family of four spends each year on food they won't eat. On a national scale, we lose $162 billion each year in the U.S. on wasted food costs (water, energy, fertilizers, cropland, and other production) and throw away 40 percent of the entire U.S. food supply. [Figures from savethefood.com and usda.gov.]
Surely we can do better than this.
For starters, we can do some smart but simple things like planning shopping lists in advance, designating one night a week to prepare "use-up" meals with what's already in your fridge, and using the freezer to curb spoilage. SaveTheFood.com has strategies for better planning, storing, and cooking, from the grocery store to the kitchen. It'll also enlighten you on things that may be a little more surprising, like what exactly "sell by" and "best before" dates really mean — or better yet, don't.
For more inspo, we've brushed off some past Kitchn posts to help us all be smarter consumers. Whether your motive is to save money or is more altruistic is no matter to us — but if you do want to split that $1,500 with us, we won't object.
1. Carrot Peels
Make carrot oil. Store your carrot peel in the freezer until you have peels from 12–15 carrots. Place them in a slow cooker and add coconut oil. Using the lowest temperature setting, infuse the oil for at least 24 hours before straining with a cheesecloth. Pour in a jar and store for 6–8 months. Or make a Carrot Peel Pesto.
2. Browning Bananas
A brown banana might not be good to eat on its own, but strip away its mottled skin, and its sweet and mushy innards are ideal for using in a multitude of recipes — like banana bread. Freeze your overripe bananas for a future sweet treat.
3. Banana Peels
Did you know that banana peels can polish your shoes? Once your boots or shoes are free of dust and dirt, grab a banana peel to lightly rub your shoes. Clean off any of the banana stuff, buff, and you're done!
There's one part of this fruit you're probably ignoring (but shouldn't be): the rind! This is far more than a scrap to be thrown in the trash; it's more versatile than you think and still has a lot of life left in it. You can...
- ...pickle it.
- ...make it into a chutney.
- ...use it in an Indian Curry.
- ...make it into a cool gazpacho.
- ...candy it.
Add celery leaves to vegetable stock, soups, stews, and pasta sauce. Or chop them up for chicken salad.
6. Corn Husks
Use corn husks when making traditional tamales, or add them to a pot of stock for extra-woody flavor.
7. Bread Ends
Save the ends of your loaves to make homemade croutons. Homemade croutons take things to a whole other level, and given how quick and easy they are, there's no reason not to step up and make them yourself with your leftover slices.
8. Leftover Herbs
Rosemary can be added to flower arrangements. Mince leftover basil mixed with a little olive oil to make pesto. Or freeze your basil using an ice cube tray and save it for a later pesto recipe.
9. Bacon Grease
Use bacon fat to bring everyone's favorite smoky flavor to other snacks. Rub bacon fat onto russet potatoes before baking, or melt it to coat the bottom of a skillet before crisping tortillas or scrambling eggs.
Lemon zest is essential for making truly lemony desserts, like lemon ice cream and lemon spongettes. But when life hands you lemons...clean your kitchen! Leftover lemon halves are your perfect tool to clean your stovetop, microwave, or even your wooden cutting board.
Save your bones! You can make your own bone broth by simmering meaty bones with a handful of aromatic vegetables for hours — even days! — until you end up with a rich, nutritious, and deeply savory broth.
Dehydrate orange peels for use in homemade chai tea recipe. Freeze leftover orange juice to make our Black Tea & Orange Juice Ice Pops (a favorite of ours!).
13. Brewed Coffee
Made too much coffee? Pour your leftover brew into an ice cube tray to use in a batch of homemade iced coffee.
14. Coffee Grounds
Coffee grounds are actually great to use as a fertilizer in your home garden. It adds organic material to the soil, which improves drainage, water retention, and aeration in the soil. You can also take a few teaspoons of your coffee dregs on a thin cleaning rag to scour away grease and grime on your dishware and tools.
15. Citrus Peels
Did you know there are plenty of things you can make with the leftover peels from all those clementines and grapefruits you've been eating? Citrus peels are great to enhance meat dishes and are excellent infusions in cocktails, like this limoncello.
16. Pumpkin Seeds
Once you've carved the pumpkin, what can you do with all the seeds? To start, you can roast or hull them. For a simple fall treat, roast your pumpkin seeds with a little cinnamon, butter and salt. Or use them to make a sweet or savory dish like Sweet Potato and Tempah Stew or Pumpkin Seed Brittle.
17. Potato Peels
Meet your new favorite crispy, chewy snack that falls somewhere between potato chips and French fries. Roasted potato peels for the vitamin-y win!
18. Broccoli Stalks
Broccoli stalks are delicious and healthy, and there are a lot of recipes where these often forgotten tree trunks can shine. Shred them into a salad or coleslaw, or purée them to make this Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta.
19. Pickle Juice
After you've dug the last spear out of the pickle jar, save and repurpose your leftover pickle juice into something useful or tasty. The acid in pickle juice helps tenderize meat, so use some of it in your next marinade. Or replace the vinegar in your favorite salad dressing with pickle juice to punch it up.
20. Cucumber Peels
Save your cucumber peels to make a batch of Sparkling Cucumber Cooler for a refreshing happy hour. Or treat yourself to an indoor sauna by adding cucumber peels to your bathwater (which also helps to sooth dry, itchy skin.)
Which brings us back to the beginning: prolong the life of your pint by washing as you go, leaving the stems on until eat them, and evicting one moldy berry before it botches the bunch.
This post is sponsored by NRDC and the Ad Council.
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