6 Smart Ways to Reuse Food Scraps and Leftovers

updated Jun 8, 2019
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(Image credit: Melanie Kintz/Stocksy)

After peeling and trimming produce and prepping meals, we’re left with scraps that often get tossed in the compost bin or the trash. But think twice before tossing these odds and ends — there are actually quite a few delicious uses for common kitchen scraps and leftovers.

1. Save a scrap bag in the freezer.

When in doubt, toss your vegetable trimmings, peels, and herb stems, even meat bones and Parmesan rinds into a scrap bag in the freezer (I like to keep these in three separate bags). It’s a smart and easy way to up the flavor or stocks and broth, and those Parm rinds bring even more flavor to homemade soups and sauces.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

2. Roast potato peels.

Peeling some spuds to make mashed potatoes or potato salad? Those skins might not be part of your dish, but toss them in the oven and they make a crispy, chewy snack that falls somewhere between potato chips and French fries.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

3. Roast apple peels.

If you’re making apple pie, or simply prefer to peel your apples before eating them, hang on to those peels. They’re a secret gem just waiting to be transformed into a sweet, crispy apple chip. Roast the peels, tossed with a tiny bit of melted butter and cinnamon sugar for a totally tasty snack.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

4. Use citrus peels to infuse flavor into foods, or freeze for later.

Whether you’ve got lemons, limes, or oranges, there are so many ways to give citrus peels new life. You can plan ahead and zest the peel, then stash it in the freezer for later, before squeezing out the juice. They’re also a smart way to infuse more flavor into poached chicken, stews, or sauces, not to mention making candied fruit with thicker-skinned peels.

5. Turn melon rinds into pickles.

Melon is such a sweet summertime treat. But after devouring the sweet flesh, most of us don’t think twice before tossing the rind, which can be just as valuable. The rind is the firm, whitish part of the melon that sits between the flesh and the outer skin. It has a surprising number of uses, including making pickles, using it in place of cucumbers for salads and gazpachos, and adding it to curries.

6. Blitz herb stems into a sauce or add to stock.

Sometimes we might save them for stock, but most times after we pluck the leaves from herbs — like parsley, basil, and cilantro — the stems get tossed into the compost or trash. There are actually more than a few ways to use these flavorful bits: In addition to being used in homemade stock, herb stems are a nice way to infuse oil and vinegar, and they can be added to pesto, chimichurri sauce, relish, tapenade, and stuffing.

Use them: 7 Reasons You Shouldn’t Throw Away Herb Stems

Your turn! What did I forget? What are your best tips and tricks for repurposing food scraps?