Food waste is a big problem — the United States Department of Agriculture estimates 30% to 40% of our food supply ends up going into the trash, putting unnecessary strain on our land, water, and labour. But even if you’re doing your best not to waste food, are you wasting your food scraps?
Everything you make generates some kind of garbage, whether that’s a banana peel or bacon grease. A lot of this we toss right into the trash, or compost bin, if we’re feeling eco-friendly. But there are actually a lot of ways to reuse your food scraps around the house. Here are a dozen of them — if you have more suggestions, please share them in the comments.
Making your own coffee in the morning is economical and cosy, but you’re left with mushy grounds that can clog your sink drain. Instead of tossing them, put them to use. According to Apartment Therapy, you can coffee grounds as a cleaning scrub to degrease pots and pans or put them in the fridge to neutralise bad smells. You can also use them as a fertiliser in your garden, to exfoliate your skin, and so much more.
The University of Georgia Health Centre has lots of recommendations for what you can do with food waste, but some involve maximizing the yumminess — which is great for dedicated home cooks. Use bread crusts to make croutons, for instance. (Here’s an easy way to do that with your air fryer.) But more practically, you can add the heel of your bread to your brown sugar container to keep it soft and stop it from clumping.
UGA’s Health Centre has a winning tip when for leftover citrus peels. Unless you’re looking to make some candy, you probably have no use for them after you’ve pried them off to reveal delicious fruit — but have you considered tossing them in your garbage disposal to make it less smelly? You can also boil them on the stove to neutralise the airborne odours in your home.
Fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables are delicious and an important part of your daily diet, but they produce a ton of waste. Here’s an idea: You can use all kinds of fruit and veggie scraps to make potpourri. Dry your fruit, add in spices and essential oils, and stick it in a pretty container. Fruitsandveggies.org has the details.
The jar that once held your favourite peanut butter is, in a sense, a food scrap — and you can use it for a variety of things. We have long been advocates of using old peanut butter jars to make nutty overnight oats, but to double down on your sustainability, wash out old jars and use them to hold those coffee grinds you use to scrub your pans with, or maybe your homemade potpourri.
Every part of an herb is good for something. Grind up the ends and stems to add to your spice blends, for instance, and put extra herbs in olive oil to make a yummy butter substitute, advises to UGA’s Health Centre. Freeze them into ice cubes to make your drinks a little fancier, blend them into smoothies for a kick, or sprinkle them on your butter.
We’ve talked up the wonders of citrus peels, but the peels of other fruit, like apples, are reusable, too. You can turn them into jam, according to Healthline, by cooking them in water for half an hour, straining them, boiling the liquid on high heat with sugar and lemon juice, then pouring it into jars or cans.
Bacon is delicious, but you shouldn’t be the only one benefitting from its goodness. Let the birds outside in on the action and your neighbours will be jealous of how many visit your yard in no time. Use your bacon grease to make suet, a kind of animal fat that helps birds stay warm when visiting feeders in the winter. Strain your drippings into fine mesh, add some bird-friendly treats like unsalted nuts or dried fruit, and place it where you’d normally put the store-bought suet you won’t be needing to buy anymore, per Healthline.
Banana peels can be used to polish the leaves of your plants, your silverware, and your leather shoes. The soft inner part of the peel is perfect for polishing, so don’t throw it away until all your silver and leather is gleaming.
Cast iron lovers know their cookware has to be seasoned before it can be used, but did you know you can do this with potato peels? This works for carbon steel pans, too, and will save you time and money. Two potatoes’ worth of peels can get the manufacturer’s wax and grease off the pan. Wash the cookware in soapy, hot water with a bristle brush, dry it with a towel, place it over low heat, add 1/3 a cup of oil and 2/3 a cup of salt, stick in your peels, and cook it all over medium heat. Do this for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You can put nutshells in your fire and avoid having to re-up on wood too often this winter, according to Too Good to Go, a company working to reduce food waste. They burn great and you can enjoy your fire while eating the nuts the shells once held.
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