Did you know that America has 35 million tons of food waste annually? It’s hard to judge how much you’re family will be able to eat, or we forget about leftovers. If you live on a large homestead, you might have lots of waste from shopping and your garden.
Instead of throwing away food scraps, there are many ways to use them.
To keep it simple, separate leftover food into groups, such as vegetables, fruits, and miscellaneous. This way, you’ll have an organizational system and know where to find ingredients.
Take note of the use-by date and write it on some tape if you remove the food from its original container.
1. Vegetable Food Scraps
Vegetable food scraps include things like the leaves of beets, leftover herbs, vegetable peels and stems, or flowers.
You can keep some food scraps in a freezer bag and store them for later. Things like stems and peels freeze well. Put leaves and flowers into bags in the crisper drawer.
Scraps are ideal for vegetable stock to make a flavorsome soup or broth. To make a quick and easy stock, cover the vegetable scraps in water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
After the stock is ready, strain out the solids, and it’s ready to use.
The leaves and pieces of herbs are great for adding as a garnish to a meal. But, the garnish can also be put on top of a soup bowl or mixed into salads. Alternatively, you can combine them in the blender into a smoothie.
Leftover vegetable scraps can be a tasty snack when chopped with hummus or sprinkled onto a cracker. As long as the food is still fresh, you can use them in any dish and experiment with new uses in the kitchen.
Certain veggies can be regrown from the parts we don’t use, like green onion or lettuce roots, or sprouted tubers. We have lots of ideas in our guide.
Of course, if nothing else sounds good, toss your veggie scraps in the compost bin.
2. Fruit Scraps
Fruit are another common source of food scraps on the homestead, especially in summer when the fruit is ripening in the orchard or berry patch and can rot quickly because of the heat. Keep fruit out of direct sunlight and in a cool location to keep them fresh.
Save the peels and cores once you have finished an apple or pear. Many people like to use these scraps to mix into a jam. Just be sure to remove any seeds.
You’ll need some jars for storing the jam, and the ingredients are simple, so you should be able to find most of them in your kitchen. Here are the essential ingredients for a jam:
- 1 cup fruit scraps (strawberries, apples, etc.)
- Half cup sugar
- Zest of lemon or squeeze of lemon juice
Combine in a pan with half a cup of water and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator.
If you’ve never had pickled watermelon rinds before, you must try them. This involves boiling the peels in a sugar and vinegar solution, along with spices like ginger or anise. Can them in a water bath, and they’ll last for months.
Citrus peels are suitable for cleaning solutions or air fresheners. Place citrus scraps in a jar and cover with vodka. Place in a cool, dark area for 14 days to combine the ingredients. Strain out the solids and, optionally, add any essential oils that you prefer.
Place the liquids in a spray bottle and spray anything that needs a boost of freshness.
Dry lemon or orange peels to use in potpourri or cleaning products. We have a whole guide to help you make your own cleaning products using things you have around the house.
Peels are delicious when added to teas or as the sole ingredient. Orange peel tea is hugely popular. Drink it hot or turn it into iced tea.
Place the peels into hot water and let them steep for about six minutes. You can add other spices like ginger, cinnamon, or nutmeg to enhance the taste. This tea goes great with a black tea or green tea bag.
Citrus peels are also marvelous candied.
Banana peels are excellent for using as a shoe shine on leather shoes. To use the banana peel, hold the inside of the banana peel against the leather and rub it over the surface.
3. Dairy Leftovers
Sometimes we end up with more dairy than we can use. Why not bake extra milk into a cake or Japanese milk bread? Or whip your dairy into a cheese. Ricotta and mozzarella are easy to make at home.
If the kids don’t love milk alone, add a little melted dark chocolate for a tasty treat that isn’t too sweet.
Leftover cheese can be a bit more challenging. The rind or hard pieces of parmesan and other hard cheeses can be simmered to create a broth. Or combine a bunch of different cheeses with some wine and sauteed garlic. Let this sit for a few days to marinate and use it to top toast.
To make the most of the yogurt sitting at the back of your refrigerator, scoop it out into a bowl and treat yourself to a pamper night. Even if the yogurt is slightly sour, it can still be used as a face mask.
After you’ve applied the face mask to your skin, leave it to work for 15-20 minutes. Greek or Icelandic yogurt is best for face masks as it’s thicker.
Old yogurt can also be used as a buttermilk substitute or to replace sour cream.
Obviously, don’t use moldy dairy or dairy that is otherwise off.
4. Meat Scraps
Making bone broth is a smart way to use up meat food scraps. Both the bones and leftover meat bits like fat or gristle can be used. Combine the meat and cover with several inches of water.
Add chopped carrots, garlic, or onion, if you’d like. Toss is some herbs like rosemary or thyme and add salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for up to two hours. Strain out the solids, and you’re left with a flavorful broth.
Birds love suet, and it’s a nutrient-dense food for them during the winter. Make suet using leftover bacon grease.
5. Leftover Tea Bags
Whether you’re trying to save money with shopping or want to start using natural beauty products, learning to integrate scraps can benefit your daily life. Tea toner is one of the quickest products to make at home. All you need is a leftover tea bag.
Leave the tea in a bowl of water, then pat the liquid over your face using a cotton pad or other towel. Tea toner is eco-friendly, and you can use different tea varieties, such as green, black, or rooibos.
Store any leftover toner tea in your freezer for future use.
6. Bottled Foods Like Mayonnaise
Peanut butter is delicious, but some of us are guilty of throwing away the jar when peanut butter is still left in the container.
One way to use the leftover peanut butter or other products like mayonnaise or mustard is to place other ingredients directly into the jar. For instance, you can leave your overnight oats in the peanut butter jar and let them soak up the goodness.
Carrot sticks or celery are also excellent for scooping up the leftover scraps at the bottom of the jar. Once the jar is empty, you can clean it and use it to plant herbs or store flour.
Make a quick sandwich filling by tossing shredded carrots and cucumber into the mayo jar and shake it all up. You can add a little olive oil or vinegar if you need some extra liquid.
Leftover crusty bread is a common source of food scraps and it’s just perfect for making croutons. Cube the bread and toss it in some olive oil. Add some salt and garlic powder and bake at 350°F until the bread is golden.
You can also grind dry bread up in a blender or food processor to make breadcrumbs.