By Colleen Vanderlinden, Planet Green
“Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” is a favorite adage
in both frugal and green circles, and it is something I strive to live
by. One of the best ways to “use it up” is to think differently about
our food and ways to avoid wasting it. Lloyd wrote a great post a while
back about the statistics for how much food we waste
in the U.S., and the numbers are, frankly, appalling. On average, we
waste 14 percent of our food purchases per year, and the average
American family throws out over 600 dollars of fruit per year. Most of
the food we waste is due to spoilage; we’re buying too much and using
too little of it.
We’ve all had it happen: half the loaf of bread goes stale because no
one wants to eat sandwiches today, and the grapes we bought as healthy
snacks for the kids’ lunches languish in the crisper. With a little
creativity, and an eye toward vanquishing waste in our lives, we can
make use of more of our food before it goes to waste. Here are a few
ideas for you.
Using Up Vegetables
1. Leftover mashed potatoes from dinner? Make them into patty shapes
the next morning and cook them in butter for a pretty good “mock hash
2. Don’t toss those trimmed ends from onions, carrots, celery, or
peppers. Store them in your freezer, and once you have a good amount
saved up, add them to a large pot with a few cups of water and make
homemade vegetable broth. This is also a great use for cabbage cores and
3. Don’t toss broccoli stalks. They can be peeled and sliced, then prepared just like broccoli florets.
4. If you have to dice part of an onion or pepper for a recipe, don’t
waste the rest of it. Chop it up and store it in the freezer for the
next time you need diced onion or peppers.
5. Roasted root vegetable leftovers can be turned into an easy,
simple soup the next day. Add the veggies to a blender, along with
enough broth or water to thin them enough to blend. Heat and enjoy.
6. If you’re preparing squash, don’t toss the seeds. Rinse and roast
them in the oven, just like you would with pumpkin seeds. The taste is
pretty much the same.
7. Celery leaves usually get tossed. There’s a lot of good flavor in
them; chop them up and add them to meatloaf, soups, or stews.
9. Canning is always a good option. If you’re doing tomatoes, you can use a boiling water bath. If you’re canning any other type of veggie, a pressure canner is necessary for food safety.
10. Before it goes bad, blanch it and toss it in the freezer. This
works for peas, beans, corn, carrots, broccoli, brussels sprouts,
cauliflower, and leafy greens like spinach and kale.
Ideas for Cutting Down on Fruit Waste
13. Make smoothies with fruit before it goes bad. Berries, bananas, and melons are great candidates for this use-up idea.
14. Jam is really easy to make, and will keep for up to a year if you
process the jars in a hot water bath. If you don’t do the water
processing part, you can keep the jam in the refrigerator for a month,
which is a lot longer than the fruits would have lasted.
15. Dry your fruit and store it in the freezer or in airtight containers.
16. Make fruit leather.
17. Make a big fruit salad or “fruit kebabs” for your kids. For some
reason, they seem to eat more fruit if it’s in these “fancier” forms.
19. Don’t throw out those watermelon rinds! Pickled watermelon rind is a pretty tasty treat.
20. Make a fruit crumble out of almost any fruit you have on hand.
Assemble and bake it now, or leave it unbaked and store it in the
freezer for a quick dessert.