Kitchen Tips

How To Make Good Use Of Your Kitchen Scraps

From cheese rinds to carrot tops, a lot of what you’ve been throwing away may have a second life in another meal.

Should these potato peels go in the compost? What can I do with cooked, day-old spaghetti? If the two-in-one COVID-19 combo of increased home cooking and decreased frequency in trips to the store has you playing mental Tetris with how to make what’s in your fridge last longer, we’re here to help. From cheese rinds to carrot tops, a lot of what you’ve regularly been throwing away may actually have a second life as a flavouring agent, condiment, or base for an entirely new dish, helping you to stretch the life of your last grocery trip (not to mention food budget) a little longer. Call it reducing kitchen waste, call it frugal living: this kitchen scrap knowledge will serve you while cooking under quarantine and well beyond. 

Note: some plant parts have varying levels of toxicity and should never be ingested, including rhubarb leaves, apple seeds, cherry, apricot, peach and plum pits.

Lemon Zest, Violet Bakery cookbook by Claire Ptak

Photo, Claire Ptak.

Citrus Peels
Whether you’re making lemonade or snacking on an orange, grate your citrus before you peel or juice it and save the grated zest for a future dish. You can store citrus zest by freezing or dehydrating it on a sheet pan before storing it in a container or Ziploc bag.
Chatelaine recipes: Easy Lemon Pasta, Candied Lemon Peel, Lemon Sugar Cookies, Sheet Pan Orange Chicken with Sweet Potato  

Eggshells
Discarded eggshells don’t have a purpose in cooking (except for maybe the strong coffee trick), but they’re useful in gardening as compost fuel and in crafts.
Chatelaine crafts: Eggshell planters, Easter egg candles, dyed Easter eggs 

Pickle Juice
Whether it’s from a store-bought or homemade jar, pickle brine is a kitchen scrap workhorse. You can re-use it to make a new batch of pickles (though ideally not more than once), to marinate meat, make a vinaigrette, poach fish, or add a tart zing to boiled potatoes—especially if they’re going into a potato salad. Fancy a cocktail? It makes a great addition to caesars.
Chatelaine recipes:  Savoury Whiskey Cocktail, Savoury Sake Cocktail, Savoury Vodka Cocktail, Ultimate Macaroni Salad  

Stale Sandwich Bread
French toast and bread pudding are go-to standards for partially stale sandwich slices, but it’s got savoury applications, too. Tear up slices by hand to use wherever bread crumbs are used as a binder—as in meatballs or meatloaf.
Chatelaine recipes: Bread and Butter Pudding, Bread Pudding For One, Baked French Toast, Five Modern Meatloaf Recipes, Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs 

loaf od instant pot no-knead bread on a serving plate with three slices cut off

Photo, Roberto Caruso.

Stale Crusty Loaf
Did you lean into your new sourdough hobby a little too hard? If you’ve made more loaves than you can reasonably eat in a week, make them last longer by cutting them into cubes that can be used to make croutons, or as the base of soups and stews. Day-old loaves can also be revived by a sprinkle of water followed by a few minutes in a 350F oven.
Chatelaine recipes: Tuna Panzanella Salad, Grilled Panzanella Salad, Fattoush Salad, French Onion Soup, Tomato-Almond Gazpacho

Cold Rice
Day-old rice is essential for perfect fried rice, and can also be used for soupy hot congees. If you’ve made way too much, freeze it into ½-cup portions for each serving, then simmer the frozen rice in 2 cups of water or broth until you reach the desired consistency. Want to turn it into rice pudding? Just be sure to modify the cooking time.
Chatelaine recipes: Sesame Chicken Congee, Sinigag (Filipino garlic rice), Chicken Fried Rice,   

Cold Pasta
Pasta bakes are a popular way to give plain, leftover noodles a second life—but you can also swap leftover pasta into frittatas and stir-fries. Depending on the type, it’s also good the next day in cold pasta salads.
Chatelaine recipes: Skillet Potato and Broccoli Frittata, 18 Extra Cheesy Baked Pastas, Eggplant and Fennel Pasta Bake, 10 Quick and Easy Pasta Salad Recipe

Pasta Water
A dash of that starch-rich water left over from boiling a pot of bucatini adds body to sauces, and can even be used to improve the rise and texture of homemade bread.
Chatelaine recipes: Best-Ever Spaghetti Sauce, Classic Arabbiata

White dish filled with slow cooker bone broth.

Photo, Erik Putz.

Chicken and Beef Bones
With a few leek tops, onion caps and vegetable ends, the leftover bones from a roast chicken can be turned into a simple broth in under an hour. Got beef bones? Try a more ambitious long-simmer soup stock.
Chatelaine recipes: Slow Cooker Bone Broth, Beef Pho, Easy Soup Stock, Classic Turkey Broth, Homemade Chicken Broth

Hard Cheese Rinds
We’re begging you, do not throw your parmesan rinds into the garbage. Packed with plenty of umami-rich flavour, that little hard slice is ready to be steeped into soups and stews, just like a bouillon cube—just be sure to fish it out after you’re done cooking.
Chatelaine recipes: Farro Soup with Kale, Cheese Soup, Easy Minestrone, Italian-Style Lentil Soup

Tops and Stems
Swap fresh, thoroughly washed carrot tops or parsley and cilantro stems for whatever green you’d typically use in a pesto recipe. Chopped chard stems add crunch to frittatas and soups. Leek and green onion tops should be tossed into a scrap bag for your next pot of broth.
Chatelaine recipes: Classic Pesto, Pesto Green Beans, Pesto Salad 

Buy locally-grown beets from Canada's bounty

Photo, Tara Miller.

Beet Greens
The leafy tops of beet bunches aren’t for the compost—use them like  you would fresh chard. Cut them off the root vegetable right after purchase, as they draw moisture away from the beet.
Chatelaine recipes: Beets and Greens Salad, Swiss Chard With Lemon and Almonds, Swiss Chard with Capers, Sesame Ginger Beet Bowl

Potato Peels
The peels of thoroughly scrubbed and clean potatoes can be salted and roasted for a chip-like snack.
Chatelaine recipes: Creamy Scalloped Potatoes With Crispy Potato Skins

Potato Water
Much like pasta, potatoes release starch into the water they’re cooked in when boiled—Nigella Lawson swears by the stuff as a base for making vegetable soups and stews.
Chatelaine recipes: Quick And Easy Veggie Soup, Grilled Vegetable Soup

Corn Cobs
De-kerneled corn cobs can be thrown into a simmering pot of soup stock, or simmered into hot milk or cream to impart a sweet flavour. 

Vegetable Pulp
Leftover pulp from juicing still has plenty of flavour—and more importantly, fibre. Try adding carrot, zucchini, beet or ginger pulp to muffins for a nutritious boost, or cucumber pulp to a veggie dip. You can even toss frozen pulp into soups and stews.