There are many leftover ingredients that get tossed out without second thought. No matter what you’re cooking, you’ll most likely be left with scraps — and if you’re not sure what to do with them, they’ll often go straight into the compost bin or garbage. Reducing food waste is something to work towards in the kitchen because not only will you save money, it’s also beneficial to the planet. Here are seven commonly used kitchen ingredients and how you can repurpose them to cut down food waste:
1. Leek tops
When using leeks, you’ll find the white and light green portions of the leeks are often the only part of the vegetable used. The dark-green tops are woody and tough and are therefore not often called for use in recipes. But before you slice them off and throw them away, note that these darker green, woodier sections are loaded with flavour. Instead of throwing them in the compost, save them and add them when making homemade broth or fish stock.
Storage tip: To extend the shelf life of leeks, store them unwashed (moisture will cause them to spoil quickly) in a plastic bag in the fridge.
2. Stems from dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are packed with nutrients. When it comes to cooking with them, the tender leaves are cooked separately from the stems because they require different cooking times. Often this means these stems get tossed in the trash. But if you chop them into small pieces, you can and stir-fry, sauté, steam or boil them. (They also make a great addition to soups.)
Storage tip: Greens tend to spoil quickly; to preserve freshness, wrap them in paper towels and store in a loose plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the fridge.
3. Broccoli stalks
Similar to the stems from leafy greens, broccoli stalks should not be thrown out. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer shell then thinly slice or dice the tender core for salads, or cook them as you would any other fibrous vegetable.
Cooking tip: Cooking broccoli stalks along with the florets is a great way to make use of the entire vegetable at one time. Keep in mind that the stalks will take longer to cook so add them a few minutes before adding the florets.
4. Citrus peels
When citrus is in season, my compost bin is filled with clementine, lemon and orange peels. Try saving some of these peels for infusing sauces or liquor, and — if you’re feeling adventurous — you can even make your own candied citrus peel to add to a luxurious fruitcake.
Storage tip: Citrus can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge. Keeping it in the crisper drawer of the fridge will extend its shelf life, but may dull its flavour.
5. Parmesan rinds
Save those Parmesan rinds for adding to soups and sauces all winter long. This is a great trick for adding a hint of flavour and richness to minestrone or split pea soup. Add the rind just as the soup or sauce is about to simmer; it may dissolve into the soup while it cooks, but if it doesn’t, simply remove it before serving.
Storage tip: Rinds will keep all winter if you store them in re-sealable bags in the freezer.
6. Leftover bones
Simmer leftover chicken bones in water with aromatics (like carrots, celery and onion) to create homemade chicken broth for soups and stews. Making your own broth is a great way to use leftover vegetables and control the amount of salt in your dishes.
7. Vegetable peels
Did you know that vegetable peels make a great snack? Make sure to scrub the vegetables clean before peeling, then toss the peels with some oil and salt and roast at 400F for 6-10 minutes (watch carefully as they are very thin and may burn). You can do this with all sorts of vegetables but root vegetables like carrots, parsnips and potatoes are best. Alternatively, you can add vegetable peels to homemade chicken or vegetable stock.
Originally published November 2015. Updated January 2017.
Watch: The easiest way to remove corn from the cob