Food waste is a huge problem in America. In 2012, the most recent year data fully is available for, the EPA estimates that Americans produced 36.18 million tons of food waste. Approximately 2% of that was recovered through composting initiatives, but that still leaves 34.44 million tons of waste we generate every year. Split between food you throw out at home and grocery store and restaurant waste even after that 2% is recovered, this is equivalent to 5,860 pounds of food per household. As a society, each household in America is throwing out enough food each year to keep a family of four well fed for 366 days. That’s what we throw away every year. It’s bad for our society, our environment, our economy, and your wallet.
Though there’s a lot we could be doing to minimize food waste as a society, one easy thing you can do at home is have a regular “scrap day.” You could easily make soup with all of your odds and ends, but there’s so much more! For example, instead of throwing away half of the broccoli because your recipe only calls for florets, turn the stalk into the delicious salad below.
It takes a little creativity to cook up your accumulated scraps, but we have 7 ideas to get you started, plus a bonus for a job well done.
1. Shaved Broccoli Stalk Salad With Cotija and Lime
Tara Duggan wrote a whole cookbook on using the whole vegetable. It’s called Root to Stalk Cooking, and it’s an amazingly fun resource for using every part of the buffalo, so to speak. Here’s her delicious solution for leftover broccoli stalks via Epicurious. Even those little baby leaves you’d normally strip off have a home in this perfect side dish. Think of them as micro-kale greens, because that’s basically what they are! This salad features the tender stalks of a head of broccoli, salty crumbles of cotija cheese, and a perky squeeze of lime. For bonus points, use the lime you zested for another dish!
Prep tip: To make broccoli batons, first remove the stalks at the base of the florets, then trim the tough ends. Cut the stalks into batons by removing the thick, tough outer layer, using four long cuts with a chef’s knife.
- Leaves and stalks from 1 bunch broccoli, about 3 stalks, cut into batons
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- ¼ cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese
Directions: Place the broccoli batons flat on a cutting board, then use a sharp vegetable peeler to shave the broccoli into paper-thin strips.
Place the shaved broccoli and leaves in a medium bowl and toss with the olive oil, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in the cheese and serve immediately.
2. Veggie Scrap Wraps
Rather than just making the contents of a sandwich out of veggie scraps, use them to make the bread! These wraps from Tales of a Kitchen are a perfect, healthy use for all the odds and ends that accumulate over time. It takes a bit of time to dehydrate all of the bits, but it’s hands-off time. If you’re at home on a weekend day, try your hand at these gluten-free wraps made from veggie scraps. Though this is mostly hands-off if you have a dehydrator, you could use an oven set as low as it can go (usually 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
- 3 cups vegetable leftovers, odds bits and scraps
- 1 cup leftover odd bits of greens like spinach and parsley
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup flax meal
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon dry herbs
Directions: Blend your veggies, greens, water and sea salt until you have a smooth creamy concoction. Pour into a big bowl.
Add flax meal and dry herbs to the bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, until it thickens.
Spread the mix onto the silicone sheets of the dehydrator as evenly as possible.
Dehydrate for 1 hour at 115 degrees Fahrenheit, then lower the temperature to 105. Check your trays after a total of 2 hours and rotate them if needed to ensure even drying.
After about 4 hours, you will need to flip your wraps. This is best done by laying another sheet on top of the wraps and flipping to the new sheet, carefully peeling the old one off.
Dehydrate until your wraps are dry, but still flexible.
3. Peanut Noodles With Celery and Celery Leaves
We know a couple of people who like the taste of celery but don’t like the crunch. It’s amazing, though, that they never think of saving the leaves! Used as an herb or a garnish, they impart a lovely vegetal flavor in a different way. Add them to salads, soups, make them into a pesto, or put them into these peanut noodles from Vegetarian Times. Just don’t throw them out!
- ¼ cup toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
- ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon chile-garlic sauce
- ½ pound whole-grain linguine
- 1½ cups thinly sliced celery stalks
- ½ cup chopped celery leaves, plus 1 cup whole or torn celery leaves
- ⅓ cup finely chopped roasted peanuts, optional
Directions: Process sesame oil, soy sauce, peanut butter, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile-garlic sauce in blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to glass measuring cup.
Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package directions. Drain, and cool in strainer 20 minutes, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking.
Transfer pasta to large bowl and season with salt, if desired. Add sliced celery, chopped celery leaves, half of peanuts, and ½ cup sauce; toss to combine. Garnish with remaining peanuts and whole or torn celery leaves. Drizzle with remaining sauce, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
4. Chard Stem Hummus
Whenever you’re de-ribbing a bunch of chard, save the stems. They’re half of what you paid for the bunch, after all! Using chard stems to create a creamy dip isn’t a new idea, it’s a traditional Mediterranean dip. Though you can make it from chard stalks and tahini alone, this recipe from Make Haste Not Waste combines them with chickpeas for more protein. Though this would be great even just with pita chips, it makes a great spread for the veggie scrap wraps on page 2!
- 4 to 5 ounces Swiss chard stalks, from about ½ pound bunch, diced
- Salt to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- ¾ cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2½ tablespoons sesame tahini
- 4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted on the stovetop
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Directions: Steam chard stalks over 1 inch water until tender when pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.
Drain the Swiss chard stems well, about 10 minutes. Add to a food processor along with your chickpeas. Purée, stopping the machine from time to time to scrape down the sides.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash garlic with ½ teaspoon salt until you have a smooth paste. Add to chard stalks and chickpeas. Process until smooth.
Wipe out the same mortar to grind your toasted cumin seeds. Add to processor along with tahini and yogurt and run the machine until smooth once again. With machine running, add lemon juice, olive oil and a touch of salt to taste. Test the dip for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl.
5. Root Vegetable Latkes
When it comes to latkes, there are two things you shouldn’t do: 1) limit your latke consumption to Hanukkah, and 2) limit your latke ingredients to potatoes. Seriously! Any root vegetable or tuber makes an awesome latke, and they’re worth making any time of year. These scrap latkes are wonderful as a side to just about any meal, but they’re really great under an egg for brunch. This recipe is another one from Tara Duggan, coming to us from Leite’s Culinaria.
- 3 cups peeled and grated raw root vegetables or tubers, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, or celery root
- ¼ onion, very thinly sliced or shredded in a food processor
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Vegetable oil, for frying
Directions: Place the grated vegetables and onion in a large bowl. Press the grated vegetables with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. Add the eggs, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and stir well.
Place a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat and add enough oil to fill the skillet to a depth of ¼- to ½-inch. When the oil is hot, use a spoon to scoop up about 2 tablespoonfuls latke mixture, then use another spoon to press down on the mixture to make an oval patty. Gently slide the patty into the oil. Continue making patties with the spoons and cooking them without crowding them, until the latkes are browned, crisp, and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Place on paper towels or a brown paper bag to drain.
6. Carrot Top Pesto With Whole Grain Penne
Whether it’s just not basil season, all the farms in your area came down with downy mildew, or you have a fresh pile of carrot tops and nothing else to do with them, carrot top pesto is the answer. This is a great thing to do as soon as you bring your carrots home: The orange roots will last for weeks in your crisper detached from their tops, but the tops have a day, maybe 2 days before they begin to wilt. They’re earthy, herbal, slightly carrot-y, and they’re a great stand-in for basil in pesto, especially in the fall. This recipe from Rachel Ray uses it to top whole grain pesto, making a sturdy and healthy dinner.
- 2 cups leafy carrot tops, stems trimmed, soaked in cold water and drained well
- ¼ cup tarragon leaves, stemmed
- A handful flat-leaf parsley tops
- 2 small cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup toasted sliced almonds and pine nuts, combined
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus some to pass at table
- 5 to 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound whole-wheat or farro penne rigate
Directions: Place carrot tops, tarragon, parsley, garlic, nuts, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cheese in a food processor. Pulse into finely chopped mixture then stream in oil until pesto begins to pull away from sides of food processor. Transfer to serving bowl.
Bring water to a rolling boil for the pasta; salt the water and cook pasta to al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of starchy water just before draining the pasta.
Drain pasta. Add half the starchy water to the bowl with the pesto along with the pasta and toss. Adjust seasoning and use additional hot water to thin as necessary to coat pasta evenly. Top pasta with remaining nuts and pass cheese at table.
7. Potato Peel Chips
Why throw away your potato peels when you could reap the nutritional benefits of these mineral- and vitamin-rich scraps in the form of delicious, easy, addicting oven chips? Wash your potatoes thoroughly and peel them over a bowl, toss with olive oil, and have an amazing chef’s snack before dinner is even done cooking! Time is of the essence with these, though. Don’t keep your peels hanging around, because after a while, they’ll get brown and mushy. This recipe from The Kitchn is one of the easiest we’ve ever seen, with amazing results. They recommend avoiding any green peels. Potatoes green when they’re been exposed to sunlight, and they start to develop a chemical called solanine. It’s not usually an issue for adults, but children can be sensitive to it. Better safe than sorry.
You could go classic and season these with a little sea salt, or you could dress them up. If you’re a fan of barbecue chips, toss the peels with smoked paprika. Like salt and vinegar? Sprinkle with a tablespoon of vinegar and some salt. Throw in some herbs de provence. Toss with some Sriracha. Go wild.
- Potato peels
- Olive oil
Directions: Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat, if desired.
Toss the peels with oil and seasonings so that the peels are thoroughly coated.
Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through roasting, and remove them once they’re done to your liking.
8. Apple Peel Bourbon
As a celebration of your new-found waste reducing habit, use some apple peels to infuse bourbon, brandy, whiskey, rum, vodka, or anything that sounds like it would taste great with apple. This is one last recipe from Tara Duggan, shared by Food52. It’s both a delicious DIY treat and a great gift for cocktail enthusiasts. This infused bourbon is as good neat as it is over ice, topped with ginger beer and a generous squeeze of lime.
- Peels from 1½ pounds of apples
- One 750 milliliter bottle of bourbon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
Directions: Stuff the peels into a large jar or bottle, then pour the bourbon over them. Add cinnamon stick and cloves and cover well.
Let your booze sit for a few days at room temperature. Remove the cinnamon and cloves after a day or two, to keep them from overpowering everything else. After a week, strain out the apple peels and keep refrigerated; the apple-y bourbon will keep for at least a few weeks.