Every year, an astounding 1/3 of all food that is grown and produced, ends up as waste. A 1 trillion-dollar value, trillion with 12 0’s ($1,000,000,000,000). This then leads to wasted water, oil, and energy. Over 90% of food that is thrown away ends up in landfills, where its energy and organic material is completely wasted. Food waste happens at multiple levels, but we as consumers can fight it. Simply being conscious of the food we toss out is the first step. Composting has quickly become the best way to combat food waste at home, but it certainly is not the only way. Here are 4 different ways that your kitchen scraps can benefit you instead of rotting in a landfill.
Before tossing out those vegetable ends, consider regrowing them! Lettuce, Onions, Garlic and Celery and many more, can all be regrown right in your kitchen.
After you trim down all of the leaves on a head of romaine lettuce, simply place the head in shallow jar of water. Place on a window sill and change the water often. Before too long new leaves will begin to grow out of the center.
Green onions can be treated the same way. Simply trim the greens down all the way to about an inch and a half from the roots. Then place the roots in a narrow container with a small layer of water. (A tall shot glass works well as a growing vessel) Keep water clean and harvest the new greens as needed.
Celery also can be regrown using this same method. However, celery will take a little bit of time to get going.
An entire garlic bulb can be regrown from a single clove. If a forgotten bulb of garlic begins sprouting, simply separate the cloves and plant them like you would a seed; in soil with the pointed end up and the flat side down. If you are only interested in harvesting the tops of the garlic (which are completely edible and delicious) then you will be able to harvest within a couple of months. However, if you are trying to grow entire bulbs of garlic, you will have to wait a entire season. Certainly, worth the wait, especially because they take minimal effort to grow. You can go plant some cloves in your garden, forget about them for a few months then suddenly have your own garlic bulbs!
Re-growing kitchen scraps takes time and it by no means is going to replace your trips to the grocery store, but it is a fun way to become closer to your food and a great method to fight food waste.
2) Feed Your Furry Friends
Although some people frown upon feeding kitchen scraps to dogs, most veterinarians have given the okay. In fact, a dog fed fruits and vegetables in conjunction with their normal food, often displays many benefits, from a beautiful coat to healthier organs. Of course, you should make no major changes to your pet’s diet without consulting your vet first. Here are some fruits and vegetables that have been vet approved in moderation.
Veterinarian Approved Fruits and Vegetables for your dog:
Carrots, Green Beans, Seedless Watermelon, Apples, Blueberries, Cucumbers, Peaches (Not the Pit), Green Peas
Raw bones and lean meat scraps are also a welcome treat for your pup.
Cooked into treats, or given raw, your dog will be pleased to have some variety from their kibble.
Whether it’s a slightly soggy blueberry, or a watermelon that just wasn’t very sweet, be sure to remember your dog before you send produce to the landfill.
3) Send to the Garden
If you don’t compost, or even garden for that matter, you can still keep some food from going to waste by adding it to the soil around your plants.
Eggshells- When crushed and mixed into the soil, they act as a fertilizer and as a pest repellent. Use eggshell halves as seed starters.
Coffee Grounds-Used coffee grounds are nearly neutral so you don’t need to worry about changing the pH of your soil. Not only do coffee grounds slowly release nitrogen over time, but they also encourage beneficial micro-organisms by adding organic matter to the soil.
Nut Shells-Aside from adding rugged, long-lasting organic material to your soil, nut shells can also be used to make a mulch.
4)Use in the Kitchen, Again
When a little creativity is used, most kitchen scraps can actually be re-purposed in a later meal. From broths to candied citrus peels, many scraps find their second wind.
Most vegetable scraps can be saved by being boiled down and made into vegetable broth. When you are slicing and dicing in the kitchen, throw all of your ends and pieces into a freezer bag. This can include onion ends, carrot tips, celery trimmings, bean stems and so on. Add to the bag every meal until it is full. At which point toss all of the collected bits in a pot of boiling water, simmer for a couple of hours and when it is done, strain the vegetables out. Just like that you have vegetable broth that be used immediately or frozen to be used later. Compost the boiled veggies.
Bone broth can be made the same way, just replace the veggies with bone scraps. Try making a chicken broth from a mostly eaten rotisserie chicken. Throw in the bones, drippings and any meat that may be left for an extremely flavorful broth.
If you use breadcrumbs to cook, rethink throwing out the end pieces on a loaf of bread. These, and slightly stale bread can be tossed into a food processor and stored in an airtight jar in order to make homemade breadcrumbs.
Citrus peels are an extremely overlooked kitchen scrap. Depending on how intensive you want to be, you can collect just the zest or you can use multiple parts of the peel. Regardless, don’t just toss out those peels without exploring some possibilities. Citrus zest can be added to just about any salad dressing, or used as a flavorful garnish in many meals. When the peel is separated from the fruit, there is still one more separation that can happen; the peel and the pith. The pith is the thick white layer between the peel and the fruit. It is the pith that makes citrus peels bitter. The bitter pith is not useless though! It is rich with pectin and be used as a natural thickener. When the pith is separated from the peel, the thin, colorful layer that is left can be dried and used in teas, used fresh in meals, infused into drinks or candied (much like crystallized ginger). Citrus peels just might be the most underestimated of all kitchen scraps so be sure to experiment with them before they are tossed out.
One final way to reduce food waste is to save seeds out of squash and make yummy roasted snacks. Most of us are familiar with roasting pumpkin seeds around Halloween, but all squash seeds can be prepared the same way! Experiment with different seasonings and flavors. So next time you prepare a nice squash for dinner, scoop the seeds onto a cookie sheet instead of the trash can!