Reducing food waste in the kitchen, like most things, is all about creating good habits. Food waste isn’t just about tossing your leftovers or buying more than you can eat, it’s the little bits of food here and there that go unnoticed that really add up. Here are 8 small habits that can make a big difference when it comes to reducing kitchen waste.
Most of us simply lob off the tops and bottoms of our fruits and vegetables to get rid of the stems or roots, taking a lot of the edible vegetable along with it. Instead, use a paring knife to cut closely around the stem on peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and more. Cut as close as possible to the tops or bottoms of carrots, celery, or onions. Use a sharp spoon or melon baller to bore out soft spots and brown spots, leaving more of the healthy portions intact.
Peeling vegetables is fast and easy, but you lose a lot of flavor, nutrients, and fiber, and you’re also creating a lot of food waste in the process. Invest in a vegetable brush and give your veggies a quick scrub instead of peeling.
When you do have vegetable scraps, use them to make flavorful homemade broths and stocks. Make sure your scraps are very clean, then store them in a freezer bag until you have enough to make a batch of homemade broth. Vegetable scraps like peels, herb stems, carrot or celery tops, and onion peels are all great for making broth, as are non-vegetable scraps like parmesan rinds or roasted meat bones.
If your loaf of bread has become hard or stale, that’s the perfect time to turn it into homemade breadcrumbs or croutons! Simply whiz the stale bread in a blender or food process to create beautiful crumbs, then store them in the freezer to prevent mold growth. To make breadcrumbs, cut the bread into cubes or tear into rustic chunks, drizzle with oil and your favorite herbs, then bake until golden brown and crispy.
Coffee grounds are a valuable asset that most of us toss into the garbage on a daily basis. The internet is ripe with ideas for re-using leftover coffee grounds, but my favorite uses are to fertilize acid loving plants, to repel garden pests like slugs, or to make air and refrigerator fresheners (dry the coffee grounds and pack them into an old pair of stockings to allow air-flow).
Citrus zest is an incredible flavor agent in the kitchen, yet most of us toss our peels from oranges, or squeeze the juice from lemons and limes and then toss the rest, peel and all, into the garbage. To save that precious zest for later, freeze large pieces of the peel in a freezer bag. The frozen peel is easy to zest and you can take one or two pieces out as needed to liven up your food.
Dedicate one night per week to “sweep the kitchen.” Make use of recipes that are flexible enough to accommodate whatever you might have on hand that needs to be used up, like stir fries, soups, or casseroles. This weekly challenge will also exercise your creativity and help you discover exciting new flavor combinations.
As a last stop before the landfill, look into composting. There are many small home composters available on the market today, and if you live in an apartment or home without a yard, look into whether or not there is a community composting service or community garden in your area that will take your kitchen scraps.
This post was originally published on Feeding America’s Hunger Blog.