Okay, if you're trying to morph into a zero-waste kitchen, it takes a lot of work to get there. The first step is to reduce the food waste you are creating & try to incorporate more whole foods. Once you have a good selection of whole-food-based recipes, you can work diligently to reduce your packaged food consumption. This is the best method for incorporating the zero waste lifestyle into busy families.
So I've crafted these 5 easy and applicable tips using food scraps you would normally compost or toss.
1) The butt ends and shavings of vegetables:
While prepping for dinner, put the shavings into a small pot instead of the garbage. I usually have the small pot next to my cutting board for easy tossing. When your chopping is finished, add water to the pot and put it on a back burner on low heat while you cook. When dinner is close to being finished, strain the liquid stock you just made from scratch into a container.
You hear that? Congratulations you just made no salt added stock from scratch on the side while making dinner! You rockstar!
Put the container in the freezer until you're ready to use. You could also strain the stock into an ice cube tray and freeze. This way you have 2oz. frozen cubes of stock to add flavor to any dish at any point.
Here's the secret: It doesn't really matter what your stock is made of. Stock is used because it offers more flavor than plain water. Any vegetable you boil is going to bring more flavor. The flavor may change each time, but it won't ruin anything you make. As long as you have some onion, celery, and carrot in there somewhere, it will come out fine. Sometimes I add peppercorns and a bay leaf.
So what do you do with the vegetables now? Well, if you have dogs, they should be fine to eat them since you haven't added any salt. If you have added onion or another food that isn't good for dogs, I would caution you not to feed them. When I'm adding onion, I'll add it midway through the process after I've strained out the other vegetables. This way the veggies cool while the onion boils in the pot, and I can give the veggies to my dogs.
You could also compost them, or blend them up to make a paste which you can dehydrate (or bake at a low temp) for dog treats. Sometimes, when I have a lot of potato skins, I dehydrate the raw skins into treats for my dogs. Better than store bought snacks for them, and nutrients remain intact. I wrote a specific blog about it here.
2) Broccoli Stems:
This one is amazing. I always buy my broccoli with a good long stem for a couple of reasons. One, I feel like I'm getting jipped if I don't, and two, I give the stems to my dogs as a bone substitute. I'll boil or steam the stem for a few minutes, just to make the outside tender, and leave the inside crunchy, then I'll let it cool and give it to my dogs as a treat. The dogs absolutely love it. They chew and eat the whole thing. It's good for them, there's no added sodium, and it's a whole food snack.
3) Tomato Skins:
Unless you've been living under a rock, you likely know that BPA is bad for you. You also likely know that BPA is used in the lining of canned food as a rust inhibitor. Eden Foods is the only canned food producer that I know of at the moment who has removed BPA in the lining of their cans. But because their products tend to be a little bit more expensive, you may want to make your own from scratch, which is very simple.
When it comes to tomato sauce, the easiest way, starting with whole tomatoes, is to blanch them to get the skins loose, then give them an ice bath, and peel the skins off. This is already an amazing lower-waste option than canned tomatoes or the dreaded jarred tomato sauce (which, let's admit, we've all resorted to every now and then).
But did you know you can do something with the skins!? Here's how to make Tomato Salt:
1. Spread the skins on an oil rubbed baking pan
2. Sprinkle generously with salt
3. Bake at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, for 2-3 hours
4. Take out, and let cool
5. Crush and put in a shaker container
It's got a little bit of a smokey flavor, and comes out a pretty pink color. Sometimes I add smoked paprika before baking to really bring out the smokey flavor. You can use this for an added boost in anything you would salt.
4) Almond Milk Leftovers:
You are super proud because you've just successfully completed your very first batch of almond milk from scratch. Wahoo! Did you know you can use the sold part to make a vegan feta that is oh so yummy? The answer is yes, you can.
Here's my basic recipe:
Based on 1 cup of almond solids leftover. Adjust accordingly if you have more.
1. In a blender or Vitamix place the following and blend until smooth:
2. Once the liquid is blended, add your almond solids ball and blend on a low-med setting until a paste is formed.
3. Take the cheesecloth or nut milk bag you used to strain the nut milk out, and open it up into bowl or plate (depending on which method of straining you used).
4. Pour/scrape the new mixture from the blender into the cheesecloth.
5. Fold the sides of the cheesecloth or nut milk bag, and twist at the top to form a ball of the cheese.
6. Chill in the refrigerator for 12hrs to overnight.
7. Drain the liquid the next morning.
8. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and take the ball out of the cheesecloth.
9. Put onto an oil rubbed baking sheet, and flatten it to make a disk that's about 3/4 of an inch think. Depending on the amount you have, the width will vary.
10. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
11. Take out, let cool. If you wanted to add a topping you could sauté some more garlic, thyme, and rosemary in olive oil, and drizzle it over the top.
5) Lemon Rind:
I use lemons all the time. In fact, I am slowly but surely growing my own lemon tree. I haven't gotten any actual fruit from it yet, but I'm hopeful. I feel so much garbage guilt if I throw out the rind. So here's what I do with it!
Make an essential oil:
1. Take the rind of 1 lemon and zest it into a glass bottle with a lid.
2. Add olive oil. If you filled half the glass with the lemon zest, fill the rest with olive oil.
3. Let it sit in a nice sunny spot for a few days, shaking a few times per day.
That's it. You're done. Keep it in that airtight container at room temp. I use this for cleaning, mixing, cooking, etc.
Scrub the bathroom: I scrub my shower with citrus peel and baking soda. Orange, lemon, or grapefruit most of the time.
Add it to white vinegar to replace the very vinegar smell with a citrus one: I add my peels to my gallon of white vinegar that I use to clean with. It helps diminish the strong scent and the oil helps clean my dishes. (I use vinegar in the rinse cycle of the dishwasher)
6) Apple Peels & Cores:
Did you know you can use apple peels and cores to make apple cider vinegar?? I just recently found this, and it's changed my world. I have a toddler so applesauce is a must in this house. I had been unsuccessfully trying to come up with ideas on how to use the peels- the best I had was dehydrating for dog treats. Then I stumbled upon this girl who is awesome! I tried her recipe and it worked! Check it out!
Thanks for visiting!
I would love to know what scraps you have crafted into something else useful!? Let me know in the comments below.