It’s an absolute joy to cook at home and prepare meals for our families. However, as we peel and chop those ingredients, we are also sending more kitchen and household waste to the landfill. One way to help reduce food waste is by upcycling our food scraps. It’s a great strategy to add bulk and flavour to our recipes, too!

How can Scraps Reduce Food Waste?

Upcycling is a process that turns wasted ingredients into something we can eat. And that means transforming vegetable scraps, overripe fruits and the like into a delicious snack or meal. It’s a win-win technique to make the most of our food supply and help the environment at the same time. Purchasing products that use upcycled ingredients supports this move, too.

Australian households alone produce about 2.5 million tonnes of food waste annually. And in Victoria, about 65% of the state’s food waste is edible! This astounding amount only leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions. But, with a few changes on how we handle and cook our food, we can help address a global problem and reduce food waste in Australia.

How Can I Repurpose Food Scraps?

Here are some delectable ways to prevent those edible bits and pieces from ending in the bin.

1. Freeze fruits and vegetables in season

One way to save money on groceries is to buy fresh seasonal produce. However, if you inadvertently purchased a lot of extras, make sure to store them properly or do one of these options to repurpose them:

  • Freeze them. Bananas, mangoes and similar soft fruits can spoil in just a few days. Save them by popping fruits in the freezer and using them for ice creams, fruit bread and pies.
  • Preserve them. Overripe fruits develop more pectin and sugars that are perfect for making jams and other fruit spreads.
  • Blend them. Make healthy smoothies out of kale and beets, or sweet coulis from berries. Or mix them with yoghurt and get homemade frozen pops!

2. Cook various dishes using kale stalks

Kale leaves are a healthy addition to salads and smoothies. But no one likes their fibrous stems. Instead of throwing them away, blend the stalks to make pesto sauce. You can chop them up into bite-size pieces, too, then throw them in your soup or stir-fry. Make sure to add them early on to soften the stems enough and make them palatable. You can also do the same prep method for leek tops.

3. Start pickling Swiss chard stems

Like kale, Swiss chard stems are tough and chewy. Rather than tossing them into the bin, try slicing them in 2cm bite-size pieces. Then boil them over high heat in your favourite pickling solution for a few minutes. Store the pickled vegetable in jars, and make sure to pour enough brine to cover. Let it cool and refrigerate for up to three weeks. This pickle alternative tastes fabulous with smoked meats, rice meals and sandwiches.

4. Turn vegetable scraps into soups or broth

Store-bought stock or broth is super convenient. But making vegetable broth out of leftover food scraps helps reduce food waste and packaging use. So, next prep time, find a freezer-safe container to store and freeze your scraps. These can be bell pepper bits, corn cobs, broccoli stalks and carrot tops. Once you’ve collected enough, here’s what you can do:

  1. Simmer your leftover food scraps in water for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Strain it using a colander or cheesecloth.
  3. Transfer the vegetable broth in jars and store it in the fridge.
  4. Season the broth later on to suit your soup or sauce recipe.
  5. Add your cooked veggie scraps to your compost pile.

5. Save cheese rinds for sauces

Parmigiano-Reggiano or parmesan cheese can be expensive, so use every last bit of it, even its rind. It’s chewy I know, but cooking it into your tomato sauce gives a richer flavour and consistency. You can also simmer some in water to make a tasty chicken stock substitute. You can store the rind in resealable freezer bags then make the parm broth once you have enough.

6. Make potato chips out of potato skins

Unpeeled potatoes for homemade French fries or potato salad have more fibre and flavour. So, reduce food waste and leave the skin on when you can. But if you do need to peel them, choose to upcycle by deep-frying and tossing them in spices. Serve them with your favourite dipping sauce! Alternatively, you can spritz them with a little oil then pop them in the oven or air fryer.

7. Zest citrus fruits for tea, candied peels and more

Did you know that the citrus skin makes up about 15% to 20% of the total fruit weight? Citrus peels are full of nutrients that it’s sad to think most of them only end up as waste. The good news is there are several ways how we can prevent that from happening:

  • Candied citrus peels. Cook orange or lemon skins in water and sugar then allow them to dry. Toss them in sugar and store in an airtight container. You can dip them in chocolate, too!
  • Marmalade. The bittersweet combination of citrus peels and fruit on toasted bread is an absolute delight!
  • Citrus zests. A sprinkle of fresh lemon or lime zest to baked goods, sauces, fresh fruit or salads is an instant flavour booster. Make sure to zest your fruits every time then keep it in the freezer for future use.
  • Citrus salt or sugar. Alternatively, you can also dry your zest overnight, mince it then add to your jar of salt or sugar. These are cheaper than seasonings from the grocery store!
  • Citrus tea. Dried and minced zest also adds a refreshing taste and aroma to black tea. If you want, you can steep it in plain hot water then flavour it with your preferred herb and sweetener.

Make food waste reduction a habit at home! Our contributions, big or small, can make a difference. Check out this article from more ideas on how to join the zero-waste brigade.