Are you conscious of food waste? At the individual level, the average American household wastes 30-40% of its food. Sounds like a lot, and you might think that you don’t fall into this category, but many of us waste more food than we realize. One way we can cut down on this is to embrace zero waste cooking. Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like. This lifestyle utilizes all parts of food and avoids the trash can all together. Sounds pretty cool, right? If you have not been cognizant of your food waste, this style of cooking may be an adjustment, but this article will help walk you through it. Even utilizing just a few of these tips will reduce your waste!
The first step is ignoring the trash can. It may be a habit to throw peels and stems away as you cook, so move the trash can away from the kitchen. This will prevent you from falling into unconscious habits. If you are unsure of what to do with the “extra” pieces at the time, set them aside in a bowl to address after you have created your meal.
Now that your trash can is out of the kitchen, it’s time to learn how to use all of the food, even the roots and stems.
#1 Make vegetable broth
The simplest solution to those odds and ends is to throw them into a pot and make broth. Things that would be great for this include celery tops, cauliflower cores, onion cores and ends, dried up garlic cloves, and so on. If you do not have enough scraps right away, you can start a collection in the freezer until you have enough. Throw the vegetable scraps into a pot and cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, then strain into glass jars and let cool before refrigerating. If you would like, you can add salt while simmering to provide extra flavor. The scraps can then be composted. A secondary bonus of making your own broth is that you avoid the single use containers found in the stores and reduce the amount of sodium in your broth! For a great broth recipe, as well as guidance on other zero waste topics, click here.
#2 Add stems and root vegetable greens to a smoothie
Spinach and kale have earned new popularity over the years as being the “go to” greens to add to smoothies, but have you ever tried other greens? When you buy a bunch of carrots or radishes, there are often still the greens attached on top. Give these a good rinse and add them to your smoothies. They will still offer similar nutritional benefits as other greens and it’s the simplest way to prevent them from reaching the trash can.
#3 Make pesto
Pesto is traditionally made with basil, but it really works with any greens. The green tops of beets, turnips, and carrots make delicious pestos. If you have a food processor or a blender, making pesto will only take you about five minutes. Countryside’s Green and Grain Salad uses radish tops to make a pesto, but you can substitute any type of greens into this recipe.
#4 Use potato peels
If you have ever made mashed potatoes for a family holiday, you will know that potato peels stack up fast! After scrubbing the potato well, you can turn the peel into potato chips. Toss with oil, and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until crispy. Or alternatively, try making your mashed potatoes with the peel on!
#5 Can your food
If you find some produce about ready to go bad in the back of your fridge, try canning it to make it shelf stable. Not only is this a great way to reduce waste, it’s also a fun hobby that you can share with your family and friends. Plus, canned goods make great party appetizers and gifts. If you are interested in learning about canning, click here.
#6 Start a food scrap garden
There are other ways you can use your food scraps that do not involve cooking them into another meal. Starting a food scrap garden is an activity that the whole family can become active in. Many foods can actually be regrown with just a piece of the original produce. If you are interested in starting a food scrap garden or learning more, click here.
Zero waste cooking isn’t that intimidating, right? It’s the perfect next step for farmers’ market shoppers who want to shop local and support the environment. Share your zero waste cooking tips in the comments!