Ways to Upcycle your Food

Waste Not, Want Nota graphic celebrating ways to upcycle food

Did you know that the average American wastes 1 pound of food a day? Or that 25-40% of all food produced in the United States goes uneaten? Or that 8% of greenhouse gases come from decomposing food waste, which is more than the amount produced by the entire airline industry?

Shocking, right?

We waste an incredible amount of food. Whether it was trimmed off, went bad, or thrown away as a matter of habit, the result is the same. Food goes into the trash, uneaten. Wasting food is hard on your wallet and on the planet. Here are some creative ways to upcycle your food bits you usually toss.


1) Pickle your cut-offs

Whether it’s chard stems, watermelon rinds, strawberry tops, or any other kitchen cast-off, vinegar is the answer. Pickling these scraps in a bit of vinegar turns them into delightful bursts of bright flavor. Chop them up, let them pickle for a few days, and then add to the dish of your choice. Experiment – different veggies and fruits will provide different flavors and consistencies!


2) Make Crispy Potato Skin Chips

Potato and sweet potato skins usually go straight into the trash. That’s unfortunate, because not only are you missing out on extra nutrition, you’re cheating yourself out of a tasty treat. This easy, addictive snack is the perfect reward for peeling a mountain of potatoes. All you have to do is wash the skins, lightly toss them in olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and bake on a lined sheet at 425 for about 20 minutes. Yum! Be careful to only use fresh potatoes, as older skins may make you sick.


3) Season Soups or Sauces with Cheese Rinds

Aaah, cheese. Is there anything it can’t do? Even when it’s on its last legs, there is still goodness to be found. If you have a nub of cheese with a rind, such as parmesan (or our lovely local Lanchego) don’t throw it away. Upcycle it instead! Next time you’re making a broth or simmering a sauce, toss that rind right in. It won’t melt, but it will infuse the liquid with a beautiful umami flavor. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.


4) Regrow your Vegetable Scraps

Plants are hardy things. Though they’ve been pulled from the soil and chopped into pieces, they find a way to come back. Many of the vegetable trimmings we throw away can be re-sprouted, resulting in either a whole new vegetable, or yummy sprouts that can be harvested fresh. It’s a perfect way to upcycle your food into brand new produce. Root vegetable tops, such as those from beets and carrots, can be placed in a shallow tray of water. In a few days, greens should begin to sprout up. Use these in salads or as a zingy garnish. Lettuce bases in soil can be regrown into full heads of lettuce, as can green onions, shallots, and garlic. Even exotic fruits like pineapples can be regrown from a trimmed top!


5) Freeze Your Herbs

Tired of buying fresh herbs, only to use a pinch and have the rest wither in your fridge? Here’s an easy fix – freeze your herbs in olive oil. Just fill an ice cube tray with olive oil, chop up your herbs, place them in the oil, and freeze. Now you have a ready-to-use cube of herb infused oil. Thaw at room temperature to use, or simply drop a warm pan to melt!


6) Bone Broth

Bone broth is an increasingly popular source of protein, collagen, and amino acids. You can add it to soups and stocks, or drink it hot. It’s easy to make your own broth at home from leftover bones. As an optional step, you can blanch and roast the bones first – this will lead to a clearer, more milder-tasting broth. Put the bones in a large stockpot. If you like, you can add vegetables such as carrots for extra flavor. Cover with cold water, bring to a low boil, and then simmer. Keep simmering for 10-12 hours. Then, strain the resulting liquid into a container. Congratulations! You now have your very own, homemade bone broth.


7) Aquafaba

If you like to bake you may already be familiar with this kitchen hack. Aquafaba is the proteinaceous liquid produced from cooked chickpeas. If you’ve ever opened a can of chickpeas, this is liquid they come packed in. It is highly nutritious and works as an excellent substitute for eggs, especially in baking projects. Next time you open up a can of chickpeas, or cook your own at home, save the liquid. It’s the perfect excuse to whip up a light, airy cake or a plate of indulgent brownies.


8) Upcycled Air Freshener

This last recipe isn’t edible, but it’s a great way to upcycle your food and freshen up your living space. If you have leftover fruit scraps, such as lemon rinds, apple cores, or ginger root peels, hold on to them. You can boil these cast-offs into a lovely aromatic air freshener. Simply add your ingredients to a pot, along with any other items you might want to use (expired teabags, spice jars with just a pinch left, etc.) add a bit of water and set it to boil. Once it has, turn down the heat and let the simmering mixture perfume your home. It’s that simple!


These are just a few of the ways you can repurpose the things you might otherwise throw away. Look for ways to upcycle your food whenever you can – as they say, one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. Learn more about how you can cut down on food waste, and check out our efforts to reduce our own waste.