Composting is a great way to reduce food waste, but it requires commitment to set it up and maintain it. Even if you don’t have time to compost, or it’s a project on your to-do list, you can still make the best of your leftovers by reusing them in new ways.
It’s a Grind
It’s common to reuse coffee grounds as fertilizer in your garden, but did you know it has many other household purposes? I was surprised to learn that coffee grounds can also be used to get rid of fridge stink. If there’s anything I struggle with in my kitchen, it’s the classic stale smell that builds up in the freezer from months of expired food. To diffuse the odor, place your grounds in a small bowl or open container, and put it inside your fridge or freezer until they’ve completely dried out. The grounds won’t absorb the smell, but they will dilute it with a more pleasant mocha scent.
Another great use for coffee grounds is as a natural abrasive for scrubbing metal dishes; sprinkle these grounds in a pot and scrub it with a sponge to remove hardened food and grease. Keep in mind, however, that cookware isn’t the only thing coffee can exfoliate. Your grounds can also make a great all-natural facial scrub. Just add a tablespoon of coconut oil to two tablespoons of coffee grounds, and mix. Scrub the mixture gently onto your skin and rinse after a short cleaning. Because it can be absorbed through your pores, you may even get an extra boost of caffeine with your facial massage.
Food peels can be used for everything from bug repellents to drink infusions. Orange peels, for example, can help deter bugs like mosquitoes when rubbed onto your skin. They can also be dried and added to your fire pit as an aromatic starter. Any citrus peel, for that matter, makes a great liquor infuser. One of my favorites is lemon- and orange-infused vodka. Of course you don’t have to make cocktails to enjoy a natural infuser—add cucumber and lemon peels to water to make a refreshing, spa-style water.
Many different peels can also be used to fertilize your garden or naturally repel certain pests from your plants. Banana peels, for example, can be used to deter aphids or provide nutrients to your planting soil. Simply bury small pieces of peel in the ground around your plants.
Not all scraps are food waste, though. In fact, there are some items in your kitchen that can flourish again when given the chance. Green onion is easy to regrow, and makes for a fun kids gardening project. Try it in your own home by placing the stems from your green onions in a glass with a small amount of water, just enough to cover the roots, and positioning it on a sunny windowsill. You and your little ones will be amazed how quickly new green shoots pop up. I’ve had so much of it growing that I now search for recipes that specifically include green onion, just so I can use it all.
Pineapple is another fun one you can try to regrow just from the discarded top, though it takes more time and work.
Of course, a lot of food waste can still be used to cook. Scraps like chicken bones, carrot peels, and celery ends can be mixed into a vegetable or chicken stock. Bread is another food that tends to become waste, especially if you have a picky eater—like in my house, where cutting off sandwich crusts is a daily requirement. I like to use bread scraps, crusts, ends, and even the remainder of a hardened French bread loaf to make breadcrumbs or croutons. The latter is easy to make and are much healthier than the over-processed, boxed variety. Just cut the bread into cubes and toss in olive oil and seasoning, like salt and pepper or garlic powder. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about ten minutes.
Think twice before you toss those scraps. There just might be something else you can use them for. Ultimately, you’d be surprised how much you can reduce your waste with very little work.
What are some of your favorite uses for food scraps? Share your ideas in the comments!
Image source: Sher Warkentin
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.