3 Food ‘scraps’ you don’t have to toss away | #frugal #foodie

Waste Not, Want Not: You Can Eat Yummy Food Scraps Without Turning Freegan

We waste about 1/3 of all food produced on the planet. Globally, that’s 1.3 billion tons of food waste each year. This staggering statistic supplied by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations isn’t just important because it means that some people don’t get enough food to eat. Food waste also represents a loss of land, water, energy, and other resources. Food going to waste means that greenhouse gases are being released into the environment without producing a visible benefit. And that’s just the gases associated with food production!

When food gets thrown out, we obviously have to do something with that waste. Even more land and resources are taken up unnecessarily in the waste collection process, but it doesn’t end there. Most of the food waste in America – roughly 25% to 40% of food grown and produced in the US – will end up in landfills where it will contribute to the production of methane gas. And while this is happening, 9% of all senior citizens and 19% of households that include children are experiencing food insecurity.

That’s just garbage!


Food waste: 1/3 of all food on the planet is never eaten | #frugal #waste
1/3 of all food produced on the planet goes to waste
(Image: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay/CC0 1.0)

What You Can Do About Food Waste

If you’ve been buying only what you can use, planning meals around the food that’s already in your fridge, and using up leftovers, you are on the right track. But you could do more to help: you could eat food scraps! No, I’m not talking about turning “freegan” and taking up dumpster diving. And you won’t have to beg for write-offs at the back door of your local restaurant or grocery store.

But there are probably parts of food ingredients that are going to waste because you didn’t realize you could eat them. You can reuse some kitchen scraps to make broth for cooking, and many of your table scraps and other food wastes can go into your compost pile too. But there are also parts of fresh fruits and vegetables that most of us treat as scrap, that are actually quite edible!


3 Food ‘scraps’ you don’t have to toss away | #frugal #foodie
Does your family eat the kitchen scraps?
(Image from a public domain photo by PDPics/Pixabay)


Cooking with Kitchen Scraps

In our house, we keep a zippered bag in the freezer at all times and we use it to collect up all of the food waste that would otherwise end up in the garbage or compost heap. Vegetable skins and peels, the end bits that aren’t too appetizing, bones leftover after we eat a roast or enjoy fried chicken, it all goes into our soup bag. Sometimes we’ll have several of these bags waiting in the freezer – especially when I’m making freezer meals and I’ve been chopping a week’s worth of vegetables in one afternoon! A couple of times a month we make broth from this food waste. It’s a choice we make for the environment and for our food budget: making “free” both at just the cost of our electricity is a much more frugal food option than buying commercially produced broth at the grocery store!

But there are a lot of foods you might think belong in that soup bag, that we can eat instead. The following is a list of three foods you’re probably enjoying now – or will be in the coming weeks. These are foods that most people separate into a pile of edible bits – the root of the carrot, the flesh of the watermelon, the broccoli crowns – and a pile of skins and rinds, green tops, and woody stems that too often get thrown away.

Did you know you can eat every one of these “food scraps”? Let me tell you more about them.


Kitchen Scraps You Can Eat

1) Carrot Tops

A lot of people think carrot tops are poisonous, but this simply isn’t true. Look around online and you can find literally dozens of recipes for carrot top pesto or chimichurri, carrot greens in tabouleh salad, or carrot top soup. Use carrot tops the same way you would basil, parsley or cilantro, or add them to your soups and juices the way you would beet greens.

When you buy whole carrots that still have their tops, it’s like getting a second vegetable free! But you want to cut the greens off before you store your carrots in the fridge or cold room. The carrot tops will tend to pull moisture back up from the root if you store the whole carrot intact; that will dry out the root end and make it spoil more quickly. Store the carrot tops as you would leafy greens or herbs. If I know I’m going to keep them for more than a day or two, I like to treat carrot tops the same way I would my lettuce and other leafy green vegetables. I make sure they are unwashed, and I pat away any moisture with a clean towel. Then I store them in a rigid container or zippered freezer bag, along with a bit of paper towel or a clean dish towel. This wicks away any moisture and increases the shelf life of my carrot tops.

Try carrot tops as a parsley substitute in this tabouleh recipe

2) Watermelon Rind

Were you ever told not to eat the white or green parts of the watermelon because they would make you sick? Most people avoid this part of the melon because they believe it’s not edible. But again, if you search the internet you can find dozens of recipes for pickled watermelon rind, jams and jellies made from the rind, and even watermelon rind curry.

The rind of the watermelon tastes a bit like the skin of a cucumber, which is not surprising because the two fruits (yes, cucumber is technically a fruit!) are related. The outer green part can be a lot tougher than cucumber skin, but it’s still very edible. This probably why one of the most common ways to use watermelon rind is to pickle it.

Some recipes call for soaking the rind to soften it a bit, and if you find it too tough that might be something you’ll want to do. But you can also make it easier to chew by cutting it into matchsticks. And if you’re going to use it raw, as in a carrot and raisin salad, you may want to prepare the dish ahead of time and let it marinade for a few hours or even overnight before you serve it.

Remember that the rind of the watermelon is what protects the juicy flesh. Unlike carrots, you want to leave your watermelon whole and uncut until you need it. Try to plan ways to use the flesh before you’ll need the rind; this way you won’t need to worry about the flesh spoiling.

Alton Brown’s watermelon rind pickles have just a tiny bite of spice

3) Broccoli Stems

Broccoli crowns are really nice for steaming or throwing into a stir fry, but don’t be tempted to discard the stems! If your broccoli stems are woody, you can remove the skin with a vegetable peeler. Toss it in your soup bag, and keep the rest of the stem for cooking. It used to be that most people just used the stems for cream of broccoli soup, which is admittedly a tasty dish! But you can also chop the stems up for use in a garden vegetable soup or in a tasty stir fry.

One of the most popular ways to use broccoli stems right now is to make broccoli slaw. I’ve bought commercially prepared broccoli slaw and found it dry – not terribly appetizing. But homemade? It’s absolutely delicious! I like to use peeled broccoli stems that I cut into matchsticks. I add shredded carrot and sweet golden raisins to the mix,and let the salad marinate in a creamy dressing overnight before I eat it. If you like carrot salad or coleslaw, you’re going to love broccoli slaw!

Did you know that when you eat broccoli raw or lightly steamed you are getting the benefit of a potent cancer-fighting compound known as sulforaphane?

Try this healthy update of a crunchy broccoli slaw recipe from The Kitchn


3 Yummy Foods from Scrap | #waste #frugal
Did you know you can safely eat all of the watermelon rind?
If you found this article helpful, please pin and share on your social networks – remember sharing is caring!
(Image from a public domain photo by StockSnap/Pixabay)


Store your leafy greens the right way and cut down on food waste | #foodstorage #frugalfood
Learn to store your leafy greens the right way and cut down on food waste
(Collage of images from Pixabay users sergio741030, FraukeFeindm, Unsplash, JoshM, and skeeze)

What food scraps does your family eat? What other measures do you take to reduce food waste in your home? Let me know in the comments!


Original content ©2016 Kyla Matton Osborne

This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!

24 thoughts on “Waste Not, Want Not: You Can Eat Yummy Food Scraps Without Turning Freegan”

  1. This is fantastic read! I think that people don’t properly understand how they repurpose food scraps and/or discarded food into something of great use. Your tips are super practical and in particular the Broccoli stem trick.

    I have been running a campaign focused on dumpster diving in the Sydney area, in particular seeing how someone can repurpose food scraps/discarded goods to be of major benefit. I will take your tips on board in regards to this, and if your interested further in my campaign, feel free to read further here:

    Word Press : https://awastefuloppblog.wordpress.com/

    I’m certain to read more of your blog posts for more hints. Cheers.

  2. I’m always a bit shocked when I watch the amount of food that others toss into the trash without a thought. So much of what people throw away can be tossed into the morning’s scrambled eggs or used to make a thicker soup base. While hubby can be picky when it comes to how something tastes, he’s never squawked at how I use up leftovers. I’m really intrigued by the carrot-top idea. Never thought of using them, but I love dipping broccoli stems into homemade dip or Ranch dressing.

    1. There are a lot of greens (carrot, beet, radish, etc.) that are quite edible, but many people have only ever heard of eating beet greens. Similarly, there are pea shoots, broccoli sprouts, and garlic scapes that few of us think to eat but that are quite edible and sometimes even in demand at gourmet restaurants. Even the seed pods from a nasturtium flower (in addition to its beautiful, jewel-tones blossoms and peppery leaves) can be eaten. If you have a vegetable garden or even a little room on your balcony or kitchen counter, there are lots of diverse foods you can grow that you will never see in the grocery store.

  3. It surprises me to learn how much of the plants grown are edible. We have lost too much of this knowledge by not growing our food. If it doesn’t ship well, we don’t see it in the markets.

    1. You are so right, Irene! And it’s not only a matter of supermarkets only selling certain parts of a plant (e.g. beets or carrots without their tops) or of not seeing foods (like the Montreal market melon) that don’t ship well. Big businesses also push for uniformity. So we don’t see the red, yellow, white or purple carrots because we’ve come to expect orange carrots, and that’s what big business demands. We don’t even realize that there are orange carrots that come in several sizes and shapes, because big business prefers the Imperator carrots to the Nantes or Chantenay varieties, or to the dwarf carrots like the globe-shaped Paris Market carrots.

      We are starting to see a bit of a comeback of biodiversity as consumers demand it, but it comes at a price. Some of the newer vegetables are patented to maximize profits, while other companies bypass the long work of creating a hybrid and go straight to genetic engineering. And all the while, monocropping puts us all at risk for a famine on the scale of the Irish Potato Famine – or larger.

    1. I was surprised when I learned about lots of these edible “scraps.” I had always been told you’d get sick from eating carrot tops and watermelon rind, so imagine my surprise when I discovered both were quite safe to eat!

  4. This is so helpful. I do my best to save scraps that I can freeze and use in soups and broths.

    1. I love hearing that others are saving their scraps to make soup broth, too! When I first started doing it, there was just me and my neighbour doing it. Everyone else thought we were weird!

    1. It’s great to hear that so many people are using broccoli stems! I always did, but then I started seeing just the grown sold in stores and I heard that a lot of folks were just chopping them off and throwing them away. Such a needless waste!

    1. We really do seem to have an aversion to eating the skins and peels of certain foods, don’t we? Whether it’s a carrot or potato, broccoli, or even watermelon rind, most of these outer parts are not only edible but also very healthy for us. They just need a good scrub before we prepare the food and in many cases, we could eat the food as is! Thanks so much for stopping by, Anya 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s much appreciated. I hope more folks will learn about the food they have been wasting without realizing it. Every little bit we can contribute towards food security and sustainability is important.

  5. Great minds think alike. Once a month a make my own vegetable, beef or chicken stock. We save old bread and tons of food that can be repurposed and eaten.

    1. I’m glad to hear it! So many people just throw food scraps into the garbage. It’s just the way they learned from their parents, but it creates more waste and more cost – neither of which we can afford anymore.

  6. Wow, this was very interesting Kyla! I am quite frugal when it comes to cooking but many of these things I didn’t even think about. I do save the stock from baked chicken and use that in soups and stews or in a recipe that calls for water as in rice, I will add the chicken stock. Is this sorta food scraps? LOL

    1. Yes indeed, Martha, that sure does count! I save any meat and poultry drippings that don’t get turned into gravy. But I also save the water I use to boil or steam vegetables. When we cook ham, the cooking liquid gets turned into a broth for a lovely pea soup. If I have liquid saved from cooking carrots, I’ll add that in too. You could use the same liquid to make baked beans or a lentil soup.

  7. I am pretty watchful about eating what will go bad first and saving and freezing what I can but this article certainly helps one go the extra mile. Great info!

    1. Just eating what will go bad first is so huge! This spring I started using a basket for foods that need to be eaten right away. I find it helps me plan meals a little better. And it also encourages the kids to eat foods before they expire or start to rot.

  8. Excellent article! I’ve kept a freezer bowl of veggie discards all my cooking life to make soup stock, and use broccoli stems in soups and stir fry. All the old ladies of my youth made watermelon pickles, but I never learned to enjoy them so haven’t tried them myself. Think I’ll check out Alton’s recipe and give it a try this summer. Thanks for sharing that one. As for carrot tops, I only learned a few years ago they’re not poisonous. They do indeed make for good soups and can be tasty in salads as well. Sharing this on my social media today. Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much, Kathryn! I’m glad we can all work together to spread the word about more frugal and environmentally friendly habits.

      We still haven’t tried the watermelon rind pickles yet. I had saved a bunch of rinds last year but somebody ended up taking them out of the fridge when they were looking for something else, and we ended up discovering the bag only after it had been left sitting out for several days. I wasn’t sure it was still safe to use them, so they ended up in the compost. This year I precut and froze about half of the rind. I still have the other half to process later today – and more cherries to pit too!

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