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Food Scraps: To Use or Not To Use

posted Apr 21, 2017, 12:41 PM by Tracy Ducker, MS, RDN
According to the USDA,  Americans toss out an average of 36 lbs. of food a month.  That adds up to almost $370 per year.  Food is thrown out for a variety of reasons:  spoilage, plate waste, food scraps, among others. In today’s blog we will discuss how those pieces of leftover fruit, vegetables and meat can still used (you can also compost it but this won’t decrease your food expense).

Vegetable leaves and greens

The leaves and greens we typical cut off and toss are a powerhouse of nutrients. Cauliflower leaves can be roasted in the oven at 400° F with a little oil for crunchy healthy chips.

All vegetable scraps (onion and garlic peels, carrot and celery tops, carrot peels, etc) can be used to make a vegetable broth. Toss in tomato ends for added liquid and flavor. Carrot tops can also be pureed into a delicious pesto sauce.


Save money on croutons and bread crumbs by taking your stale bread and bake it in a single layer at 350° F for up to 10 minutes (depending on how stale the bread is). Let it cool and cut into crouton size cubes or grind them in a food processor for bread crumbs and store in a airtight container in the refrigerator. For seasoned croutons add your favorite seasoning and toss the bread with a little oil and bake at 350° F for 10 minutes or until hard.


You probably already know that poultry carcasses and beef bones make a great soup stock, but you can also use the leftover juices and oil. Just add to beans, cooked grains or sautéed greens for added flavor.


Citrus peels can be thrown in the garbage disposal to get rid of unpleasant odors.  Apple peels can be used to remove stains from aluminum pots and pans, just fill the dirty pan with water and the apple peels then simmer on the stove for 20-30 minutes. Have bananas with brown spots or bruised apples, don't toss them-cook with them. Make banana bread or apple pancakes or muffins or homemade applesauce. Grapes that have started to go soft can be washed and frozen for a delicious frozen snack. Of course, use your best judgement on whether the food is still edible. If it smells or looks really bad, it is best to toss it. 

Add cucumber peels to your bathwater to help soothe dry, itchy skin. You can use that squeezed lemon half to clean and shine your stovetop. If you like tea, add orange and apple peels to the water and boil for a few minutes then add the tea bag and steep.

Of course, when in doubt throw it out or better yet compost it (see last week’s blog on composting). Keep in mind there are parts of some foods which just can’t be eaten or shouldn’t be eaten. Rhubarb leaves and apricot, cherry, and peach pits are actually toxic so definitely toss these.

Have a wonderful Earth Day.