If you’re trying to switch to a zero-waste lifestyle, or simply cut down on your waste in general, the simplest way to deal with food scraps is composting. However, not everyone has the ability to compost—myself included. Although I absolutely hate throwing out food waste, I don’t have a backyard where I could start a compost pile, and there is no composting service in my city. I’ve tried to ask around at the farmer’s market to see if anyone is accepting compost donations, but so far, I haven’t had any luck.
Instead of tossing my food waste directly in the trash, I’ve been trying to find ways to repurpose it before disposing of it. If you can’t compost, here are a few creative methods for getting more use out of your food waste before taking out the trash.
How to Reduce & Upcycle Your Food Waste When You Can’t Compost
It’s definitely soup season, so if you’ve been buying cartons of vegetable broth every week, this DIY recipe can help you save a little on groceries and put veggie scraps to good use. There are plenty of basic recipes out there, but here’s how I do it.
Start by freezing veggie scraps from produce like potatoes, onions, peppers, and garlic. Make sure to wash all of your vegetables very well if you plan on reusing the scraps for broth—otherwise, your broth will be dirty and inedible. I usually wait until I have a Ziploc bag full of frozen scraps (don’t worry, I reuse that bag for my next batch). Then, just add the scraps to a big pot with filtered water, a little salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice, like parsley, thyme, or rosemary.
Simmer it for an hour, strain out the veggies, and pour it into jars. It will stay fresh in the fridge for three to four days, or you can freeze it for about a month.
Apple Cider Vinegar
I use an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition my hair, so I was pretty excited when I realized I could make it on my own instead of continuing to buy it. Start with a bag of organic apples, and as you snack on them (or cook with them), save the peels and cores in the freezer. Once you have some scraps saved up, it’s time to make your ACV.
Sterilize a glass jar by washing it and then filling it with boiling water to kill any bacteria. Empty the jar after about ten minutes. Fill it up about three-quarters of the way with apple scraps, and then pour water over them until they’re covered. Stir in one or two teaspoons of cane sugar (this will kick off the fermentation process), and then find a clean object that you can drop in to keep the scraps weighed down and submerged – personally, I use a shot glass, and it works perfectly! Cover the mouth of the jar with cheesecloth and secure it with a rubber band, and then store it in a dark, room temperature space. Give it a stir every couple of days and wait a few weeks until it begins to smell like vinegar, then strain out the apples.
Citrus Cleaning Solution
If you’re concerned about the ingredients in household cleaners, you want to give your food scraps a second life, and you wouldn’t mind saving a few dollars in the process, making citrus cleaning solution checks all the boxes. After snacking on oranges and adding lemons to your tea, save the peels and store them in a jar with white vinegar. Let the infusion sit for one week, and then just add it to a spray bottle with one part solution and one part filtered water.
Bread going stale? Don’t throw it out—turn it into croutons! Brush the slices of bread with a bit of vegan butter like Earth Balance. Cut it into cubes, sprinkle it with herbs or spices of your choice (garlic salt works well), and then bake around 350°F until they are golden brown.
If you drink coffee every morning, there’s no reason to buy body scrubs—you can use those grounds to make an exfoliating scrub that smells amazing! Simply save your coffee grounds, mix them with coconut oil, and add a little brown sugar if you want it to smell sweeter. If you have sensitive skin, avoid using this scrub on your face, as coconut oil may clog your pores.
The process for regrowing produce will be different depending on the plant, but you can regrow ginger, scallions, and more. Instead of throwing out produce scraps, see if it’s possible to regrow them—you can start a little window garden. The best part? You won’t have to purchase those foods again in the future. You can just pick them yourself!
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