When it comes to waste at home, the kitchen is an unfortunate hot spot.
It makes sense: the kitchen is the heart of so many homes. It’s where we make meals for ourselves and for our loved ones. It’s where we get nourishment and recharge throughout the day.
But, for every salad that we make, there are lettuce and tomato cores, carrot and radish tops and roots, avocado skins and pits, and lemon rinds as food waste, depending on the meal. For every barbeque, there are watermelon and corn cobs and meatless bones at least. All of that and more end up in the trash or compost—and add to our country’s growing food waste.
Let’s think about creative kitchen hacks to reduce the food waste that we’ve become so accustomed to in our homes. Let’s challenge ourselves to reduce our food waste in our home kitchens—and see how this seemingly small step can make a big impact on a daily basis.
Here are a few super easy, yet ingenious kitchen hacks to reduce your home’s food waste and food costs.
The money saved in a zero-waste kitchen can help people across Canada! We invite you to join us to donate the difference back to Second Harvest to help keep healthy food where it belongs: on plates, not in landfills.
10 Clever Kitchen Hacks to Reduce Your Home’s Food Waste
1. Re-use your lemon rinds to clean
Past generations could have told us that lemon (and white vinegar) works wonders as a natural cleaning product. They are naturally antibacterial and act as bleach to clean, shine, and remove stains in bathrooms and kitchens. Plus they smell delicious. Add a little coarse salt to your lemon rinds and it’ll clean and disinfect your wooden cutting board.
2. Overturn spent grapefruits in the garden
Finished eating your grapefruit? Don’t throw it out, put it cut-side-down in the garden to attract slugs and other pests away from eating your garden’s leafy greens.
3. Plants love spent coffee grounds
Acid-loving plants love spent coffee grounds as compost! Save your grounds and sprinkle them on the soil of your tomatoes, blueberries, roses, azaleas, carrots, radishes, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and more. Give them water and watch those plants flourish.
4. Crushed eggshells in your garden
Crushed eggshells are great in gardens. Finely ground eggshells act as a natural calcium powder that is similar in makeup to fertilizers. Or, leave them coarse and scatter them around your slug-loving plants as the first line of defence against them.
5. Make a stock with your kitchen scraps
Stock is an important ingredient in so many delicious recipes. It can also be made at home very easily with plain old kitchen scraps. Collect your onion skins, vegetable tops, skins, and roots, wilted greens, floppy vegetables (like carrots and celery), and bones, in a container in the freezer or fridge until you’re ready to make a delicious stock. Just add water, a few bay leaves, salt and pepper, and boil to a simmer for the day.
6. Freeze your fruits and vegetables
If you have fruits and vegetables that are about to turn in your fridge, seal them in a freezer bag for later use. Make sure to label the bag using a permanent marker so that you know what it is and how long it’s been in your freezer. Check out our best before-dates article for more information.
Frozen greens, berries, and bananas make awesome breakfast smoothies. Or, heat your frozen berries up into a quick compote to drizzle over yogurt or French toast. The latter, by the way, is a classic great use of stale bread and stretching one egg for more people.
Another kitchen hack: Once you’re done with the freezer bag, if it’s in good shape, give it a wash, and reuse it.
7. Use your wilted greens
Wilted greens like kale and spinach or herbs are perfect in omelettes, scrambled eggs, stirfries, smoothies, and other dishes that would naturally wilt them anyways. They still have so much nutritional value and flavour that it would be a shame to bin them just because they droop.
8. Store leftovers to see them
If your fridge is packed with coloured containers, it’s like playing a mystery game to figure out what’s inside of them. Sometimes, that leftover dish that you planned to eat got pushed too far back to eat in time safely.
Put your leftovers in clear glass jars or containers and organize them in a way that encourages you to use them.
9. Beef up your leftovers
Just because you only have half a sandwich left over, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a full hearty meal. Make a side salad or soup, slice a pickle, toss a few chips on your plate, or vegetables and dip to beef up your leftovers. Have some fresh fruit and a piece of chocolate for dessert. If it’s a stirfry for one that needs to feed more, fry in some fresh vegetables, leftover meat, and add fresh veggies and herbs to garnish.
Leftovers are only boring if you let them be.
10. Transform your food scraps with creativity
Consider the avocado pit.
You can clean it and grow it into a whole new plant that looks great—and it may even produce more avocados for you one day. Or, you can dry the pits and rehydrate them in an all-natural dye bath to transform your not-so-white bedding into a pretty pink colour.
So many fruits, vegetables, and other plants can be repurposed in many clever ways.
You can regrow lettuce and green onions in water to sprout more food (your family can learn how at our upcoming symposium!). One clove of garlic will re-grow into a whole bulb if given enough time and garden space. You can dye clothing naturally with onion skins, beets, turmeric, coffee, tea, you name it.
All it takes is a bit of effort to set these food scraps aside—and creativity to use them when you have the time and energy—to hack your food waste systems in your home.
We’d love to hear about your food waste hacks. Post them on social and tag @SecondHarvestCA so we can share and create a food waste revolution, one kitchen at a time!