If you’re like me, you regularly look at scraps or expired food and hope there are uses for it.
I can hear it now, the chorus saying, “Come on, Lia! Trash is trash!” And they’d be right…sort of.
In some cases, spoiled food is just trash, but sometimes there are useful ways to save these items from a premature end! So below you’ll find 12 food items that are easy to extend the life of.
1. Expired cream
You might be wondering how you could possibly use cream that has passed its expiry date, but you totally can! Did you know that historically, butter was made from cream that had gone sour? The fat solids in the cream would stay intact and once the cream was processed properly, the sour whey would be poured off. This left behind a sweet, creamy butter that tastes anything but spoiled! Of course, these days, we pasteurize our cream and can’t naturally ferment it the same way. But you might still be able to make amazing butter from your expired cream! Don’t believe me? Try it yourself! Here’s my tutorial on how to make homemade butter from expired cream.
2. Vegetable scraps
Carrot peels, pepper cores and celery leaves are just a few of the items that are tossed directly in the compost—or worse, the trash—on a regular basis. Save them up in the freezer and make a delicious veggie broth! Some of the best scraps to keep are the papery skins or greens from onions and garlic, but you can also use the woody ends from asparagus, the blossom end from eggplants and the tough stalks from herbs, to name just a few items. Pretty much the only scraps you want to avoid are starchy ones (like potato skins). Check out my super easy and customizable recipe for homemade vegetable stock!
3. Orange or lemon peels
Depending on the state of your orange or lemon peels, you can always find something useful to do with them! If they are fresh off a fruit that has stored well, you can grate the washed peels into your favourite citrus-friendly recipe (my fave is homemade vegan mincemeat!), or you can dice up the peels and make candied citrus peel! If they are a bit shriveled and dried out, you won’t want to eat them, so instead you can place them in a pot of water on your stove for a natural, organic air freshener. Alternatively, lemon peels help get tough stains off of the inside of your microwave. Just put them in a bowl of water and microwave it for 2-3 minutes. Caked on food should wipe right off—and if it’s still a bit stuck, just heat the lemon water a bit longer and it should clean easily.
4. Stale bread
Baguettes are both the best and the worst. When they’re fresh, they’re a total delight, but they’re really only good for one day, and then they become rubbery and dry. Sad! (Sorry, I had to!) Next time you find yourself in this predicament, make homemade bread crumbs! This doesn’t just work with baguette, either. You can use any kind of bread, including whole grain! If bread crumbs aren’t used very often in your household, you can also make your own garlic croutons for your favourite salad. These are so yummy that mine hardly ever make it onto the salad before they’re devoured!
5. Overripe fruit
Some fruit is past saving (like a peach that’s gone moldy or a banana with a totally black, shriveled skin). But if you have fruit that’s just a little too ripe for your taste, it might be just perfect in a smoothie or a muffin recipe. Fruit becomes even sweeter as it ripens, so it’s great to add some extra sweetness and nutrients to food. If you have a lot of overripe fruit, freeze it for a future smoothie. If you have just a little, you can purée it and put it into your next baked good! (Try my recipe for fruit purée cake, if you’re short on ideas!)
6. Expired milk or whey
Once your milk passes the best before date, you may be hesitant to chance it, and I don’t blame you! Sour milk can taste terrible, and there’s nothing worse than ruining a nice bowl of cereal with sour milk. But if it still smells fine, don’t throw it away just because it’s past its date! Soured milk is great to substitute for buttermilk in pancakes, biscuits and even muffins! The same goes for whey–that semi-clear liquid you end up with once you’ve made cheese or yogurt. I have so much of it in my household that I have a whole list of go-to recipes to use up whey that I’ve compiled over the years! Why not create your own? (You’ll also find mine in my e-cookbook, if you want to cut some research out.) Just add a tablespoon or two of vinegar to the milk, stir, and let it stand for a few minutes. Voilá! You’re ready to use your homemade buttermilk substitute!
7. Nut pulp
If you’ve ever made homemade nut milk, you’ve had nut pulp left over. Don’t throw it out! This highly nutritious ingredient can be used in many recipes, from vegan cheese (“cheeze”) to DIY graham crackers and homemade cereal (you’ll find these recipes and more in my e-cookbook)! If you can’t use it right away, simply dehydrate nut pulp for later use.
8. Shells from shellfish
If you get shrimps with the shells still on, or you eat other shellfish regularly, you can save the shells to make a flavorful broth! Just save up enough to fill a large pot about ⅔ full and cover with water. (I keep a bag in my freezer and add to it until I’ve saved enough.) Let it simmer for about 30 minutes until the broth is starting to take on some colour and it has the aroma of seafood. Strain the shells out and discard them, and use the broth in a fish-friendly dish (like a seafood chowder!).
9. Bones from red meat or poultry
If you’ve never made you own beef or vegetable stock, why not start? It’s basically free and just as yummy as what you’d buy in the grocery! What I like most about it is that you can control the amount of salt you put into it, which makes it very easy to use the broth in a wide variety of recipes. Read my veggie broth-making guide for tips and tricks on broth-making (vegetables and meat bones are used the same way). It’ll show you how to make yours just as tasty as store-bought!
10. Avocado pits
Even if you’re not a gardener (you can grow your own avocado tree if you are!), avocado pits offer lots of nutritional value if eaten in moderation. To use them, you’ll want to roast them at 250°F/120°C for about two hours and remove the dry outer skin. Cut it up and grind it into a powder using a blender, grater or mortar and pestle. Store it in a sealed container in your fridge and add a little to your next smoothie for added fibre! Use in moderation, though, as it tastes a little bitter.
If you do any kind of gardening, you know that pests can destroy your garden in the blink of an eye. Tomato-growers also know that blossom end rot—an affliction suffered by tomato plants that don’t have enough calcium in the soil—can mess up your tomato harvest in a big way. Enter eggshells: the superhero of the garden! For deterring slugs and small rodents, sprinkle eggshells around your affected plants. The roughness of them will hurt the pests if they try to move across the ground around your plants and they won’t bother them anymore. For tomato plants—or any nightshade crop, for that matter—use your eggshells to give a calcium boost that’ll leave blossom end rot wishing it never messed with you!
12. Coffee grounds
Once your coffee is made, don’t just toss your grounds! Coffee grounds can be dried out and used for odour absorption in your fridge or even in various rooms in your house. In the same way that baking soda absorbs odours, so does coffee, so why waste a box of baking soda? After you’ve used your coffee to absorb odours in your fridge, bathroom or elsewhere, you can still use it to sprinkle around the base of your house plants for extra nutrition, or use a bit of the coffee grounds as a gentle and natural pot scrubber!
I hope you found these tips useful, and don’t forget: compost before trash! Most foods can be composted, so even if you’re not using them for the uses above, you can still keep them out of the landfill by composting at home.
What’s the cleverest hack you’ve heard for using unsavoury-looking foods? Let us know in the comments!