There are many reasons we’ve been trying to cut down on kitchen waste — to stop tossing so much out and stretch our budgets, to name a few — but thankfully there are plenty of recipes that use up all those odds and ends in our kitchens. From the Parmesan rind and potato peels that normally wouldn’t end up on your table to last night’s bread and berries past their prime, we have 22 budget-friendly recipes that will put all those scraps to good use.
The beauty of flavored salts is that you can make a little or a lot at one time. All you need are some leftover food scraps — citrus peels, herbs, spices, etc. — and salt. And of course, flavored salts make a great homemade gift for friends as well. Talk about wallet-friendly gifting.
When you are nearing the end of the tortilla pack, and you don’t have enough to make burritos or quesadillas for the whole family, opt for migas instead. It’s a great way to bulk up scrambled eggs and stretch everything just a little bit further. We like to serve this for dinner the night before going to the grocery store.
We couldn’t not include stock on this list about using up kitchen scraps. Like the compost bucket, the stock bag is a staple in our freezers. We keep the odds and ends that still have a little life left for making a flavorful broth. This is our primer for how to make every kind of stock or broth imaginable.
Don’t you dare toss those potato peels! If you do, you’re missing out on one of our all-time favorite snacks: roasted potato peels. Think of them like the best part of potato skins. Once roasted, you can go classic with cheese and sour cream, or you can add your favorite spice blend or dip them in your favorite condiment.
On those rare occasions when we aren’t able to eat up all of our berries before they start to get a bit mushy, we turn to this recipe for quick jam. There’s no canning required — instead the jam keeps in the fridge for a short amount of time or in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it up.
6. Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables
Rotisserie chicken is one of our favorite time-saving tricks, but we usually end up with lots of leftovers. That’s why this noodle stir-fry is a staple. Add leftover chicken of any kind, along with any veggies you happen to have in the fridge, and you have dinner in record time.
Zucchini is a CSA favorite. We always end up with an abundance of the summer squash, and that means we make tons of zucchini bread. It’s a great way to use up those odd pieces that are leftover from other recipes or salads. Plus, zucchini bread is the perfect thing to keep in the freezer for later.
No, this isn’t tatziki, but it does look a lot like it. Instead it’s our favorite summer spread that’s made for sandwiches or veggie dipping. While you might be inclined to make quick pickles with leftover cucumber slices, give this recipe a try next time, and we guarantee you’ll keep a batch in your fridge all summer long.
You don’t have to have the leafy parts of your herbs to make this recipe; it’s a great way to use up stems from parsley or basil. And you can save slices of lemon peel from another recipe to add to this appetizer as well.
While there’s no shortage of cleaning uses for lemons, we love the edible uses as well. Next time you have a recipe that just calls for the juice of the lemon, take a few minutes to peel the fruits first. That way you can make these candied lemon peels, which are great as drink or dessert garnishes, or edible gifts.
Another good use for berries or fruits that are slightly past their prime is to turn them into a shrub, or drinking vinegar. The combination of fruit and vinegar mellows the sweetness of the fruit and the sharpness of the vinegar into a perfectly refreshing drink. We like adding in a few herbs or spices, then topping the final shrub with seltzer and maybe a splash or two of gin.
No, you don’t need a juicer to make this summer refresher. All you need is a blender or food processor and a few cucumbers. The benefit to making cucumber juice this way is that you can then use the pulp, mixed with a little simple syrup, to make a granita.
Don’t get rid of those tough outer leaves that you normally peel from your Brussels sprouts. Instead, treat them like kale and make roasted Brussels sprout chips. We promise these crunchy “chips” won’t last long if you set them out before dinner.
This delicious pasta bake has the benefit of clearing not just the fridge, but also the pantry. Think of it more as a guide than a recipe, as you can swap in whatever you have on hand. Just make sure there’s plenty of cheese.
If ever there was a reason not to throw out those Parmesan rinds, this is it. Whether or not you use homemade tortellini, this dish is supremely dinner-party worthy. And while it feels light, it’s really the cheesiest.
Have you jumped on the bone broth bandwagon? If not, we recommend getting on board — especially if you’re making your own. Having extra bone broth in the freezer is like having a little bit of magic at your fingertips, and it only takes the defrost button on your microwave to activate it.
Rainbow chard stems are some of the prettiest produce in our kitchen, so it’s a shame that they don’t always end up in our dishes. You can prevent them from ending up in the compost bin by making them into quick pickles instead. We especially like adding Sriracha to the brine for a spicy-sweet pickle that works perfectly with grilled foods or an antipasto plate.
Just like you shouldn’t be tossing those potato peels, you should be hanging on to your apple peels as well. Roast them in the oven (making sure not to let them burn, which can happen quickly), and then toss them with cinnamon sugar for a delightful snack or ice cream topping.
We hope you know better than to let your bacon fat go to waste, but if you’re looking for a new way to use it up, consider using it the next time you make stovetop popcorn. We bet you’ll never go back to using canola or coconut oil again.
Probably one of the most classic uses for lemon peels is making limoncello. All you need are the peels of a few lemons, a bottle of vodka, some sugar, and some time. Just be sure you remove as much of the white pith as you can from the lemon peels to prevent your liqueur from tasting too bitter.
When you find a deal on berries that’s just too good to pass up, this dressing recipe will come in handy. Make a big batch of it and keep it in the fridge for summer salads, sandwiches, and more.
Similar to the pasta bake, this savory bread pudding is like a choose-your-own-adventure dinner. The only required ingredients are some leftover bread, cheese, and stock. After that, all the fillings and mix-ins are up to you.
(Image credits: Faith Durand; Emily Han; Melissa Ryan; Emma Christensen; Megan Gordon; Kimberley Hasselbrink; Elizabeth Passarella; Nealey Dozier; Anjali Prasertong; Christine Gallary; Sarah Rae Smith; Kelli Foster)