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We live in a unique time where the so-called developed world has access to an unprecedented abundance of ready to eat food, right at our doorstep. We have endless choices: we can buy all sorts of fruit and vegetables regardless of seasons and countries. As a consequence, our shopping and eating habits have been affected.
Sadly, there are many downsides to this including the creation of waste produced by food scraps going to landfills.
Our lives are busy. Most adult-age members of the family work outside the home compared to previous generations. It is no surprise that we don’t have the time (and let’s face it, the energy) to prepare homemade food so we constantly buy ready-to-go meals from supermarkets and restaurants (including fast-food chains).
Even when we can cook, the way of preparing it and consume it that was common until the last century is now somewhat passé: thanks to refrigeration we have the ability to store food, we have huge retailers where we can do our one-stop-shopping and buy endless amounts of food and quicker and cheaper transportation means we can buy food from other parts of the world en masse.
We (yes, myself included) end up buying throwing away food like never before in history, as well as discarding perfectly edible parts of fruit and vegetable just because we don’t know how to use them.
I had a chat with my friend Alba* about this and was so impressive by the amount of tips she had that I decided to post here! I hope you enjoy!
Why should we reconsider our eating habits?
The food, or part of it that we bin, don’t just disappear into thin air.
Discarded food is sent to landfills, where it rots and produces methane gas, which is the second most common greenhouse gas and much more powerful gas than carbon (CO2).
Tossing food is not only detrimental to the environment but to our wallets as well. While composting can minimize this impact, not everyone has taken to it!
Adopting a no-waste lifestyle is a great way to save more money as well as being kinder to mother earth.
What is the best way of going zero waste?
A good way to start reducing food waste is to limit our grocery shopping to what we need.
Spending a few minutes to plan a weekly menu is key: by scheduling what you are going to eat for the whole week, you can shop more responsibly and it will help you to prevent food from expiring in the fridge.
Another great trick is to check the fridge and cupboards before going to the grocery store to avoid buying something you already have and make an “Eat me first” box in the fridge for anything close to the expiry date to cook it before it goes bad.
Stick to your list when you are going out shopping
Invest in some useful kitchen tools such as a slow cooker, so when you are not in the mood for cooking or you don’t have the time you can throw everything in your crockpot and it will make a healthy meal for you.
Batch cook on your days off
Having ready homemade meals in your freezer that you can easily reheat when you need to is very convenient.
On top of that, batch cooking is a lifesaver if you have food about to expire but that you can’t immediately eat.
Practical hacks to use food scraps
I am going to share with you some clever ways to reuse food scraps that you might not have heard of.
For years I thought that fruit skin and vegetable leaves and peels are not good to eat and therefore I was guilty of throwing them away.
On the contrary, almost any vegetable leaf is edible and using it in the kitchen will stimulate your creativity and allow you to experiment with new yummy recipes.
Since I embraced minimalism and intentional living, I also started to buy organic seasonal food, not only to have less impact on the planet but also to save money and to get all the health benefits of eating clean.
Organic and seasonal fruit and vegetables are a better choice also because you can use peels and leaves without worrying about pesticides and nasty chemicals and they don’t come in plastic packaging.
How to repurpose citrus peels
Make aromatherapy diffuser concussion on the stove: it will naturally improve the quality air in your home while avoiding chemical fragrances
Just take some citrus peels, toss them in a saucepan, add a cup of water, a cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, half teaspoon of fennel seeds and a bay leaf. Bring to boil and then let it simmer for 5 minutes to allow the aroma from the spices to release.
You can also utilize citrus peels to make multipurpose cleaning detergent
Collect a bunch of citrus peels in a glass container filled with vinegar and let them soak for 14 days. The essential oils from the peels will transfer into the vinegar.
Remove the peels and pour the liquid in a spray bottle and use it to clean naturally.
Make homemade candles:
2 orange or lemon fruits cut in a half
2 large white paraffin votive candles
After you have squeezed the juice from the citrus, scoop out the pulp left with a spoon.
Remove the wick from the paraffin candles and place into the centre of citrus bowls.
Place the candle wax in a bowl and microwave it until melted.
Pour the melted wax into the citrus bowls with wick positioned vertically in the centre.
Let cool and harden completely.
Make yummy candies
You can make candied orange/lemon peels easily by blanching them for 15 minutes in hot water. Repeat the process 3 times to diminish their bitter flavour.
Add the 1 cup of water and the sugar to a pot and bring it to a boil, until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the peels and simmer for 50 to an hour, stirring occasionally.
Drain them one by one with the help of a fork and put them in a bag (or a container that has a lid) with sugar in it and shake them.
Let them dry completely for a couple of days and enjoy!
Creative ways of recycling fruit peels and veggie scraps
Use vegetables leave to make pasta sauces and pesto
Pesto is a very versatile sauce and it can be made with all sorts of vegetable leaves adding a handful of your favourite nuts, a couple of tbsp of oil and a bit of grated cheese.
If you have excess spinach, rocket, carrot leaves, top of beets or any kind of greens, you can simply blanch them for 8-10 minutes and then blend them with simple ingredients that you have in your pantry to make a delicious spread or pasta sauce.
Cauliflower leaves creamy pasta sauce:
Cauliflower leaves, blanched
Extra virgin olive oil
Add all the ingredients together and blend them with a food processor until you obtain a thick paste. You can make it looser adding a splash of plant-based milk or hot pasta water.
Use fruits and vegetable scraps to make homemade fertilizer for your plants
If you don’t have a compost pile, eggshells, banana peels, carrot peels, cucumber peels, coffee grounds or tea leaves, as well as peelings and rinds, can be blended with water and used to fertilise your garden. Pour them around your plants and watch them thrive!
Freeze your vegetable scraps to make homemade vegetable broth
Wash well your peels, leaves and rids, then add them to a boiling pot of water and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
Let it cool and pour it in a glass bottle that you can store in the fridge for 2-3 days. This is a great alternative to stock!
-Freeze chopped fresh herbs with olive oil in ice cube trays to prevent them from wilting and to save time when cooking.
-Use wilting vegetables to make pickles: you can pickle anything!
500g of vegetables
2 sprigs fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or rosemary
2 teaspoons whole spices, such as black peppercorns, or mustard seeds
1 teaspoon dried herbs or ground spices
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup of your favourite type of vinegar,
1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Some squeaky clean glass jars
First, put the herbs and the garlic in the jar, then add the vegetables in as tightly as you can.
Prepare the brine by adding all the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour the brine over the vegetables, filling each jar to within 1.5 cm of the top. Let them cool down and seal the jars. Wait a couple of days before opening them. You can store them in the fridge for up to 2 months.
Fish broth or “la bisque”
Save seafood shells and skin to make a delicious fish broth that French people call “la bisque” to use in several dishes
All you need to do is toss the heads and the shells of seafood in a saucepan, add 2 cups of water, some parsley leaves, a clove of garlic, and a bay leaf for 20 minutes so that the prawn’s shells will become orange and flagrant. Then blend them in your food processor and filter it with the help of a sieve.
You can use this yummy base for all sorts of recipes with fish and as a pasta or rice sauce.
Revive stale bread
Stale bread can be reused easily to make bread crumbs, Panzanella, baked french toast or croutons.
How to make appetising croutons: cut your bread into cubes, spread on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Then, season with salt and pepper and add any herbs. Bake them for about ten minutes and then enjoy on top of a soup or as finger food starter with a yummy spread.
Reuse roasted or stir fry vegetables leftovers
You can either use them to make an excellent frittata/omelette or blend them with your hummus to add extra flavor and taste to your favorite sauce.
You will be amazed to hear about things you didn’t know you could bake
-have you heard of banana peel bacon? It is a thing! A vegan ‘bacon’ made from roasted banana peel!
-potato peels (they make delicious crisps to enjoy as a snack)
Just lay them on a baking tray, season with your favourite spices and let them cook for 20 minutes
How to use too ripe fruit
Blend soft, ripe fruit with your favourite milk to make a healthy smoothie or sugar-free popsicles for your kids.
Alternatively, you can make fruit infused water by adding mint and citrus, which is also a good method to drink more and cut down on store-bought sugary drinks and juices that are packed with sugars.
Another option is to make fruit-infused liquor or sangria if you have any hard alcohol at home simply adding some herbs and spices. 2 cups of fruit + 2 cups of vodka and let infuse for 3-5 days.
-Reuse your coffee grounds to make scrub: add a tbsp of coconut oil, a teaspoon of cocoa powder and use it to under the shower to achieve super soft and glowing skin. The scent is so good that you’ll smell like dessert after!
-Use ginger peels to make tea simply letting them boil in water for 15 minutes. You can add a slice of lemon and mint leaves for extra taste.
We can all do our part recycling food scraps:
“Cutting food waste is a delicious way of saving money, helping to feed the world and protect the planet.” – Tristram Stuart
*Alba is the content writer of Femicate, a lifestyle blog about intentional living where she shares frugal and minimalist lifestyle advice, slow fashion styling hacks, sustainable & zero waste tips and tricks that made my life easier. Last, but not least, yummy, healthy recipes that are easy to prepare and ready under 30 minutes. You can also check her IG @femicate