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Zero Waste Cooking: How to Use Up Your Leftovers

Zero Waste Cooking: How to Use Up Your Leftovers

Words Rebecca Ulanoff

Tips to reduce food waste and recipe ideas for using up your leftovers.

Sometimes your eyes are bigger than your stomach, and your once-beautiful fresh produce starts to rot. Sure you can compost it instead of throwing it out, but the end result is still wasteful. It’s bad for your budget, worse for the environment, and could have been used by someone in need.

So try embarking on a new challenge: zero waste cooking. It’s all about learning how to make the most out of every herb, green and squash you buy, so you won’t have to toss them later.

We already covered how to store leftovers, fruits and vegetables, and pantry staples properly; so we’ve scoured the internet (and our favorite cookbooks) for recipe ideas and tips for how to use up the leftover bits of your vegetable and herbs. We also met with our in-house expert, Lua, the Product Manager behind our GreenSaver Produce Keepers and resident scrap queen for her best advice.

Tips to Reduce Food Waste

Planning Makes Perfect: Meal planning will save your family from take out when you’re feeling crunched for time.

Keep a list: While you’re still shopping for the season, take stock of what’s already in the house before heading out, so as not to get seduced by new-to-you-goods when you already have something perfectly fine at home.

This can include cutting up carrots for your kids, prepping other vegetables to add to weekday salads, and putting everything else in a GreenSaver or on  your kitchen counter.

Maximize your freezer: Store herbs and leftover wine in Glass Baby Blocks or ice cube trays. Pop one out at a later date to give new life to a sauce or saute.

Lua also recommends cutting up ripe fruit, laying it out on metal sheet pans and freezing before storing in stackable containers instead of just throwing the fruit into a freezer bag (guilty!) to pry apart later.

Save the Date:  Lua uses POP labels to add dates to items she preps in advance, like big batches of beans or grains. That way, she knows what to use when.

Depending on where you live, you might compost in your backyard or have curbside pickup. If you live in an apartment with no backyard or pickup, you may be able to compost at your local greenmarket.

Scrap Recipe Inspiration

Carrot Top Chim-1

Unconventional Pesto: Save carrot tops, cilantro and hardy green stems to use for alternative pestos. The recipe is the same as basil pesto: green + garlic + oil + nut + cheese = yum.

reduce food waste: pickles

Quick Pickles: Got a spare container and an hour to kill? You too can make quick pickles . The hands on cooking time is under 5 minutes, and the results last up to 2 weeks. Better yet? You can reuse the brine for new veggies or to marinate chicken before roasting. 

Veggie or Bone Broth: We’ve extolled the virtues of a pressure cooker before, and quick bone broth is a perfect example of its utility. You barely need a recipe for this: take veggie scraps including carrot peels, onion ends, elderly garlic and add it to about four cups of water and chicken bones (if you like). Michelle Tam from Nom Nom Paleo adds about three tablespoons of fish sauce to her broth so now I do too.

All-Purpose Green Sauce: This genius (and delicious) Green Sauce recipe helps you use up any wilted greens or herbs languishing in your crisper. Plus, get more great ideas for using up greens.

What’s your most creative way of using up leftovers? Plus, check out these easy recipes for using up leftover coffee.

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By Rebecca Ulanoff

Rebecca Ulanoff is part of OXO’s Brand Communications Team. She enjoys talking about her next meal while eating her current one. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and four-year-old daughter.

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