Zero Waste Lifestyle Tips: 7 Clever Ways to Use Food Scraps

Kroger RD Amelia Noel Contributor to

by | Updated: December 10th, 2019 | Read time: 4 minutes

It’s an alarming stat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 30-40 percent of the food produced to be eaten is being thrown away. A recent study of three major American cities found that an average of 3.5 pounds of food per person was wasted at home every week and more than two-thirds of that food could have been eaten. 

How does this happen? Sometimes too much food is purchased at one time or goes bad before it gets used, other times it’s a matter of not properly using the food scraps that are left over.

Artistic Display of Fruits and Vegetables on White Surface to Represent Concept of Using Food Scraps in Zero Waste Lifestyle | Vitacost Blog

Reducing wasted food has social, environmental and economic benefits. The ultimate goal – for our planet and for our budgets – is to decrease the amount of food waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators and better use the food scraps we inevitably produce.

With a few simple changes you can reduce your individual waste and marvel at your ability to cleverly use the scraps you do have.

How to reduce food waste

Plan your meals

Whether you prefer to do this once a week or more often, only buy groceries that you know you are going to use.

Shop more often

By visiting the store two or three times per week, fresh produce is going to stay fresh and you can pick up only what you need for your meals.

Wait to wash

A lot of people like to prep their meals for the entire week, but this isn’t the best thing to do when it comes to fresh produce. As soon as it’s exposed to water it begins to degrade. Wait to wash fruits and vegetables until shortly before you eat them.

Buy ugly

The not-so-pretty produce or the foods that are near expiration are great to use the day of, or to take home, cut up and freeze. By doing this, you can rescue food that might have been dumped in a landfill. Also, ugly food usually comes at a discounted price!

While aiming to not leave any food scraps at all is a great goal, it isn’t always feasible. Use the following tips for saving your scraps from the landfill and maximizing your food purchases.

Using Your Food Scraps 

Make stock or broth

Bones, meat, ends of carrots, onions and potatoes, and pasta water can be combined to make hearty and flavorful broth or stock.

Stretch your bananas

When bananas are at the end of their life and are looking a little brown, peel them and freeze them, then use them later for smoothies or banana bread.

Green things up

Whenever cooking with greens, most recipes call for removing the stems. Rather than throwing them away, use them in stocks and broths, or try making pesto or hummus. You could also sauté them into a stir fry.

Make applesauce  

Apples that are brown, bruised or squishy can be repurposed to make applesauce. Make applesauce in the crockpot using six peeled, cored and diced apples, a half cup of water and one tablespoon of lemon juice. Cook on high for 4 hours. 

Break bread

Leftover bread that has gone stale can be repurposed into bread crumbs or croutons. If baking bread, pasta water or potato water can be used to add some extra starch to the recipe.

Put it on ice

Leftover smoothies, extra pasta sauce, tomato paste, stock or wine can be poured into food-grade containers or ice cube trays for use later. Cut up fruit and herbs can be frozen into ice cubes and used to enhance water, tea or other beverages.

Supplement the soil

Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. To start composting your yard trimmings, produce scraps and coffee grounds, you’ll need a dedicated area or bin and a little bit of time, but it’s not as hard (or as gross) as it seems! You just need to follow the few basic rules of composting at home. There likely are places near you that take donated food scraps for composting – think community gardens or local farms. Or find neighbors who want scraps for composting at

Reducing food waste doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By taking small, individual steps every day we can have a positive impact on our environment, help decrease hunger in our cities and even put more money in our wallets. Those are incentives everyone can get behind!

Editor’s note: For more tips and tricks for reducing food waste (and creative ways to use fruit and veg that are “on the edge”), check out our Zero Hunger, Zero Waste initiative.