I used to joke with myself that I was going to “food hell” because of all the wasted food I produced every week. From stale bread to chicken bones, I needed to know how to make use of my kitchen scraps! If you do, too, here are 5 ways you can avoid food waste – and food hell!
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It’s not that I was wasteful by habit when I was young – in fact, I’ve always hated waste! However, as a young homemaker and homesteader I needed to learn a few tricks and tips to use up all my leftovers and to avoid having them in the first place. Also, I really needed to stay on top of my fresh veggies and make sure I was using them up every week. And what was I supposed to do with all those chicken bones and veggie tops?!
The following are a few things I learned in order to avoid food waste, especially in my own kitchen. (I can’t do much about how restaurants and supermarkets deal with food waste, but I can surely do something about it in my home!)
5 Ways to Avoid Food Waste at Home
Let’s start with bread – super easy and you can try this today!
#1 Bread Scraps
Instead of throwing out stale bread or bread scraps (like the heel), save them to make bread pudding, bread crumbs and croutons. Keep a bag of scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
To Make Croutons:
- Dice stale bread into bite size pieces – careful not to make them too big!
- Toss in a bowl with melted butter until coated.
- Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake in an oven set at 375F/191C for about 10 minutes – check for browning.
- Remove and cool.
To make bread crumbs:
- Place a handful of bread crumbs in a blender and pulse to reduce to crumbles. You will most likely have different sized crumbles.
- Sift out the smallest and pulse the largest to crumble further.
- Do NOT blend until dust-like unless that’s what you want.
For a delicious bread pudding recipe, see the resources list below. If you’d like a recipe where you can use the heels and last end pieces, try this delicious mushroom toast from Montana Happy. You can serve this as a small appetizer or a whole meal, depending on the size of the leftover bread.
#2 Leftover Roast Chicken
When you roast a chicken, you often have leftover bits, including bones. Here are some ideas on how to use those up:
- Save the extra meat for chicken tacos.
- Use the bones to make broth – you can use the bones an extra one, or even two times. Broth can be used in soups as well as casseroles and as a substitute for water when boiling rice or beans.
- Freeze, can or freeze dry any leftover chicken meat or broth that you can’t consume right away.
- Any meaty bits or scraps of skin can be fed to your cat or dog.
To learn to make broth and can chicken, be sure to visit the resource links below.
#3 The Poultry Solution
Let’s face it, despite our best efforts, we will end up with spoiled food every now and then. To deal with that problem, I suggest you raise a few chickens, if you it’s legal where you live.
Chickens make quick work of any leftovers or produce that just don’t get used in time. Chickens will, literally, eat anything. Chickens will even eat chicken. Bleh.
(I never feed our poultry with scraps of poultry dishes because it seems supremely inhumane to turn an animal into a cannibal without its knowledge. A chicken sees food and it eats it. Feeding it chicken or turkey isn’t fair or just, in my opinion.)
Very little of your food need EVER go in the trash because the chickens will take care of it. As an added bonus, you get eggs if you raise hens! (You do NOT need a rooster for a hen to lay eggs.) If you don’t have a lot of space, consider raising half-sized chickens called bantams – check our resource links at the bottom of the post for an article on bantams.
—>>>To get started with chickens, please read our article Backyard Chickens for Beginners. <<<—
#4 If You Can’t Have Chickens, Do This
Get a compost bin as soon as possible, especially if you can’t have chickens where you live. A compost bin will absorb all your rotting veggies and fruits, coffee grounds, tea bags, shredded junk mail, ripped up paper plates, paper shopping bags and any other organic material that can break down with water and heat.
If you don’t have room in your garden, or if you don’t have a garden, you can still compost all that stuff with worms in a tote box. If you can’t use the compost yourself, I am sure that you can find a gardening friend somewhere who can. (To learn to compost, see our list of resources below.)
Better yet, join a community garden or learn to garden in your backyard to use up your wonderful compost!
You do NOT need to throw those things away ever again. Turn them into something useful—compost is the ultimate upcycled material!
#5 Tell Yourself No
This can be hard, but don’t go to the grocery store this week – tell yourself no! Force yourself to use what’s in your refrigerator and on your shelves without running to the store, even if you need a specialty ingredient. If you don’t have the ingredients for a particular recipe, make it next week and use what you have today for something else.
If you have a garden, you can certainly go out and pick fresh produce.
An Example of a No-Shop Menu
Here’s a little example of what you might could do this week using the roasted chicken example we used in step #2:
- Sunday night – prepare roast chicken with rice and carrots.
- Monday night – have chicken tacos and make your rice Spanish by adding powdered or canned tomatoes and a little spice.
- Tuesday night – make a Mexican lasagna with the leftover tortillas and beans (and reserve some for later in the week). Add rice and any leftover chicken.
- Wednesday night – take out some of the broth you made in number one. Prepare a lovely minestrone with the stock, reserved beans from Tuesday night, a bit of pasta and some veggies.
- Thursday night – have any leftover minestrone served in homemade, sour-dough bread bowls (make some extra dough).
- Friday night – make it homemade pizza night with the extra dough you re-frigerated and whatever veggies and cheese you have hanging out in your fridge. Splurge and fry up some bacon as a topping because you can use it as a garnish on the quiche you’ll make…
- Saturday to use up your stockpile of eggs.
Without even breaking a sweat, you have a week’s worth of meals planned and it all started with a chicken!
Avoiding Food Waste Resources
Here are a few links that might get you started with some of the things we’ve talked about here. Do you have other ideas? Or Questions? Please share them in the comments section!
Recipe for Homemade Croutons and Bread Crumbs
Here’s a slightly more detailed recipe for croutons and the directions for bread crumbs, in case you’d like some further instruction.
1. Dice stale bread into bite size pieces - careful not to make them too big! To make bread crumbs:
2. Toss in a bowl with melted butter until coated.
3. Add salt and garlic to taste.
4. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake in an oven set at 375F/191C for about 10 minutes - check for browning.
5. Once evenly toasted, remove and cool.
1. Place a handful of croutons in a blender and pulse to reduce to crumbles. You will most likely have different sized crumbles.
2. Sift out the smallest and pulse the largest to crumble further.
3. Do NOT blend until dust-like unless that's what you want.
1. Dice stale bread into bite size pieces - careful not to make them too big!
To make bread crumbs: