7 Ways to Put Food Waste to Work by Doing Barely Anything

April 21st 2017

Kyle Fitzpatrick

Let’s be honest: being a conscientious, forward-thinking person can be a lot of work.

Even eating is political, considering that America is a leading producer of food waste. Some reports have even claimed that half of produce in America ends up in the trash.

That’s a huge, actionable problem!

The change involved here isn’t a monolithic undertaking; there are so many little things you can do that require basically nothing from you to reduce waste. Seriously: here are seven things you can do to reduce food waste by basically doing nothing.

1) Extra herbs? Put them in oil.

Did you know that basically every part of an herb can be used in cooking? Yet, there’s always a remaining segment of leaves or stem that can be squeezed out for more flavor. A good way to extend their culinary relevance (and to seem fancy without doing anything) is to put these dregs in olive oil.

As Emma Christensen of The Ktchn wrote in 2009, if you seal herbs in olive oil and place in a cool, dark place, the herbs will lend their essence to the oil after a few weeks. These infused oils provide a double whammy in cooking; they simultaneously serve as a cooking oil and seasoning. If you’d like to go beyond this, you can freeze chopped herbs in oil to create instant flavor bombs.

This doesn’t end at herbs either — you can extend your infusing to fruits and aromatics too.

2) Blemished fruits and vegetables? Put them in booze.

Want to get a little more 21+ with your infusing? Infuse your booze. 

Using a light spirit like vodka or tequila as a base along with an airtight jar, all you have to do is add the desired fruit or vegetable (or waste item from your produce, chopped) and you have an infusing beverage. It really is that simple.


Keep your concoction in a cool, dark place and shake on occasion to keep things from settling. After a few days, you’ll be ready to make cocktails or homemade hooch.

3) Extra wine? Extra coffee? Extra Milk? Extra meat? Freeze it.

Sometimes a little leftover food or drink get tossed because, well, they weren't enough to make a meal of. Send these things to the freezer!

There are ample ways to do this. Ice cube trays can turn old wine into wine fit for cooking, and leftover coffee can be made into cooler, stronger coffee. Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart endorses freezing bread to extend freshness, and the shelf-life of milk can be similarly extended

Freezing isn't simple though; be sure you understand how to freeze and thaw certain foods to avoid burns that might effect waste differently. Items like meat are particularly vulnerable and require a little bit of extra care.

4) Put excess food to work in a pie.

A relatively easy way to avoid wasted food — while wowing friends — is making a pie.

When fruits and veggies start to turn, pile them into a crust and bake. As The Washington Post's food columnist Tamar Haspel wrote earlier this year, this is great way to curb waste because “it doesn’t matter much that their texture has been compromised, because you’re using them in a way that compromises their texture anyway.”

And, making meat pies is a popular hunter’s technique that employs meat scraps creatively.

5) Use spoiled food for breads and pancakes.

For the more seasoned in the kitchen, you can use some spoiling products as the basis for doughy foods.

Browning bananas and old coffee make for a great banana bread base, while spoiling milk can enable soda bread. Sweet potatoes make great waffles, while squash and potatoes make for savory pancakes.

Spoiling or stale bread can easily become a supporting player in salads, pudding, pestos, and more.

6) Some food items are great for fireplaces.

An unconventional that's great for camping or cold weather is recycling food waste in your fireplace.

Citrus peels make for aromatic kindling, chips have a similar fire starting power, and even chicken bones make for fuel potential.

This thought process is actually gaining traction; the University of Irvine is using their food waste to generate energy, while biowaste-to-energy projects might eventually help fuel your home.

7) Always end up with excess skin from produce? Stop skinning.

A large waste source from food are the unused skins of fruits and vegetables. One quick way to solve this problem? Stop skinning the damned foods! Specifically, don’t bother skinning items like cucumbers, apples, potatoes, and carrots. Their exteriors are the key to their intended health benefits.

And for the more difficult skins? These can always get used in more intensive preservation practices like pickling (for watermelon rind) and candying (for citrus peels). But the skins of avocados or bananas? That calls for some extremely creative measures.

Finally, think before you eat—and consider composting.

The biggest, most obvious thing to consider with food waste is fully weighing how and what you eat. By being a smarter shopper and cook, you reduce waste through behavior modification. Understanding how most foods can be hacked to be waste free will make you more productive at home too.

Another thing to consider: composting. The somewhat intimidating technique is a great means to make use of the truly useless food waste items by returning them to soil.