Waste Not, Want Not

Vegetable skins, stale bread, wilting greens – it seems like common sense to just throw these things out. They’re not moulding or off per se, they’re just…scraps? What if you could utilise them in another way, and turn those neglected bits and bobs into something spectacular? You might have heard about eating top-to-tail when it comes to meat, so why should our vegetarian counterparts miss out?

Let’s take a look at:

According to website, FoodWise, Australians discard up to 20% of the food they purchase, with up to 40% of the household bin contents being food. These figures equate to a total of eight billion dollars in food waste every year [1]. How crazy is that? Click here to view the infographic.

We’ve all been guilty of buying produce, and using a slice here, or a teaspoon there, and by the end of the week, that bunch of herbs is floppy, and the bread is a little too dry to be used for a sandwich. So what can you do?

Vegetable scraps and cut offs, and the stems of herbs = vegetable stock!

Stock is a regular addition to many meals, but your store bought varieties are often packed with flavourings, preservatives and sodium, and lack in the nutrition department.  A homemade stock on the other hand might be one of the easiest recipes out there; you simply pack everything into a large pot, and simmer in water for a few hours!

Stocks can vary from a simple vegetable broth, to meat flavours like chicken, beef and fish – it is really up to you what flavours you like, or what you have lying around the house.

  • Veg you could use: onions, garlic, celery, leeks, fennel, chard, potatoes, pumpkin, capsicum, corn cobs, parsnips, spring onions, mushrooms, carrots, peas, green beans and herbs
  • Veg you should avoid: vegetables with an overpowering flavour or coloured veg (unless you’re okay with your stock turning pink from those beetroots). It is perfectly fine to use produce that is just past it’s prime, but be sure to not include anything that is rotten or mouldy.
  • If you’re not making your stock on the day, store them in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to use them, or freeze them.
  • Feel free to add in the carcass of a chicken, or some bones to make your stock meaty.

To make: Take all the vegetables and herbs of your choice (at least 5 cups of veg is recommended), and cover it in approximately four litres of water. Add in a few black peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Bring to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for four to six hours, scooping off any muck off the top of the stock every so often. When the desired flavour has been reached, strain, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to three months.

Image: Food 52

Image from Food52

Stale bread = bread crumbs, bread and butter pudding or panzanella salad!

Bread that is a couple of days old just doesn’t cut it for a fresh sandwich. Instead of being destined for the trash however, why not find a way to revamp that stale loaf into a delicious dish?

  • Bread crumbs: a fantastically easy recipe that can be used in a countless number of ways! Simply blitz as much stale bread as you’d like in a food processor or high powered blender till it resembles a fine crumb. Mix in a little fresh herbs if you’d like to spruce things up a little bit! Store in an airtight container and use to crumb fish fillets or fill out minced meat patties.
  • Bread and butter pudding: some people find that using fresh bread for this dessert often creates a soggy, off-putting product. So stale bread it is! Take the crusts of 8 slices of bread, spread each one with a little butter and cut into a triangle. In a baking dish, arrange your triangles, butter side up in the bottom of the dish, and then sprinkle on a little dried fruit if you wish. Dust with cinnamon and then repeat the layers until you have used up all your bread. Warm 350mL of milk and 50mL of cream over a low heat – but don’t let it boil! Crack the eggs into a separate bowl, add 20g of sugar and whisk until light. Add in the warm milk and cream and stir until well combined, before straining. Pour custard over the bread, sprinkle with nutmeg and a little more sugar and leave to stand for half and hour. Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes or until the custard has set and the tops of the bread are golden.
  • Panzanella salad: check out Jamie Oliver’s recipe for this delicious salad here

Image: The Pioneer Woman

Slightly wilting greens = fancy-ass pesto!

If you’re not going to use your greens within a couple of days, more often then not you’ll find that they start to wilt, even while in the fridge. Instead of throwing it out immediately, why not turn it into a sassy pesto?

  • A simple pesto recipe: greens, nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese. Use this basic recipe to whip up something fancy. Try the classic basil and pine nuts, or something more adventurous!
  • Nuts: almonds, macadamias, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, cashews or brazil nuts
  • Greens: spinach, mint, coriander, rocket or arugula

    Image: Gimme Some Oven

Young people (between the ages of 18-24) are one of the main populations that contribute the most to food waste. While people in this age bracket are often studying, or finding their feet when it comes to a career, utilising some of the tips above will make your food go further, and save you that little bit extra cash.

[1] Do Something. Foodwise: your site for sustainable food; 2015