Turn Trash into Treasure
Updated: Jun 15
Leftover Food doesn’t have to become food waste the minute you’ve finished prepping or eating your dinner. Now we are required to spend more time at home and in our kitchens, we can learn to become more resourceful and utilise every ingredient to it’s full potential. Here are a selection of interesting nifty ways to reduce your final throwaway amount and make treasure from your trash:
1. Vegetable Stock – Making a veg stock is super easy and completely free! Keep all of your vegetable scraps from a few weeks cooking.
I usually freeze the veg scraps it if I can't make the stock straightaway, to keep them as fresh as possible. Then when you have a big saucepans worth of scraps put them in the pan/slow cooker. This includes onion skins, pepper tops and cauliflower leaves, it all has nutrients.
You can add some fresh garlic and onions, I always recommend at the least, to just season the stock to add extra flavour.
Now you just have to leave it to cook. One hour on a stove is enough but if you use a slow cooker like us, leave it for a few hours. Once it has simmered and stewed, sieve the liquid out.
You can then pour the vegetable stock into ice cube trays and freeze it, so you then have them ready to add to any dish at any time. This process means you’ve squeezed every last bit of use out of your veg scraps and now you can compost them.
2. Plant based dying – Did you know that you can dye natural fabrics with plant materials? Synthetic blends will take some dye but will usually be lighter in colour.
Save your food leftovers and create something beautiful and give new life to an old garment, instead of using toxic dyes that are detrimental to the planet.
A few natural dyes you have sitting in your kitchen include:
- Orange – Onion Skins
- Pink – Avocado Skins and Seeds, Berries
- Brown - walnut hulls, tea, coffee
- Blue – Red Cabbage
- Green – Spinach, peach leaves
You want to make sure the products are ripe and not dried out to produce a stronger colour. But if you aren’t ready to do start dying when your food is at peak ripeness, freeze your leftovers for when you have the time.
Prepare your natural material by washing it, but don’t dry it!
Then prepare your fixative or “mordant.” This is to help the fabric take up the natural dyes more easily. For berries, you’ll want to use salt and for any other plant material, you’ll want to use vinegar. Here are the measurements:
· Salt: dissolve ½ cup salt in 8 cups cold water
· Vinegar: blend 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts cold water
Leave your material in the fixative solution for an hour then rinse with cold water.
Place the plant material in a large non-reactive pot (like stainless steel or glass)
Fill the pot with twice as much water as plant material.
Simmer for an hour or so, until you get a nice dark colour.
Strain out the plant material and return the liquid to the pot.
Carefully place the fabric in the dye bath and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for an hour or so, stirring once in a while.
Check your fabric. Remember, it will be lighter when it dries. An hour should produce a nice colour, but darker hues can be achieved by allowing to sit longer, even overnight. Turn the pot off after an hour and allow the fabric to sit in the warm water as long as needed.
When you get the colour you want, take the fabric out and wash in cold water. Expect the colour to run some as the excess dye is washed out
Dry as usual.
You should now have a beautiful naturally dyed material that has given your garment and food scraps a second life!
3. Apple Cider Vinegar – ACV is like a magical potion that is great for your digestive systems, used in skincare routines and as a hair rinse after natural shampoo bars. So, if you use as much as I do, it’s worth considering making your own! Now, it takes time but you may as well get some use out of your apple skins and cores. You can even make Pineapple cider vinegar as you definitely won’t be eating the skin from a pineapple like an apple.
I. Get a large Jar, put your skins and cores into the jar and fill it with water, enough to cover all the skins.
II. Then add 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
III. Cover the jar with a swatch of cloth and secure with an elastic band
IV. Let the jar sit in a dark place for about 3-4 weeks
V. Stir it occasionally to make sure the apple/pineapple pieces are submerged
VI. After 3-4 weeks and when it has stopped producing bubbles, strain out of the apple pieces and compost
VII. Leave the liquid is the jar for another 3-4 weeks, then it’s ready to use!
4. Banana tea fertiliser – Banana skins have a huge amount of uses from skincare to plant fertiliser. If you save up all your banana skins and keep them in a jar/glass filled with enough water to cover the banana skins then leave them for 1 week you can use the liquid to fertilise your plants.
Banana skins have a big collection of valuable nutrients for plants such as Potassium, Calcium, Mangenese, Magnesium, Sulfur, Sodium and Phosphorus. Make sure the glass stays topped up, as the water can evapourate and then your bananas can go mouldy. Then when the week is up and you have strained your free fertiliser, dilute your banana tea 5 parts water : 1 part fertilizer, to make the perfect drink for your little plant babies.
5. Re-growing – You will be amazed at the amount of vegetables you can regrow just from storing their cut off ends in water or planting them into a small amount of soil. Last summer I planted sprouted potatoes, spring onion bases, red onions tops, a garlic clove, the middle of a lettuce and they all regrew and I got free food for my leftovers! I am currently experimenting with growing an avocado plant from the seeds by just submerging them in warm water on a sunny windowsill. Other great veggies to regrow leeks, cabbage, carrot tops, coriander, basil and mint! Just keep your cut offs and experiment.
Photo credits: kuishihome/ simpleishliving/ herbalacademy
6. Cleaning Infusion
To create a great all-purpose spray for cleaning hard and soft surfaces alike:
Chuck together 2.5-3 cups white wine vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, 1-2 lemon peels and 1 cup of lavender (fresh/dry) in to a jar.
Cap with a lid (if metal place a piece of natural waxed paper between lid and jar to stop the metal corroding).
Add more liquid if the lavender absorbs some to make sure the lemon peels are submerged.
Shake your jar regularly and store it in a dark place.
Infuse for 1 week in HP and 1 month in Vinegar.
Strain the liquid into a clean jar, store in a cool, dark place then when you are ready to use dilute your infused vinegar/HP in a spray bottle.
Mix 1/2 cup of HP to 2 1/2 Cups of water OR 1 cup of vinegar to 2 cups of water.
Then start cleaning chemical and waste free!
– Potato skins are rich in vitamins and minerals, that are good for the skin elasticity and tonus. The high concentration of water gives amazing results when applied on puffy and tired eyes.
-Coffee powder is the most effective natural scrub and a very common food waste. The invigorating smell plus all the essential nutrients it includes makes it a treat for your skin – B vitamins, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, potassium and others.
- Lemon After squeezing the juice out of the lemon you can place your nail inside and rub them gently for a few minutes – it strengthens and brightens them. Rich in Vitamin C the lemon waste can be used in the morning or before going to bed for a cleanser. It is also amazing as a household cleaning product, which I have written about in this article too!
-Orange Peels in face and body lotions are great for softening your skin and fighting acne, as well as revitalizing it. The peels can be grinded and dried to be used as a body scrub.
-Avocado peels contain lots of fatty acids that can do miracles for the skin and hair. You can use it for a very fast face mask – just rub it on your face or before washing your hair, apply it for about 20 minutes.
-Tea bags (black, green, herbal tea) that you just used, can be reused and are the best remedy for puffy eyes. They can be used as a skin toner and some teas such as chamomile and linden have a calming and relaxing effect. Green tea has antioxidants making the face look more flawless and brighter.
8. Potato Skin Crisps
The easiest snack made from vegetable waste, that you can make whilst you wait for your dinner to cook.
Place potato/carrot/parsnip skins from your dinner prep on a baking tray.
Cover them with oil and season to your taste - salt, vinegar, paprika?
Put them in the oven for 20 minutes.
Then munch away on your easy waste saving snack!
I hope you found these tips on how to get a second life out of your food waste interesting and something you can experiment with and also teach kids to do, as an activity during lockdown.
Sharing the importance of food and not creating waste is super important and these are some fun ways to do that!
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