Don't Bin It: How to Turn Food 'Waste' into Something Delicious

Don't Bin It: How to Turn Food 'Waste' into Something Delicious

What do you do with potato skins? Ugly fruits? Or wilted spring onions? Charlotte Mei shows you how to turn them into magical meals so your food lasts longer for you

Have you ever taken advantage of a supermarket clearance sale? Even though you knew deep down you didn’t need all that extra food? Or forgotten about the fresh vegetables or leftovers in your fridge, and decided to eat out instead? How about over-ordering when dining out?

Well, you’re not alone. Though you probably might know that all that extra food is going to waste. And when food waste piles up in landfills, they give out methane gas, one of the most dangerous greenhouse gases driving climate change. Did you know, if food waste were to be a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the US and China!

Turning 'Waste' into Food

It’s a good thing then, that many are rethinking food waste by doing something called upcycling. It's also called repurposing, or readapting. Where I'm at in Singapore, we can now find alcoholic beverages produced from soy whey and even beer made from surplus bread (unused or often discarded bits of bread like the crusty ends of a sandwich etc).

And the best part of doing so? You benefit too! Here, I'll show you 3 incredibly easy ways how reducing food waste can help save you money and increase the nutritional value of your diet

1. Surplus Food

As people who cook at home, we can all relate to having too much of a certain ingredient that is going bad faster than we can use it up! Here are some tips on how you can use them up quickly before they go bad: 

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Scallions: Western herbs can be made into things like pesto and salsa verde, but what about more Asian-style herbs like scallions? Here's something I do - you can either freeze them in ice trays with some oil or make a delicious jar of Ginger-Scallion Sauce with it. These go with almost anything, and they’re also a great food gift to make for a friend!

Bananas: these ripen in a blink of an eye! If you find yourself with way too many ripe bananas than you can finish, you can either freeze them to make into a smoothie another time, or make some Cekodok Pisang out of them!

2. Offcuts

These would be parts of fresh produce that we would usually throw out simply because they’re not needed in the recipe. They include vegetable peel, garlic/onion peel, carrot tops, the base of celery, broccoli or cauliflower stems, etc. They may not be required in a specific recipe, but these items contain a lot of flavour!

Stock: Vegetable scraps or chicken/fish bones can be boiled in a pot to make stock. If you’re using pumpkin in a recipe, don’t throw away the pulpy-seedy centre. I boil them in some water to make the sweetest, most delicious stock!

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Slaw: Thick, knobbly broccoli and cauliflower stems may be an afterthought to some, but they contain lots of fibre and nutrients and can be made into a delicious Slaw to go with your favourite sandwiches!

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Tea: Citrus peel can be zested over grilled fish, or used to make a DIY Masala Chai Blend or churros. If you’ve got extras, make a bowl of potpourri to freshen up your kitchen! I use a vegetable peeler to yield thin strips of fruit peel (to avoid getting much of the pith) - I love using oranges and lemons for this. I dry them on a sheet tray overnight in the kitchen, then put them in little bowls to store in my cabinets to freshen them up.

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Chips: I made a batch of potato chips - not with potatoes, but with its skins. So next time you think of throwing them away, don't! Save the peels for a tray of these incredibly easy chips that allow you to enjoy a high-fibre snack that doesn’t contain any suspicious ingredients. All you need is five-spice powder for the extra lift! It can serve as a snack, or to add extra crunch to your soups or salads.

3. Imperfect Foods

Otherwise known as ‘ugly food’, these imperfect fruits and vegetables can still be used as they are in any recipe that calls for them!

Should fruits go a little past their prime, make them into a dessert or add them to your favourite smoothie recipe. As for vegetables or herbs that have wilted, add them into a soup, or a stew!

More Simple Ways

There are many ways to reduce food waste at home on a daily basis, but for those of you that love to entertain at home, here are some additional tips for you. These will come in especially useful for festive occasions!

  1. Plan in advance and be realistic about how much to cook. Get a headcount of your guestlist and accommodate that. There is no need to cook for 20 when only 8 guests are coming.
  2. Turn leftovers into next day’s meals. Meat can be shredded and used in sandwiches with leftover vegetables, or even repurposed into a delicious Rice Cooker Chicken. If you happen to have lots of boiled eggs, you can consider turning that into a brand new dish by marinating in soy broth!
  3. Pack them for your guests to take home. I’m pretty sure they won’t say no to your delicious creations!
  4. Freeze leftovers. This is the best way to keep food lasting fresher for longer! I personally love doing this as it saves me from having to cook on days where I’m short on time, or I have just come home from out of town to an empty fridge. 

These are just a few ways to get creative in your kitchen to make your food go an extra mile and reduce the waste you throw into your bins. Comment below, or message me on my socials and let me know how they go for you!

Charlotte Mei is a nutritionist and self-taught cook based in Singapore. She frequently cooks up nutritious, delicious dishes - and the occasional indulgent treat too. Follow her on all her socials at @thecharlottemei .

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