Do This With Your Vegetable Scraps and Peels

©. Melissa Breyer

Here's an easy way to reduce food waste and never buy commercial soup stock again.

As you have likely heard by now, we have a big food waste problem. If food waste were a country, it would place third – following the US and China – for impact on global warming. And in fact, as Chad Frischmann, vice president and research director at Project Drawdown, says: "Reducing food waste is one of the most important things we can do to reverse global warming."

In a report from the Center for Behavior and the Environment, the authors write that "Actions taken voluntarily at the individual and household level can significantly contribute to overall emissions reductions and can do so in the absence of policy." One of the seven high-impact lifestyle changes they recommend is reducing food waste. "Overall average food waste in the U.S. is estimated at 400 pounds per person, per year," they note.

Which leads us to why I keep a bowl in the freezer and put my vegetable scraps in it.

I try very hard to eat everything we bring home, but sometimes things go sad and wilty in the fridge. And though I usually prepare vegetables with the peels on, sometimes things get peeled or have bits and ends that I can't use.

All of these things go into a glass freezer bowl and once it is full, I make vegetable stock. The bowl will often include onion ends and outer skins, leek tops, herb stems, broccoli bottoms, mushroom bits, carrot greens, et cetera. Most everything is game, but I have found that beets can be overpowering, and cabbage and bitter vegetables can be too strong as well. Also be careful with lots of starchy bits, like from potatoes, which can make stick a bit gummy. That said, in the bowl above I had leftover sweet potato skins with plenty of flesh, and I love the thicker stock it made.

In the end, I get something that tastes way better than commercial stock; it alleviates the need to use virgin produce, and it gives a round of use for what would otherwise be thrown away. It can be used to make soup, rice, pilaf, risotto, veggie stews, et cetera.

How to make vegetable stock from scraps and peels

  • Vegetable scraps
  • Olive oil
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional extras: Miso paste, dried herbs, parmesan rind, tomato paste, kombu or other sea vegetables

1. Let your scraps thaw. Heat a teaspoon or two (or more, depending on volume of vegetables) in a stock pot over medium heat and saute the scraps for a few minutes, then cover with enough water so that it all can be easily stirred.

2. Add dried herbs now, like thyme or bay leaves – as well as any optional extras listed above.

3. Once it begins to simmer, turn the heat down to medium low. Let simmer for around an hour, stirring occasionally. You can simmer it longer to make it more concentrated.

4. Once done, strain through a colander or strainer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the cooked scraps to your compost, and let the stock cool. Once cool, use for dinner, or store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to one week or in the freezer for up to three months. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays if you ever find yourself needing smaller quantities on occasion.

And there you have it – free food and less waste!