8 Foods You Can Reuse Before Throwing Out

On my quest to reduce household waste to an absolute minimum, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what goes into the garbage can and what can be diverted to other purposes. With a bit of creative thinking, it’s easy to breathe new life into old food. Not only will you reduce food waste, but you’ll also save money.

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credit: Jason Sandeman

All meat and fish bones are excellent for making stock. Whether I’m deboning raw meat or scraping dinner plates after the meal, I always slip the bones into a container in the freezer for when I’m ready to make a big pot of stock.

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Vegetable tops and scraps

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These also make excellent stock, either on their own or added to meat bones. I often have a surplus of green tops (kohlrabi, turnips, carrots) when my weekly CSA share arrives, and rather than stuffing everything into the fridge, I cut off the tops that I’m unlikely to use in cooking and toss them in a stock pot.

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Sour milk

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Sour milk is essentially the same thing as yogurt when it comes to baking. In fact, some recipes actually call for milk to be soured with vinegar or lemon juice. Rather than dumping it down the drain, save it for the next time you mix up a batch of muffins, tea biscuits, or pancakes.

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Moldy cheese and leftover rinds

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My penny-pinching grandmother, who was a child of the Great Depression, taught me that mold on cheese is no big deal. If blue fuzz appears on a block of cheese, just cut it off. Similarly, use leftover Parmesan rinds or dried-out chunks of cheese as flavour-boosters in soup, stews, and stocks.

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Coffee grounds

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Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other trace minerals, which makes them a boon for your garden. You can add them to the compost bin, sprinkle them directly onto the soil, add them to a worm bin, or make a steeped tea of 2 cups coffee grounds and 5 gallons of water that’s an excellent fertilizer. If you're not a gardener, add them to a homemade facial scrub, as they're a great exfoliator.

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Limp vegetables

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If you have a bunch of limp celery or carrots at the bottom of the crisper, don’t toss them out. They’ll rehydrate nicely in a soup and you’ll never know how awful they looked. If you don’t want to use them right away, you can revive wilted lettuce, celery, and herbs by giving them a cold-water soak in the sink for 15 minutes, or prop upward in a cup of water. You can make stock from old roasted vegetables, which gives deeper, richer flavour.

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Stale bread

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If bread dries out completely or you have unwanted crusts, toss them in the blender and transform into breadcrumbs. Those can be stored in the freezer until needed. Or, you can cut the stale bread into cubes and toast in the oven to make croutons, which make a lovely addition to salads and soups.

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Bacon fat

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Pour hot bacon fat into a Mason jar and store in the fridge. Keep adding new layers whenever you cook more bacon. Use the solid fat as a substitute for any cooking oil or butter. It adds extra flavour to sautéed vegetables and works well in baked goods such as cornbread.