Five ways to use up scraps and leftovers

Leah Martin, Project Communications Lead 12th January 2022
Slice of brown bread on wooden chopping board.

Around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated in the EU every single year. This poses huge risks to our economy, environment and livelihoods.

According to the European Commission, the EU’s current food waste has an associated cost of 143 billion euros each year. Meanwhile, 33 million people in the EU cannot afford one good quality meal every other day. What’s more, food waste contributes to eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions!

It’s time we all made some easy changes to prevent food waste ending up in our caddies and general waste bins. Here are some easy recipes and tips to use up your food and make the most of every last scrap!

Hand scraping food waste scraps off kitchen counter into food waste caddy
Save the planet and your pocket by avoiding food waste.

1. The perfect pesto

We all love this staple pasta dish, but how many of us make our own pesto using vegetable scraps? From carrot tops and broccoli stalks to slightly wilted leaves and leftover herb stems, you can throw tons of “waste” ingredients into your pesto mix. Simply blend your chosen greenery with lemon, nuts, garlic, oil, seasoning and parmesan (or a vegetarian/vegan alternative) and you’re good to go.

Also remember pesto isn’t just for pasta; use up any leftovers to stuff chicken, make a salad dressing, add to a pizza or stir into mashed potatoes. And if you really can’t use it all up, why not freeze it? Fill an ice cube tray with your homemade pesto and pop out a few cubes next time you need pesto for a recipe.

2. Use up your loaf

Globally, around 24 million slices of bread are thrown away every day. A simple way to avoid your loaf going to waste is to slice and freeze it as soon as you buy it. If you forget to stick it in the freezer, however, there are lots of easy ways to use up a loaf that’s on its way out.

You could stick it in a food processor and make some easy breadcrumbs, or tear into chunks and roast in the oven for homemade croutons. If you’ve got a slightly sweeter tooth, slightly stale bread also works perfectly well for making bread pudding or French toast.

Bowl of soup with croutons.
Slightly stale bread makes for delicious croutons. 

3. Drink up

Whether you’ve got some squishy strawberries, imperfect peaches or bruised bananas, fruit that’s past its best works brilliantly in smoothies, juices and infused water. Plus, these healthy drinks are a great way to get closer to your five a day!

Smoothies are a great way to use up other ingredients you may have lying around. Check the fridge to see if you’ve got a pot of yoghurt that’s close to its use-by date – it’ll add a delicious creaminess to your fruity drink. Or perhaps you’ve got a few seeds or an odd spoonful of honey that you don’t know what to do with – just throw them in the blender to add a bit of texture or sweetness!

4. Grow your own

There are some ingredients and food parts we just can’t eat; however, we can often plant them to grow new fruit and veg. From spring onion bulbs and carrot tops to celery bottoms and pepper seeds, lots of your kitchen waste can be planted in the garden or a windowsill planter.

If you’ve got some onions lying around, it won’t be long until green material will start to sprout from their bases. When this happens, peel off the papery outer skin and cut away some of the layers from the sprouts. Then, pop the sprouts into water until the roots start to grow. Once you see white roots, your onions are ready to be planted in good-quality soil with plenty of sunlight.

Green tomatoes on plant.
Growing your own fruit and veg is easier than you might think.

When it comes to growing from seeds, such as peppers and chilis, you’ll first need to dry your seeds out. This is easily done by spreading them out on a plate or baking tray in the open air. Be sure to turn them regularly so they dry on all sides! Once dry, your seeds are really to plant in a propagator or greenhouse. Remember to keep an eye on them to ensure they’ve got enough water, sunlight and room to grow.

When we grow our own, we can often end up with more fruit and veg than planned. It’s a good idea to have a freezer clear out before starting your growing adventures, so you have plenty of room to freeze and store your produce. Alternatively, you can always share your goodies with friends and family!

5. Whip up some sweet treats

If you love cooking, you can often end up with half-used packets of ingredients in your cupboards. If you’ve got some odd seeds, nuts or snacks lying around, why not whip up a batch of flapjacks or rocky roads?

For rocky roads, simply melt 225g chocolate, 100g butter and two tablespoons of golden syrup over a low heat. Once melted, stir in anything you have lying around, such as crushed biscuits, dried fruits, Smarties, popcorn or marshmallows. Spoon and press the mixture into a tray and leave to cool and set.

If you fancy some flapjacks, slowly melt 125g butter, 90g golden syrup and 90g muscovado sugar. Stir in 225g oats along with some nuts, dried fruits, chocolate pieces and/or your favourite jam or spread. Spoon the mixture into a tray, press into all corners and leave to set.

We hope we’ve inspired you to use up any food you’ve got lying around the kitchen. For more foodie tips and tricks, be sure to follow us on social media.