Food

How to Upcycle Food Waste During the Holiday Season

Wanna learn how to upcycle food? No sweat — I’ve got you.

It’s ALREADY November, which means two things:

  • It’s cold (and apparently, it’s already started snowing in Russia)
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas are literally around the corner

The thing with the holidays is that they are, of course, an awesome time of the year. There’s lots of food, drink, family time, and other merry festivities.

But with lots of food comes great responsibility.

In other words, what do you do with all the food that you waste?

According to research, a staggering 74 million mince pies are wasted each Christmas. Yowzers. Then there’s ALL the other food we waste.

This is not just a waste of money — this is also incredibly taxing on the environment, with food and drink totaling up 20% of Britain’s CO2 emissions.

And that’s just Britain.

Basically, if you want to stay on Santa’s Nice List this year, you’re going to have to do your bit. And if you’re feeling a bit creative, a really great way to do your bit is via upcycling.

What is upcycling?

There’s recycling, and then there’s upcycling. Recycling is good for the environment, but because it requires energy and upcycling doesn’t, upcycling is even more beneficial.

It also allows you to get your creative groove on and it’s perfect for food waste.

Essentially, it’s the process of taking a material (or food item) and reusing it without worsening its quality. This means that, not only do you get more use out of a piece of food, you also minimize the need for new stuff to be harvested.

It’s literally win-win, especially at Christmas when so much food usually goes to waste.

Food waste upcycling ideas

Not sure how to upcycle your food waste, though? Let’s see what we can do...

Apple peels

Mhmm, what’s that smell?

It’s apple pie, of course.

Picture it: It’s Christmas Eve and mom has just baked an apple pie. It’s sitting on the table, cooling down. And it smells oh so good.

Of course, apple pies = lots of wasted apple peels. The good news is that you can combine two of the best things about Christmas with a bit of upcycling: cakes and booze.

Yup, why not try a bit of homemade apple peel bourbon to warm your cockles this holiday season?

Also, if you’ve got loads of apple cores left over, too, you could use them to put together a tasty glass of apple juice.

Lettuce

Ever bought a lettuce and realize there’s just SO MUCH of it? Too much to go around, that’s for sure.

Hey, it happens. But did you also know that you can reuse leftover lettuce leaves?

In fact, not only can you reuse them, you can regrow them. Yup, you can bring ‘em back to life again.

It’s not voodoo either. Just place the scraps in a bowl of water and leave in sunlight for 4 days. New roots and leaves will grow, after which you can add your lettuce to soil. Soon, a new lettuce will dawn.

Garlic

When you buy garlic, you generally don’t get one clove — you get several. So what do you do with the ones you won’t use?

You could plant them in soil with the roots face down. Once the sunlight gets to them, new shoots will grow. Just cut them back and it won’t be long before fresh bulbs are sprouting.

Carrot tops

What’s the deal with carrot tops? They look a bit funny and no one seems to want to eat them. But I’m #TeamCarrotTop, and you can totally eat them — they’re not poisonous!

You can also upcycle them by creating a carrot top smoothie health drink, a carrot top and quinoa soup, or a radish and carrot tops salad.

So many ideas.

Potato peels

The best thing to do with potato peelings is to make some potato peel chips that you and the family can munch on whilst watching one of those bad Christmas movies. You’re all a bit stuffed from all that turkey and probably don’t want anymore cake, which make chips the perfect evening snack.

There are other things you can do with your potato peels, too. Might I suggest nacho boots, croutons and even — dare I say it — potato skin sandwiches?

Go here for all those potato wonders and more.

Kale stems

Kale is increasingly popular, and no doubt it’ll be on a few plates during the holiday season. But who on earth eats chewy kale stems? Avoid wasting them by blending them in a smoothie.

Broccoli stalks are another piece of food that a lot of people ignore. But instead of chucking yours in the bin, consider adding them to a festive stir fry.

Other ways to save food waste

As well as upcycling, there are other ways you can save on waste this Christmas and Thanksgiving:

  • Make sure to buy food at the right time. In other words, check the labels closely. Imagine the disappointment when you buy bacon for Christmas Day, before realizing it actually goes off on the 22nd December *face plant*.
  • Store food properly. Make sure you read all about how to store food so that it lasts longer and doesn’t spoil.
  • Learn how to cook. Strangely enough, one of our biggest worries is whether or not we’ll even cook the turkey properly! To avoid food waste, don’t make the rookie error of under- or overcooking things.
  • Don’t make too much. You’re not a pro chef. You’re cooking a meal for your family. Try not to go overboard by cooking so much food that no one has any realistic chance of finishing.

Final thoughts

Upcycling food is a lot of fun and — believe me — you’ll feel so much better afterwards. No more food wastage, just lots more awesome and tasty meals, snacks, and smoothies.

What are your favorite ways to upcycle food waste? Let us know in the comments below!


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About Will Titterington

Will is a writer who's always looking for ways to live more sustainably. He’d probably like to build his own house one day but one step at a time — he’s only just learned how to change a lightbulb.