Zero-Waste Cooking: What to Do with Leftovers

Zero-Waste Cooking: What to Do with Leftovers

Will Titterington
Will Titterington

Hate food waste? Wish there was something more you could do with your leftovers than simply eat cold pizza?

Food waste is a massive pain. Americans alone waste more than 150,000 tons of food each day.

This is really bad for the planet because food waste produces scary levels of methane, and is thus a massive contributor to global warming.

The good news is that there is literally so much you can do with zero-waste cooking. In other words, you can turn those leftovers into scrumptious meals!

Naturally, the first step towards reducing waste should be to shop for food smarter. But since you’re always going to have some sort of leftovers, you may as well get the most out of them.

Join us as we take a look at zero-waste cooking ideas!

Use the stems

Ever chop the stems off your veggies?

I know I do. Many of us do! Broccoli stems, fennel stalks… You name it, we’re all guilty of chopping the stems off and chucking them in the bin.

Well, how about you take the chopped stems, chop them up further and add them to your smoothies or vegetable stock?

You could even grill them and stick them on toast.

Make the most of scraps

There’ll always be scraps, be they carrot tops, herb terms, or onion peels.

Normally, we just stuff them into the garbage without a second thought. But how about you gather them all together, stick them in a bag in the freezer — and later turn them into stock?

Just make sure all your scraps have been washed before you bag them away.

Don’t waste the seeds!

Out of all the things we waste, it’s so easy to forget all about the seeds. They’re just so small!

But the thing with seeds — such as pumpkin seeds — is that they’re so rich in texture and flavor that it’s a damn shame to keep wasting them.

What can you do with them?

Lots of things!

You can bake a seeded loaf, sprinkle them on top of a salad, add them to sauces or even desserts.

Alternatively, you could even take the seeds and sow them in your garden to grow new vegetables!

Get creative with the peels

If there’s one thing we always notice we’re wasting it’s peels.

Potato peels, carrot peels, apple peels — you name ‘em, we’ve all of us created SO much peel waste over the years!

But here’s the thing with the humble peel: it might look utterly useless, but it’s actually not. For example, you could bake potato peels and turn them into yummy crisp chips. You could take grapefruit rinds and turn them into tea (sooo rich in fiber). You could also create a sweep snack out of apple peels and you could even create your very own homemade tzatziki sauce using cucumber peels.

Don’t let the last of your bread go to waste

I’m surely not the only person who thinks of Seinfeld’s George Costanza when bread waste comes up.

“I’ve gone off bread,” he says so casually in Jerry’s apartment.

How can anyone go off bread?!

The problem, though, is that while many of us love bread, we often find that the last few slices of a loaf have “gone off” before we’ve reached the end.

The good news is that there are so many ways you can get creative with leftover bread.

The BBC have 10 great recipe ideas here, including bread and butter pudding, veggie bread bake and my personal fav — French toast.

Freeze your brown bananas

Okay I’m back from eating French toast (I got triggered).

Brown bananas are a thing. All bananas eventually go brown, and when they do? Most of us throw them away.

But did you know that brown bananas are excellent when they’ve been frozen and then added to a smoothie?

You could also freeze them, defrost them and then create banana pancakes out of them. I’m getting triggered again but we’ll keep going.

Stick your salad leaves in a stir fry

Leaves quickly turn brown and limp and it can be really annoying when this happens, especially when you’re all saladed-out (it’s a thing).

So what can you do with those limp leaves?

Add them to a stir fry!

Make the most of your parmesan rind

A lot of us don’t give a second thought to throwing away parmesan rind. After all, what else is there to do with it?

Well, actually, you can add the rind to your stews, soups and risottos as they’re cooking. Once they’re cooked, remove the rind and eat.

Honestly, parmesan rind adds a bit of extra ‘kick’ to the proceedings.

Apples = amazing toad in the hole

I’m not sure who invented this one, or who was crazy enough to even attempt it in the first place but apparently adding slightly spoiled apples to a traditional English dish toad in the hole really works!

There are different ways you can do this, and Jamie Oliver suggests creating apple and onion gravy with your apples.

Cards on the table: I’ve not tried it myself but I have eaten apple sausages before and they were delicious.

So yeah, definitely one to try.

What to REALLY do with frozen pizza

Frozen pizza, of course, has its place firmly in the Pantheon of Amazing Leftover Foods. It’s the one we always think of first whenever we think of leftovers, right?

But here’s the thing: There are actually different ways you can eat your leftover pizza. And if you simply grab it out of the fridge and eat it, you’re doing it wrong.

Personally, I like to reheat a slice face down in a pan. Yup, I fry it (skillet’s work best) for a few minutes until the toppings have melted. Then, I flip it, cook it some more — and eat. It’s basically a pie by now and it’s awesome.


These are some zero-waste cooking ideas for you to get stuck into this weekend. Got any ideas of your own? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

If you liked this article, make sure to check out How to Upcycle Food Waste During the Holiday Season and Meal Prep 101: How to Create Your Own Meal Plan

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