Frugal dilemmas: food scraps, or more food?

July 29, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

If you don't live in Howard County's new food scrap recycling zone but still want to cut down on the organic waste you're sending to the landfill, here's an option to consider: eat it instead.

Many parts of the plants we eat that are commonly discarded are not only edible but are healthy and even delicious. Broccoli stalks, cauliflower leaves and citrus peels can all be enjoyed at the table along with the pieces we're more accustomed to consuming.

Frugal families (like my own parents) have been doing this for years, as a way to stretch ingredients and make more servings out of each food purchase. Now, we can celebrate the added bonus of limiting the amount of waste generated by your meals.

I bet there are examples of frugal recipes in every culture. Watermelon rind pickles are the first example that come to mind. This New York Times article suggests that watermelon rinds (with the hard green exterior skin removed) can serve as a substitute for cucumbers.

Foodies have also been extracting valuable flavor from old bones and meat trimmings as well as vegetable ends in pots of homemade stock. Who knew that woody asparagus ends and corncobs could be added to soup as well? Many people scrape the zest from citrus fruits to add those essential oils to meals, but I've also recently read about using the pits of stone fruit like cherries to infuse almond aromas into desserts and liqueurs --- a lot cheaper than buying a bottle of extract at the store.

Some of these items may require a creative eye and perhaps some botanical expertise to turn them into palatable dishes. If you don't like the texture of broccoli stalks, you could make them into a soup, for example. But once you recognize how similar beet greens are to Swiss chard and other hearty greens, you'll never toss them into the trash again.

The most valuable tool for eating food scraps has got to be the freezer. Use a bag or container to save scraps until you have enough for stock. Freeze the heels of loaves of bread for crumbs. Freeze the whey you've drained from regular yogurt to make your own Greek yogurt and blend it into smoothies or stir it into oatmeal.

What are other ways to rescue food from the trash heap? Tell us your favorite tricks in the comments below.

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