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6 Hacks for a Zero-Waste Kitchen

As a nation, we waste more than we think. According to the Waste and Resources Action Program WRAP, in 2015, the total amount of food waste produced by UK households amounted to 25 million tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions. Essentially, a quarter of the food we purchase ended up in landfill. And a whopping 70% of that amount was estimated to be edible!

Thankfully it’s 2019 and we all know better. Food leftovers are the new black, at least on our kitchen’s counters! Follow these eight simple hacks to transform your scraps into scrumptious zero-waste creations or re-purpose your trash into treasures.

1. Make Stock from Veggie Scraps

This is the easiest, least time-consuming hack in the world. When preparing veggies, set the scraps aside, place them in your repurposed container of choice (bag, jar, Tupperware etc). Put in the freezer to use at a later date, or add to a pot of boiling water to make your own delicious, home-made stock. Great to make soups with, or to add to risottos. They’ll save you the extra dosh and save the Planet from ready-made stock plastic pots. You’ll never look at scraps the same way again!

2. Turn Potato Skins into Crunchy Chips or a Hearty Soup

Potato skins are the emblem of turning trash into treasure. When I was a child, my grandmother used to fry them and they were always everyone’s favourite treat. Before peeling them, give your potatoes a good rinse and scrub, getting rid of any soil. Heat up a little oil in a pan, stick the skins in, season to taste.. et voil√°! Apart from being full of nutrients, if the oil is heated to a high enough temperature, they can become super crunchy. Additionally, as they’re not as heavy as their starchy counterparts you can still enjoy the taste, but bloat-free!

Alternatively, if these don’t tickle your fancy, you could use them to make a hearty soup guaranteed to warm you up.. cos baby it’s cold outside! Lightly fry the skins in a pan with some onions, sage and rosemary for about 10 minutes. Pour some of your leftover veggie stock and some plant-based milk into the pan, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave ingredients to simmer until soft. Finally, leave to cool down for a minute. Use a blender or chuck into a food processor to smooth the ingredients into a puree. Top it off with a good grind of black pepper, and you’ve created a zero-waste, five-star meal. Score!

Photo from myrecipes.com

3. Regrow Leftover Lettuce

Lettuce is a very resilient plant which easily regrows in your kitchen. Admittedly, some types of lettuce work better than others (romaine, for instance). And it may take you a few experiments to get the knack of it. But when you do, your wallet will thank you for once again saving some dosh while repurposing scraps. Regrowing lettuce doesn’t even require soil; just a shallow container, some tap water, a cool environment and the occasional ray of sunshine. Cut the leaves at about one or two inches from the bottom of the stem. Put the stem in your repurposed container of choice (glass jar, Tupperware etc) and fill up with enough tap water to cover its base. If it’s not too cold outside, leave on the windowsill; otherwise, leave on the kitchen counter or near some grow lights.

After two or three days, you’ll notice roots will have started to grow from the middle of the stem. After less than two weeks, the leaves will have grown back to a decent size for you to harvest and eat. As lettuce often comes wrapped in plastic, this is another one-trick pony that will keep you from adding to landfill waste. Apply the same easy process to regrow fennel, carrots and spring onions.

Photo from rootedgypsyfarm.com

4. Use Apple Peels to Make Tea, Garnish Salads or to Make a Strong Cleaning Product

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially during these cold, blustery months. But apple peels on their own are true forces of nature; the undiscussed rulers of the re-purposing kingdom. Their uses are countless! When boiled with a little bit of cinnamon, they make a lovely, soothing tea that aids digestion. Cut them into thin strips to make a fancy salad garnish, or use them to boost the fibre content of your morning smoothies and pancakes.

You can also make apple cider vinegar by seeping the peels in a container with sugar. The process is lengthy, as apples take up to 3 months to ferment. But seeing apple cider vinegar can be expensive, if you can be bothered with some minimal DIY, you can end up saving quite a bit of cash! They also produce an easy-to-make, super-effective natural cleaning product. Put in a pan with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes. This will allow the acid from the apples to seep into the water, which works wonders on tough stains on aluminium surfaces.

5. Ferment Pineapple Rinds into Golden Wine

Pineapple is not exactly in season and is definitely not native to our cold, northern regions. A considerable amount of CO2 emissions are produced to ship (or fly) pineapples from Latin American, African or Asian shores. However, if you can’t live without them, make sure to re-purpose the rind to make a tart, exotic wine. Tepache is a pleasant, slightly-effervescent popular drink from pre-Columbian Mexico. In the native Nahuatl language, Tepache means “made from corn”, but the modern recipe uses pineapple rinds.

Rinse the rind from any dust, place in a container with some pulp and a cup of sugar of your choice (we prefer dark sugar). Add cloves, cinnamon sticks and star anise to your preference, then fill up the container with about a quarter of water. Add Brewer’s yeast if you want to increase the final alcohol content and finally, cover loosely with a cheesecloth. In our cold climate, it might take up to a week for the rind to ferment properly. It’s important to make sure you’re using organic pineapple. Fertilizers on the rinds will prevent the fermentation process, as well as potentially harm your health.

6. Transform Banana Skin into Plant Fertilizer

Don’t slip on a banana skin by throwing it away! It’s full of nutrients which your home and garden plants are in need of. In fact, banana skins are ripe with phosphorus, calcium, potassium… the list ranges far and wide. Remove any brand stickers, chop into small pieces (this will help kickstart the composting process), and add to your plants’ soil. If you’re planting new seeds and want to speed up the growing process, bury a whole banana peel close by. It will give them that extra injection of nutrients they need. A “banana tea” will have a similar fertilizing effect. Just add the skins to a jar or a pan with water, let rest for 48 hours, and pour the tea onto your plants. Don’t forget to dispose of the banana peel in a compost!

If you’re passionate about food waste and have been thinking of volunteering, why not check out an awesome London-based charity that re-purposes surplus food into 3-course meals for vulnerable adults! You can read more about them here.

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