Transform your food scraps into treasure

I don’t think I’m alone when I say the saddest place in my home at the end of the week is my fridge.

Limp carrots, wilted herbs and half a lemon I optimistically saved are now all looking a bit worse for wear.

Unfortunately, these are usually all headed for the bin.

Figures suggest that 35 per cent of the average Australian household rubbish is food waste.

To put that into perspective, we collectively throw away five million tonnes of food each year. Roughly enough to fill 9000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

That’s a lot.

It may be surprising to learn that a lot of the food you throw away is actually completely usable. And actively reducing the amount of food you waste can lead to new recipes and ways to use food that you’ve never thought of before.

Here’s our list.

Transform your scraps

Make a broth
Save all of your vegetable and meat scraps to make a tasty broth that will be better than any you could buy in a store.

Save carrot peels, celery leaves, onions skins, mushroom stems, or any other vegetable scraps and freeze them until you accumulate a good portion.

Boil these scraps in water with any herb or flavouring agent you fancy, strain, and enjoy.

You can do the same thing by simmering meat scraps, carcasses and bones to create beef, pork or chicken stock.

Use fruit peels to make infused olive oils, liquors or water.

The peels or zest of oranges, lemons, grapefruits, lime, and tangerines work best, but feel free to experiment. The longer you leave the peel in the substance, the stronger the flavour will be.

Just strain the liquid before use and enjoy!

Read more: Turn your favourite gin into something extra special

Grow something new
You may be surprised to learn that you can regrow many common vegetables from scraps, including:

  • potatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • onions, garlic, leeks and shallots
  • celery
  • bulb fennel
  • carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets and other root crops
  • lettuce, bok choi and other leafy greens
  • cabbages
  • basil, mint, coriander and other herbs.

You simply put the cut-off bottom in a dish so the base is sitting in water and wait for the roots to grow; when they do, plant it out.

Keep your coffee grounds
Coffee grounds are useful for more than just providing you with that life-saving dose of caffeine.

They serve as an extremely effective fertiliser in potted plants and gardens, a flavourful component of homemade steak rubs, and even a great base for homemade scented candles.

Read more: How to make your coffee healthier

Use stems, stalks and leaves
We’re taught to cook in a way where we chop the tops and bottoms off of vegies and put them directly in the bin. However, we can get maximum flavour out of all of these things with a little work and know-how.

If you happen to buy carrots with carrot tops, you’ve paid for them so you might as well use them. Why not try out this carrot top pesto or chop them up and sprinkle over soups.

Broccoli stems are another thing that’s perfectly edible, but we often don’t think twice about throwing them away. Try broccoli stem hummus or include them in a soup.

Obviously, anything mouldy should go straight in the compost but there can be a lot of life left in past-their-prime vegies.

Get pickling
After you eat the last pickle in the jar, don’t pour that juice down the drain. Instead, throw any other vegetable in the brine and restart the pickling process. You can use a variety of vegies like canned green beans, artichokes, onions, cucumbers, and even hardboiled eggs.

You’re going to be left with some food scraps that just cannot be transformed, this is where composting and worm farms come into play.

Compost is one of the best ways to fertilise garden soil because it’s free and natural.

Read more: Innovative ways companies are tackling food waste

If you don’t have the time or space for your own compost, a new green initiative is being rolled out across some parts of Australia and it’s set to slash the amount of food waste ending up in landfill.

Food Organics, Garden Organics
FOGO is a cost-effective way for councils to collect food waste and compost it into a nutrient-rich product. 

Users of this free service will receive a FOGO kitchen caddy along with compostable liners and an outside FOGO bin.

What goes in the FOGO BIN?
Basically, if it was alive, it goes in the FOGO bin. Uncooked foods such as eggshells, vegie peels, meat, nuts and seeds are accepted, along with cooked and baked goods such as bread, dairy, rice and kitchen scraps. Raw bones are okay whereas cooked bones are not.

Garden clippings such as dead flowers, leaves, twigs and branches are okay. Even greasy paper plates, napkins, tissues, bags and newspaper are accepted.

No plastic packaging at all (even if it’s recyclable) and coffee cups, pods, tea bags and butter wrappers must stay out.

You basically put all of the approved items into your kitchen caddy. When it’s full tie the bag and place it in the outside FOGO bin, just like you do with your household rubbish.

To prevent smells, it’s recommended to keep your bin in the shade, layer food waste between garden waste and never overfill the bin.

Unfortunately, many councils have been slow to adopt this great new service, with it only being available in limited parts of Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania.

The latest area to have implemented FOGO is Randwick in Sydney but it’s hoping to expand exponentially.

It could be a great way to achieve the National 80 per cent diversion from landfill target (by 2030) and real greenhouse gas reductions, but a lot more people need to get on board.

What do you do with your food scraps? Do you have the FOGO bin?

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Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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