6 (Actually Good) Food Waste Ideas From Social Media
Between the viral tomato-feta pasta, the great butter board frenzy of 2022 and the amorphous, questionably named theory of “girl dinner,” there’s no denying that social media has become crucial to many people’s culinary education. And for all its flaws — did we mention “girl dinner”? — it’s also where you’ll find some of the most exciting and innovative cooking happening today.
That includes the chefs and recipe developers across TikTok and Instagram who make a point to talk about food waste, sharing how they make use of scraps or preserve ingredients before they go bad. Read on for some food-waste principles from some of our favorite creators, and be sure to follow @foodprintorg on Instagram for more sustainable cooking content.
Make It Crispy-Crunchy
Sometimes, texture gets in the way of using up certain odds and ends — but the right treatment can make skins and peels into a crackly snack or transform stalks from tough to crunchy.
Chef Sophia Roe (@sophia_roe on TikTok and IG) roasts the papery skins of onion and garlic until they crisp up into fragrant chips. (Vegetable peelings work, too). The outer leaves of a cauliflower become a textural treat when battered and baked. Leftover roasted vegetables getting mushier by the day? Fry them into a vegetable pancake, such as okonomiyaki. Even banana peels can transform into a savory bacon substitute.
If something feels too fibrous to eat, it’s worth seeing what happens if you cut it smaller or slice it thin. Cauliflower leaves also work great julienned into a crunchy slaw, as do broccoli stems. Alessandro Vitale, aka @spicymoustache (@_spicymoustache_ on IG), has a trick for turning the tough shells of the fava bean into crispy falafel: Throw them into a food processor with chickpeas, herbs and aromatics, then shape and fry in oil for a golden crust. Crisp up the beans in the oven for a snack on the side.
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Infuse, Infuse, Infuse
Even scraps you wouldn’t eat on their own can still lend some of their flavor (and nutrients) to something new. Check out the FoodPrint guide to infusion to learn more about this versatile technique.
You’ve probably heard of saving carrot tops, onion skins and celery leaves for a future broth — why not do it with corn cobs? After steaming squash, Ronna Welsh of Purple Kale Kitchenworks (@purplekalekitchenworks on TikTok and IG) uses the pulp and seeds to make a flavorful squash stock. Wes Martin, culinary manager at Milk Street (@177milkstreet on TikTok and IG), uses fibrous but fragrant leek tops to create a green, grassy butter; blitzing them in a food processor and sauteing until soft before infusing helps diminish any bitterness or bite.
This kind of flavor extraction lends itself especially well to drinks. Make a citrusy soda by steeping your rinds into a syrup and topping with sparkling water. Forager Alexis Nikole Nelson (@alexisnikole, @blackforager) regularly brews traditional teas — including with wild strawberry leaves, sometimes used in herbal medicine, and apple or cherry blossoms — reminding us just how many plants (and parts) we can use.
YALL ASKED! Strawberry Leaf Tea! 🍓🌱🍵💕
Pesto Solves Everything
While we typically use “pesto” to refer to the fragrant basil-based sauce, Italian cuisine actually has several regional variations; the word means something akin to “pounded” (the word “pestle” is an etymological cousin). Pesto is easy to riff on and a great way to break up tough bits or mask any bitterness — everything tastes good when you add olive oil and garlic.
Is your spinach starting to wilt? Spinach pesto doesn’t care. Recipe developer Pierce Abernathy (@pierzza, @pierceabernathy) makes a bright green variation with dandelion leaves, stems included, blanching them first to soften both flavor and texture. You can try it with thick-stemmed greens like chard or kale — or with discards like radish and carrot tops, as recommended by avid gardener Joe Clark (@joesgarden and @joesgarden.official), or broccoli stems. In Italy, even leftover lemon zest can become pesto with an assist from almonds and parmesan.
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Resuscitate Stale Bread
First of all, did you know you can bring stale bread back from the brink? Kathryn Kellogg (@goingzerowaste_, @going.zero.waste) shows us how with just water and a microwave. But if you’d rather repurpose, social media chefs offer plenty of ways to teach an old loaf new tricks — most of them grounded in age-old techniques.
Cube it up for croutons or a summer panzanella, a favorite of food blogger Jamie Milne (@everything_delish on TikTok and IG). Instead of buying breadcrumbs in a box, consider making your own. Stale bread is also a thickener in many traditional sauces and soups. Chef Alison Mountford (@itschefalison, @endsandstems) goes for a Tuscan ribollita: Even the hardest of bread will eventually lend a comforting creaminess to this kale and white bean classic. For more ideas, check out the FoodPrint guide to using up a leftover loaf.
Replying to @Maria 🌎 Stale bread croutons! 🥖🍞 The ingredients: – Old bread – Olive oil – Rosemary – Salt and pepper to taste Directions: 1. Toss your bread chunks in olive oil and spices 2. Bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes The bigger the chunks the longer the bake. Have you ever revived stale bread before? #zerowaste #sustainable #ecofriendly #stalebread #foodwaste #nofoodwaste #diycroutons #scrappycooking #foodwastesolution
Make an Ice Cube
Freezing is one of the easiest ways to prevent food from going to waste — as long as you actually use it later. Freezing strategically can make that easier than ever.
When he heard from his viewers that their leafy greens often go to waste, “You Can Cook This!” author Max La Manna (@maxlamanna on TikTok and IG) suggested a way to preserve them while still fresh: blending them with a touch of water and freezing in an ice cube tray for use in curries, stews or smoothies. He also uses the technique for leftover citrus — rind included — to add color and flavor to mixed drinks. You can do the same with wilting herbs or ginger threatening to get wrinkly. We at FoodPrint (@foodprintorg) recently shared this trick for freezing ice inside a juiced lemon, making it much easier to zest when you need it.
✋🏼🌱🚯today is stop food waste day ✋🏼Are you going to waste less food? Yes or No? 👇🏼And tell me which ingredient you waste the most? TOP 3️⃣ TIPS TO WASTE LESS FOOD •Cook the food you already before buying more food •Plan your meals in advance •Store food properly and use your freezer more often 👉🏼📗My new cookbook YOU CAN COOK THIS! shows you subtle ways to waste less food, save time and money. 👉🏼Get your copy today – link in bio #stopfoodwasteday #zerowaste #easyrecipes #lifehacks #vegan #sustainability
Make More of It
Chances are you caught wind in the past few years that people were regrowing their grocery-store scallions — and maybe you even tried it yourself. Social media chefs have applied the same principle to all sorts of stemmed green things, including herb cuttings; cookbook author Anne-Marie Bonneau (@zerowastechef on IG) even pulled it off with leeks. Low-food-waste TikToker Brennan Kai Coker (@brennan.kai, @brennankai) successfully sprouted the end of a celery bunch for an “infinite celery loop.” Experiment with your favorite vegetables and you may never run out again.
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Top photo by NCirmu/Adobe Stock.