Zero-Waste Menu No 4: The Use-It-Up Menu

All of the recipes in my zero-waste menu series can be produced without generating trash—assuming you have access to farmer’s markets and bulk bins. This menu focuses on eliminating food waste in particular. It’s the use-it-all-up-now-before-it-goes-bad menu.

The dishes featured here call for typical ingredients that need to be consumed quickly in order to avoid wasting them:

  • Stale bread
  • Still perfectly edible vegetables languishing in the back of the refrigerator
  • Leftover bits of this and that such as cooked rice or pasta
  • The remnants of ingredients you bought for recipes that didn’t call for quite the entire amounts you purchased
  • Discarded sourdough starter
  • Other leftover dishes that you can easily transform into new ones

The Menu


French toast


Minestrone soup


Clear-out-the-fridge frittata

Sauerkraut or kimchi on the side


Sourdough crackers and dip

The Recipes

Breakfast: French toast

bread purchased in a reusable cloth bag
Store bought bread purchased in a homemade cloth bag

You say stale bread, I say delicious breakfast in minutes.

I sometimes buy my daughter bread from a store near me that sells it loose. I simply plop the loaf into a homemade cloth bag and bring it home—wasting neither paper nor plastic. The bread tastes delicious but unlike homemade sourdough bread, which keeps for up to a week, begins to dry out in one day. That makes it perfect for French toast.

I don’t measure anything for French toast and merely eyeball the amounts. I whisk together an egg, some milk, a splash of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon in a pie plate (a shallow dish results in evenly coated bread), dip in the slices of stale bread one or two at a time to soak up some egg mixture, turn the slices over to saturate the other sides of the bread and fry until golden. I serve French toast with either maple syrup or powdered sugar and lemon juice.

I haven’t tried this vegan French toast recipe but it looks good.

Lunch: Minestrone soup

minestrone soup

I make lots of soup. Soup not only serves as an efficient vegetable-delivery vehicle, it also enables you to use up lots of food at once: vegetables that you must eat as soon as possible, random mystery beans in the pantry, leftover pasta and rice, and bits of meat and cheese if you eat meat and cheese.

You can find my recipe for minestrone soup here.

Dinner: Clear-out-the-fridge frittata

With this entire menu focusing on using up food on hand, by the time you start dinner, you may actually have run out of food to use up. I’m merely trying to give you ideas. You can find more ideas in menu no 1, menu no 2 and menu no 3.

vegetable frittata
Vegetable frittata with this and that: leek, cauliflower, mushrooms, orange bell pepper and parsley

Here is my recipe for frittata. If like my teenager you believe frittata is simply quiche without the best part—the crust—make a crust. Serve this with sauerkraut or kimchi on the side and get your daily does of probiotics.

Vegans, sorry, I can’t think of a vegan alternative to this. Without the eggs, this dish is roasted vegetables, more of a side dish than an entrée.

About my eggs: I buy pastured eggs either from the farmers I live with or at the farmer’s market. Those hens roam around and eat what hens were meant to eat. Speaking of which, I’m in Canada as I type this and helped look after my sister’s chickens this morning. They live in a chicken palace.

deluxe hen house

Canadian chicken
“Funny how? How am I funny?”
Fresh eggs we collected at dusk
Fresh eggs we collected at dusk

Snack: Sourdough crackers and dip

sourdough cracker class

Some of my other recipes that call for discard (like the sourdough pizza, which I haven’t written up yet, and the soft sourdough pretzels, which I have) work best with fairly young discard—a couple of days old maximum. These crackers work well with old starter. The older, the cheesier (the crackers taste cheesy but contain no cheese). So think of them as your go-to use-up-your-discard-don’t-throw-it-out recipe. You can find the recipe here.

Dips are also a great way to rescue food. Last week I had both hummus and homemade salsa in the refrigerator that I felt we better gobble up quickly (the hummus was over a week old). I combined the two and the result tasted so delicious, I scarfed down the entire dish all by myself—no food wasted (or shared…oops…). I bought some beets before I left and will have to cook them when I return. I’ll toss them in my pressure cooker (cooks beets to perfection in about 10 minutes, longer if they are larger) and throw them into a new large batch of hummus. If you made the pesto from menu no 3 and have a bit left, that makes a tasty dip too.

Bon appétit!

8 Replies to “Zero-Waste Menu No 4: The Use-It-Up Menu”

  1. While your menu looks swell, I think my favorite thing I learned is actually from your sister… ?The shredded paper bedding. Having just attempted going zero waste-ish this year, I’m struggling a bit with buying their food and bedding… both come with plastic. I found some feed in bulk, but come to find out, I comes from the same plastic bag I’ve been buying, but nearly 2x the price, no net change in waste consumed.
    Thanks for the post and the pictures!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I thought the bedding was brilliant too. My sister brings shredded paper home from work so it’s super resourceful and she doesn’t have to shred it all up herself. It’s just sitting there for the taking. The hens like it too. She also has those big bags of feed. I love bulk bins but you’re right about the packaging. The stuff doesn’t just magically appear in the bulk bins. If you buy huge amounts, you may as well just buy the giant bag yourself. Thanks for checking out the post 🙂

  2. My hero. Thanks for these!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks for checking them out 🙂

  3. I make vegan frittata using gram flour instead of eggs. You coud also use tofu.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks so much for that tip Annastasia. ~ Anne Marie

  4. Thank you for sharing. You call it “Clear out the fridge frittata”, in our house it is known and “fridge love” …. “cupboard love: is often on the menu also 🙂

  5. I only know how to freestyle cook lol- no other way to make a use-what-you-have menu! Great post! I see you didn’t include meatloaf, probably because you eat little meat, but it’s a great way to use bits and bobs, cooked or uncooked – just mince the leftovers ( not fish,broccoli,or strong flavors like fennel) and mix with the ground meat before baking.

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