15 More Creative Ideas for Food Scraps

a bin of free cauliflower leaves from the farmers' market

Today, Stop Food Waste Day in the US, seemed like a good day to share ideas for using up every bit of the food we buy. I sort of hesitate to call these bits scraps. Like weeds are plants, scraps are food. The terms all depend on your perspective.

1. Roast the cauliflower leaves

When I post my roasted cauliflower leaves on social media, I hear one of two reactions:

  1. You can eat those?
  2. People don’t eat those?

Often, vendors at my farmers’ market fill a bin with free cauliflower leaves. Many shoppers don’t want them. If I get a pile of these for free, I’ll toss them in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast them.

a bin of free cauliflower leaves from the farmers' market
Free cauliflower leaves from the farmers’ market
cauliflower leaves prepped for roasting in a cast iron pan
Cauliflower leaves prepped for roasting

When I buy cauliflower with the leaves still attached, I remove the green leafy parts from any thick white ribs, cut those ribs up and roast them along with the florets. The greens go into something else, like soup or a pot pie. Roasted cauliflower tastes delicious with fresh rosemary added during roasting, and a small amount of preserved lemon added near the end of roasting. Also be sure to cut up the core and roast that along with the florets and rib pieces. As with other leaves, I eat organic cauliflower leaves as they contain fewer pesticide residues. (Go here for a homemade produce wash that can remove some pesticide residues.)

roasted cauliflower and cauliflower food scraps
Roasted cauliflower florets, core and ribs of leaves

2. Make turnip top pasta

I make this green pasta with either the greens from turnip tops or radishes. I steam the leaves, puree them and then add them to the dough to render a pretty green color. Top the pasta with pesto made from various greens—more radish or turnip tops blended with spinach, for example; carrot tops with kale; or classic basil pesto—and you’ve made a delicious, low-waste meal. Go here for the turnip-top pasta recipe.

3. Eat the entire apple

Eat your way from the bottom of your apple to the top or, if you prefer to slice apples before eating them, slice them crosswise. You won’t even notice the core. The core is an illusion. People get into heated debates on my social media feeds as to whether or not we should consume apple seeds because they do contain tiny amounts of arsenic. Eating the seeds of one apple will not likely kill you.

Eat the whole apple

4. Eat these seeds

Save your pumpkin and squash seeds, toss them in a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and, if desired, spices. Roast them in the oven and eat by the handful or garnish pumpkin or squash soup that you made with the vegetable’s flesh. Go here for the directions.

5. Save all your bean broth

I love my pressure cooker. It cooks soaked beans to perfection in mere minutes. If I need to drain them for a recipe, I reserve the broth for soup or dal or anything else calling for broth. If I’ve cooked black beans without salt, I’ll substitute the broth for the water in my sourdough vegan chocolate cake. The cake also tastes delicious with a tablespoon of orange zest tossed in.

6. Simmer corn cobs, silks and husks for broth

Broth made out of corn cobs, silks and husks—the parts we don’t ordinarily use—tastes amazing. I use this in the Kernel-to-Cob Corn Chowder recipe in my book. Go here for the instructions to make this scrappy broth.

7. Regrow it!

You can easily regrow green onions. When prepping, reserve about one inch of the white ends with the roots, submerge those in water and after the green parts have regrown a bit, plant the onions in a pot of soil, either indoors or out, or plant directly in the soil outside. Basil also works well. Go here for a post on growing basil from cuttings.

8. Dehydrate nut and seed milk pulp

After making nut or seed milk, I dehydrate the leftover pulp in the oven, run the dried pulp through a food processor and use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator or freezer. I add a few spoonfuls of this dehydrated pulp to various recipes—biscotti, pancakes, cookies, quick breads… Go here for more details on dehydrating pulp.

9. Bake with okara

For me, the most difficult part of making tofu from scratch comes from the what-do-I-do-with-this-pile-of-okara dilemma. When you make tofu, you render a small amount of it and a huge pile of leftover soybean pulp. I like to toss it into baked granola. That makes quick work of a couple of cups at a time. It also makes delicious biscotti. Go here for the okara biscotti recipe.

10. Preserve lemon rinds

Save the rinds from juiced lemons. If you have a jar of preserved lemons on the go or you have saved the brine—good for you for holding onto that by the way—stuff your rinds in. Keep the jar on the counter at room temperature. The lemon rinds are ready to eat when they have softened, in as little as a week.

11. Make Limoncello

When I recently prepared several jars of preserved lemons, before juicing additional lemons to top my jars stuffed with lemons, I peeled some of these lemons. I then submerged those peels in vodka for four weeks, strained them and added the infused alcohol to a simple sugar syrup. I store my finished limoncello in the freezer. Go here for the full, glorious limoncello recipe.

three bottles of limoncello made out of lemon peels to use up all the food scraps
Limoncello straight out of the freezer

12. Bake disappearing limoncello mixed-nut biscotti

I make this fabulous biscotti with my homemade limoncello, lemon zest squirreled away in the freezer and a bit of dehydrated nut or seed milk pulp. They taste amazing. Go here for the recipe.

Other uses for food scraps

13. Spent coffee grounds

Spent coffee grounds actually are edible—add a bit to recipes like brownies for flavor. Or you can toss them directly onto the soil in your garden. The roses in my previous home thrived with the addition of spent coffee grounds.

Before I started dumping coffee grounds on the soil beneath these roses, they did not look this healthy

14. Eggshells

Your soil and compost love these as well as coffee grounds. You can also dry eggshells, grind them up in a high-speed blender and use them to clean your sink. Go here for instructions.

15. Avocado pits

Avocado pits (or stones) render a beautiful dusty rose colored dye. Save them, clean them, simmer them and dye fabric in the pot. Go here for an article in the New York Times that outlines the process. Similarly, onion skins make a lovely subdued orange color. Food dyes rendered from food scraps deserve their own blog post.


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10 Replies to “15 More Creative Ideas for Food Scraps”

  1. lifeofanearthmuffin says: Reply

    Great tips! I think making veggie broth with scraps is such a great way to reuse them.
    Jenna ♥
    Life of an Earth Muffin

  2. Wonderful! Some of these I already practice but some are new to me. Okara! Never knew it had a name and I usually just composted it; now I can use it for baking, awesome! <3

    1. Hi Jane,
      I’m glad you like this tip. I’ve also made kimchi stew with okara but need to perfect that recipe. The last batch was pretty tasty though.
      ~ Anne-Marie

    1. Thank you Dorothy!
      ~ Anne-Marie

  3. Great tips, thanks.
    But I wonder about baking soda produce wash – is it reusable? Or do you need to discard it after soaking every product?

  4. Great tips, thank you 🙂

    1. Thank you Paola. I’m glad you find them useful.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  5. As someone who’s been collecting onion skins for a couple of years now (but hasn’t yet fired up a dye pot), I’m definitely looking forward to that eventual post on dyeing with food scraps!

    While I’m here, I’ll add my thanks for your book. I’ve read it from cover to cover as soon as it came out. It’s nice to have it on hand as an offline reference for recipes that were already old faves, and there are quite a few I’ve got my eye on that I’m sure will soon be new favorites too.

  6. I would like to eat vegatable with pepper

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