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11 Kitchen Hacks to Cut Down on Food Waste in the Tastiest Way

Food
11 Kitchen Hacks to Cut Down on Food Waste in the Tastiest Way
Thomas_EyeDesign / E+ / Getty Images

By Douglas Donnellan

With growing awareness of how food waste affects the environment, many conscious eaters are looking for ways to reduce their impact. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the global greenhouse gas emissions from food waste are larger than those of all countries except for China and the U.S. Part of curbing those emissions may take many revolutionary changes in the food system, but individuals can also reduce their own foodprint by using every part of their grocery store haul.


What might be viewed as waste, or even the traditionally less-valued part of an ingredient, can have big flavor and nutrition that home cooks may be ignoring. Preventable food waste also carries a hefty price tag. Data from the Natural Resources Defense Council shows that it costs the average U.S. household of four US$1,800 per year. According to the Australian Government, food waste costs its economy roughly US$14 billion per year while adding millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Considering a nose-to-tail, fin-to-fin and leaf-to-root approach may not only help lower the environmental burden from food waste, but can also add new and exciting flavors to everyday meals without breaking the bank­ — or the trash bin. Below is a list of 11 underrated parts of foods to help get the most out of your grocery shop.

1. Vegetable Leaves

Carrot tops are often discarded, but they can actually deliver a flavorful and nutritional punch. Chop the leaves finely for this tabbouleh salad, or use them in this waste-free pesto recipe. The same techniques can be used for many other forgotten leaves, such as beet and radish greens, even if they're no longer firm. Steven Satterfield, head chef of Miller Union and mindful eating advocate, states in an interview with Arts ATL, "I see it as a cook's duty to honor the farmer's hard work [from seeding, irrigation, pruning and harvesting, to bringing a product to market] by making the most of what might be considered scraps." Try this recipe for radish green quiche from Satterfield's cookbook, Root to Leaf.

2. Herb Stems

Cilantro leaves can add great flavor and color to many Mexican and Thai dishes, but don't forget about the stems and roots! Most of the flavor is packed into them, and they are a staple in Thai curry pastes. Waste-conscious chefs interchange leaves with the thinly sliced stems in practically any dish. Parsley stems can also be used in the same way, or left whole to add flavor to a vegetable stock.

3. Bones and Fat

The low price and convenience of vegetable oils may be partly to blame for forgetting the value of rendered animal fats. Follow this guide from the permaculture blog, Milkwood, for creating a cooking oil that is full of flavor and made from the parts of meat that are often trimmed away and discarded. After you've trimmed the fat and meat, leftover bones can be used to make stock. This recipe calls for roasting chicken bones and vegetables before simmering in a pot of water. Stock freezes well, and can be used to elevate soups and sauces.

4. Root Vegetable Peels

Peeling potatoes for a smooth mash? Save those skins by turning them into a crispy garnish, similar to the classic potato chip. Rinse the starch off of the peels, dry, add salt and olive oil, and bake until lightly browned. Find a more detailed recipe from the Framed Cooks blog here.

5. Stale Bread

According to food rescue organization OzHarvest, bread is one of the top five wasted foods in Australia. The North London Waste Authority estimates that 254 million edible bread crusts are thrown away across London each year, but considering its versatility, there are many ways to keep bread from landfills. Bread that's been dried out won't make for the best sandwich, but it will make for a much better French toast. Have a food processor? Pulse stale bread to make breadcrumbs, and then use it to coat chicken or eggplant for a waste-free schnitzel. Also, croutons can be made with just about any type of stale bread and can add a hearty crunch to salads.

6. Fish

Western palates have often shied away from any part of the fish that isn't the fillet, but to do so may be a missed opportunity. Fish heads and collars are considered by many top chefs as the very best parts. Follow this guide for getting the most out of your fresh catch or out of what's available at your favorite fish monger. Fish head curry is an iconic dish in many parts of Asia for its great flavor and low cost. If the sight of a fish head is not for you, they can still be used to make seafood stocks and sauces by following this guide. One chef based in Sydney, Australia has been making waves in seafood by showing how to use scales and even eyes in decadent and refined dishes.

7. Bruised Fruit

An apple with a brown spot shouldn't spoil the bunch. Blenders don't mind how imperfect your fruit looks, so smoothies are always a great option for cutting down on waste while getting in some great nutrition. Have more than you can deal with? Follow this guide for making jam, and you'll have a delicious condiment that will keep for months.

8. Cheese and Cheese Rinds

The rind is a terrible thing to waste. The leftover end of a parmesan or pecorino wedge may not be great to grate over a salad or pasta, but it still has flavor locked away. Bring it out by simmering in a pot of soup or broth for a delicious savory, umami boost, or try out these other great applications.

9. Wine

According to a recent scientific review of viticulture in the Douro region published by Intech Open, wine can take a surprisingly large amount of fresh water to produce. Don't send it down the drain if it's been opened for too long. When oxidized, wine takes on a vinegar-like acidity, which may be a bad idea for pouring a glass, but an excellent choice for adding a zing to sauces. Deglazing a pan with a cup of even an older wine can still bring delicious results. Have more leftover wine than you need to make a bolognese sauce? Try this recipe for poached pears with red wine caramel.

10. Broccoli and Cauliflower Stalks

After cutting florets from a head of broccoli or cauliflower, remember that the stalks and stems are just as tasty and nutritious with only a little extra attention. Slice the stems and stalks thinly and add them to the rest of the vegetables for more volume and texture diversity, without emptying your wallet or filling your bin. Otherwise, check out these other great uses for vegetable stalks.

11. Citrus Peels

Before squeezing limes, lemons, oranges, or other citrus fruits, consider the many uses of their peels. Full of vitamin C and flavor, the zest can add brightness to desserts, marinades, and sauces. If you find you'll have way more peel than can be used in a sitting, try this recipe for your own homemade lemon pepper seasoning. Another option would be to dehydrate the peels, keep them in the cupboard, and sprinkle in place of a squeeze of the same fruit. See how with this guide.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Food Tank.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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