Cleaning & Organizing
13+ Steps to a Zero-Waste Kitchen
Reduce, reuse, recycle: These expert tips will help you find new ways to cut waste in the kitchen.
1. Regrow Veggies.
Strange but true: Scallions will regrow from their white ends. Just put them in a glass of water and let them get some sunlight. You can snip the green ends every few days for practically endless seasoning.
2. Say “Cheese” to Milk.
It can be hard to finish a whole gallon of milk before it expires, but don’t wait for it to curdle. Instead, set some aside and make cottage cheese.
3. Reuse Your Daily Grind.
Used coffee grounds can keep ants away. Plus, they can get rid of odors, stimulate your potted plants, and more, making them worth holding onto.
4. Put Peels Out for Pests.
Orange peels can actually be put to good use, especially if it’s summer. Insects like mosquitoes and ants will stay away if you grind them up, and they can get rid of musty smells.
5. Bake Up Bruised Fruit.
Overripe, very dark bananas make for flavorful banana bread. Instead of throwing them out, bake them into a great dessert.
6. Give Stale Snacks Some Bite.
There’s no need to toss old chips. Stale snacks can be crisped up in the microwave—just put them on a microwave-safe plate and nuke on full power for 10 seconds.
7. Crisp Up Your Crusts.
You can make leftover pizza crust crispy again, but don’t use the microwave. Instead, put your soggy slices on a skillet for 4-5 minutes on medium heat—make a rounded lid out of aluminum foil to make sure the toppings get toasty, too.
8. Cool Down with an Ice “Pop”.
Flat soda isn’t so great to drink, but it can make for a tasty treat with a little patience. Pour some in an ice cube tray, stick toothpicks in each space, and enjoy your treats after they freeze.
9. Rethink Yesterday’s Loaf.
Don’t waste old, dry bread. As long as it won’t chip a tooth, you can chop it up, sauté it with spices, and make croutons for salads or soup.
10. Liquor? Now, Thicker.
istock/ © Kamil Karpiel
You can kick up the quality of vodka with a simple water filter. It won’t completely transform what you have in the cabinet, but filtering can make less expensive brands taste better.
11. Look Twice at Rice.
Think before pitching rice if it’s been sitting in your cupboard for a few months. It can be used to dry electronics if you ever get them wet—just put the device in a bowl of the dry grains for 24 hours.
12. Banish Sponge Bacteria.
Your old sponge might look like it belongs in the trash, but two minutes in the microwave will kill more than 99% of the germs on it, making it good as new. Be sure to get it wet first.
13. Celery Care 101
Celery is all about crispness, so when it starts to go soft, you may as well throw it out. Right? Not necessarily. Try this first: Put limp stalks in a bowl of cold water with a few slices of raw potato. After an hour or so in this starchy bath, the stalks may deliver the crunch you expect.
And while even crisp celery may turn brown, you can stop browning before it starts. Before storing the stalks in the fridge, soak them for 30 minutes in 1 quart cold water mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice—a trick that will also crisp celery just before it’s served.
14. Get the Most Out of a Lemon
When a recipe calls for a few drops of lemon, don’t slice the lemon and squeeze. Simply puncture the rind with a toothpick and gently squeeze out the small amount of juice you need. Then cover the hole with a piece of tape and store the lemon in the fridge for later use. Waste not, want not!
15. Oiled Eggs
Prolong the life of fresh eggs by dipping a paper towel into vegetable oil and rubbing the shells before storing the eggs in the fridge. The oil will keep the eggs fresh for an additional three to four weeks.
16. A Surplus of Spuds?
If you find you’ve peeled too many potatoes for a potato salad or casserole, don’t toss the uncooked extras. Put them in a bowl, cover with cold water, and add a few drops of vinegar. Now they will keep in the fridge for three to four days.
17. Brown-Bag Your Lettuce
Lettuce will keep longer if you transfer it from a plastic bag to a roomier paper bag before storing it in the refrigerator. Lettuce likes a little air, but don’t think that calls for removing the limp and discolored outermost leaves; they may not be pretty, but these leaves help keep the inner leaves crisper.
18. Last Stop? Compost.
When all else fails, composting your old fruits and veggies can help optimize the fertilizer you use for your garden. If you’re going to toss them anyway, put them to good use.