I’ve long been a fan of avoiding waste. It makes sense from an environmental point of view. It’s also an easy way to cut costs – particularly on ‘boring’ things that you may begrudge spending money on. Here are a few of my favourite ways to use things you might otherwise throw away.
I chop any large pieces down to go into chutneys (along with any leftover herbs, apple, rhubarb or plum), and plant spring onion ends, as they send up tasty shoots .
I save any suitable seeds to use in face scrubs – or plant them (though I don’t plant supermarket seeds,)
The remaining waste either becomes vegetable stock base (keep a bag in the freezer and top up with peelings as you go, then use when the bag is full) or dye (too many onion skins make stock bitter but they make a lovely brown dye for ageing paper.)
If there are any scraps that are beyond using, I put them into the compost.
One of the most commonly wasted items, turn stale bread into baked or fried croutons to have as an alternative to crisps. Season with garlic salt and fresh herbs, parmsan and balsamic glaze, chilli or celery salt.
You can also make autumn pudding. Line a loaf tin with bread (cut the crusts off and use for croutons) and fill with stewed autumn fruit – blackberry and apple works well (better yet if you use windfalls and foraged berries.) Put a bread topping on to seal the pudding, then wrap in foil and weigh down the top overnight.
Keep some stewed fruit juice aside to pour over your autumn pudding in case the juice hasn’t soaked into every bit of bread when you turn it out. Serve with clotted cream.
Don’t give ducks and other wildfowl bread. They’ll gobble it up but it’s bad for birds and waterways alike, and can stunt duck’s growth – or worse. Think of the ducklings…
Take the seeds out to plant, and save the cores in bags in the freezer to turn into pectin for jam making.
If you have leftover porridge, don’t throw it away – add more water to make a face wash. I find it incredibly skin softening (and if you have your porridge with honey, it’s an even nicer face wash).
If you have a few dry oats left in the bottom of a pack, throw them into crumble toppings, or toast them with sugar and nuts (watching very carefully), and sprinkle them on yoghurt.
Alternatively, add to vinegar and leave to steep. Use this to shine glass in a way I’ve never seen beaten (as long as you buff with newspaper – the best glass and mirror cleaning ‘cloth’ by far).
The citrus peel will help scent the vinegar. You can also use citrus vinegar on fish and chips.
Ever since I planted some seed leftovers after making jam and discovered they grew, despite being boiled, I’ve been washing seeds and saving them once I’ve separated them from jams and jellies.
I also collect dried flower heads and save the seeds, to make into wildflower mixes for bee-friendly festive gifts. The remaining seed heads can be used for crafting bouquets (great for an autumn wedding too – particularly when teamed with swan feathers, which can be collected along the canal and signify fidelity.)
Dry seeds thoroughly – mould is a seed-killer – then package them up in envelopes as gifts, or for seed swaps. If you have children, they can decorate envelopes for a touching gift – or let your inner artist out. Cutting pictures of the relevant plant from magazines is an easy option if art isn’t something that you naturally shine at. You can cut type out of magazines to label your plants too.
Turn your salvaged seeds into garden gift packs by packaging your seed packets with some recycled plant pots (they’re often left in skips, and can look good as new when washed), or newspaper pots; garden twine; compost discs; and a bottle top watering can.
While you should be very careful about reusing rice, and discard any that’s been at room temperature for more than two hours, if you pack cold rice in the fridge promptly, you can use it within the next few days; and if you freeze it, it will last longer.
Throw it into an omelette to make it more filling, or make an egg-fried rice with a handful of peas and any vegetable or meat scraps you have that need using up.
Alternatively, mix with egg (unless it’s risotto rice, which works fine without additional egg), shape it into a ball around cheese or a teaspoon of pasta sauce leftovers then dip in breadcrumbs, egg wash and more breadcrumbs and fry to make ‘Arancheapni’ (less delicious than Arancini but a great way to have a tasty zero waste snack). Serve with tomato sauce or salsa to cut through the creaminess.
Almost-Empty Jam Jars
Don’t let the last of the jam go to waste. Add your favourite spirit, shake and create your own fruit spirits for cocktails. And once the jam jars are clean, use them to fill with foraged jam. By saving your jam jars then foraging for produce, you can save yourself a fortune at Christmas, and give people wonderful hampers (with a story behind every item in the hamper).
I generally read online but if I receive catalogues or nature magazines, I save them for crafting. Decoupage (collage with pictures cut from magazines, layered and varnished to create a smooth surface) can be surprisingly effective, helping you turn battered old furniture into a statement piece.
You can also collage photo frames (cut a frame shape from thick cardboard, and back with another piece of card, leaving the bottom open so you can slide in a photo, then put a tag on the back to help the frame stand up, if you don’t have any tatty frames to cover).
Old magazines can also be used to create personalised greetings cards – or create your own magazine, by cutting out headlines and pasting words and stories that appeal to you.
Old magazines are also great for covering school text books – cut out images you like, then paste on to backing paper (whatever you have in the recycling box of an appropriate size.)
Cut a large bottle in half and upend the neck in the base to create a handy funnel with stand. This can be invaluable when making your own drinks, whether for straining or bottling.
You can also create a rain-gauge in a similar way – just weight down the base and add measurements to the side of the bottle.
Smaller bottles can be filled with oil and herbs to create massage oils. You can also use them for crafting, or creating bottle gardens. Try creating a herb garden from a group of plastic bottles of similar size.
I turn ready meal packaging into fairy or dinosaur gardens, and sow wildflower seeds to help the pollinators. While it’s better to avoid plastic as far as possible, sometimes ready meals are the only option (though a large and well stocked freezer can help you remove ready meal packaging from your life: just make your own ‘ready meals’ by freezing food in individual portions)
One of the most useful items for the household upcycler, tights can be used for everything from straining wine to making dolls, creating a heat-saving door stop to making fancy dress costumes. Never throw this super-versatile item away!
If towels have got beyond the point of being dyed (with natural dyes – easily made with leftovers from jam-making) I use them as ‘cleaning towels’ – surprisingly handy to have to hand when you spill things (an occupational hazard with foraging and cooking lots.)
Once they get threadbare, I cut old towels into squares and turn them into cleaning cloths, or use them to grow mustard and cress for salads. Finally, they go into compost when they’re too threadbare to do anything else with.
These are just a few of the things that you could be saving from landfill – while cutting your costs for cleaning products, food and crafting. Use #ZeroWasteWeek as an opportunity to get creative – and see how much money you can save… Join the
#zerowasteweek #tweetchat today at 9:45am BST.