Plate-Wise •  11/23/2020

Leftover luxe: Because food upcycling happens not only in the kitchen

Written By Mandy Wiley 
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Cut-open lemons with a drawing of a spray bottle and bubbles in the background

Earlier this year, panic buying led to surreal scenes at supermarkets and grocery stores, with shelves stripped bare, and fruit and vegetables left untouched in favor of nonperishable items. In our quest to stock up for tough times, we’re buying more, but unfortunately, we are also wasting more.

Some sobering food waste statistics:

  • One-third of all food produced is lost or wasted — around 1.3 billion tonnes of food — costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year.1
  • Almost half of all fruit and vegetables produced are wasted (that’s 3.7 trillion apples).2

What if there was a way to make our leftovers tasty, but also reuse them in a way that brings greater abundance, better skin and cleaner homes? Cue food upcycling.

Food upcycling tips

There are plenty of great sources to help us use our leftovers in everything from stocks, broths and soups, to creative salads and vegetable mashes for the freezer. A quick Google search for recipes for leftovers will leave you spoiled for choice.

But did you know that your leftovers can be upcycled outside of the kitchen, as well? Here are some creative tips I picked up from an awesome organization, called Move for Hunger.

  • Fruit as cleaners. We all know that lemon juice has powerful bleaching and cleaning properties, but did you know that the acid in apples also makes them a great cleaner? Simply add water and apple peels to a dirty pan. Let the water simmer in the pot on the stove for 20 minutes and then rinse.
  • Pickles. For a great, healthy snack, add leftover veggies to your leftover pickling juice. Marinated veggies make a delicious addition to a crudité platter.
  • ·Skin care. Those old coffee grinds can actually have a home in your bathroom, rather than your trash. Add a little olive oil, and use them as a great all-over body exfoliator to give your skin a fresh glow. Cold, used tea bags and cucumber rounds also make great, soothing compresses for sore, tired, baggy eyes. Keep a couple in the fridge to use after a long day, or the day after a long night!
  • Sour milk. Ick, right? Actually, not so ick when it comes to upcycling. Before rinsing your silverware with warm water, soak them in some expired sour milk for a shiny clean. The enzymes in sour milk can help clean your septic tank, so if you have one, pour it down into the toilet! Pouring sour milk at the base of your plants or garden make a great fertilizer.

Other ways to reduce food waste

Sometimes, however, if food is left too long, it is simply no longer safe nor desirable to eat, pickle, pulverise or polish. It’s then that we need to get creative to avoid sending food waste to landfills, which, when broken down anaerobically (without oxygen), it produces a massive amount of methane.3

Why not keep those fruit and veggie scraps to start a worm farm? Starting a worm farm can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also that wonderful worm waste is an indulgent treat for your plants. For tips on how to start yours, visit Sustainable Gardening Australia.

So, whether you’re pickling, pulverising, polishing, adding a healthy glow or cleaning stubborn stains, remember that your best friend can be sitting in the kitchen, just waiting to be creatively upcycled!

1Gustavsson, J. et al. 2011. Global Food Losses and Food Waste.

2Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2012. SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction.

3Tuton, H., 2020. Worms and Worm Farms.