BigOven’s Tips for Food Recyclingfood-recycling-tips

Waste not, want not. Ben Franklin coined the phrase over 200 years ago but its timelessness transcends generations as families budget for meals and recycling practices extend to food. In a “green” kitchen, with just a little time and patience you can creatively recycle many food products and byproducts you have routinely discarded in the past.


Some fruits like grapes and berries generate little or no waste, while others such as citrus fruits, apples, and melons often render more waste than food. Minimize what you throw out by using these tips and ideas.

  • Citrus Rinds – When you peel a juicy orange and the aroma of the rind makes your head swim with its intensity, it seems a shame to let that natural fragrance do nothing more than make the trash or garbage disposal smell nice. Instead, transform the rinds into tasty food products.
  • Candied Rinds – Cut the rinds of oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, and grapefruit into strips and gently boil them in syrup made from equal parts water and sugar until the liquid is absorbed. Toss the cooled, moist rinds with some white granulated sugar and let them air dry. Use them in fruitcakes, as a flavoring for hot or iced tea, or serve them plain as a simple, sweet ending to a meal.
  • Pickled Rinds – Lemon and orange rinds taste great when pickled in a solution vinegar, sugar, and spices on the refrigerator shelf. They don’t last as long as canned pickles but they’re a great accompaniment to spicy entrees and sandwiches. You can also pickle watermelon and pumpkin rinds in the same solution.
  • Marmalade – Although orange marmalade is the most popular type, the rinds of any citrus fruit make sweet spreads with tart bits of peel dispersed throughout. Another plus is that marmalade is typically easier to make than other fruit spreads like jams and jellies.
  • Vodka Infusion – Instead of paying extra for flavored vodka, make your own from plain vodka infused with citrus peels. Just divide the vodka into glass jars, leaving enough room for a handful of peels, and refrigerate until the desired flavor is reached. Strain the vodka through a sieve to remove any bits and pieces of rinds before serving.
  • Flavored Olive Oil – Adding strips of citrus peel to olive oil gives salad dressings a lift and adds a distinct light flavor to sautéed foods. You can make small bottles of oils with various citrus flavors for gifts using small cork stoppers and a ribbon flourish around the bottleneck.

Non-Citrus Fruits and Peels

Apples and pear byproducts have a milder flavor than those from citrus fruits but are still excellent sources for adding taste to foods and beverages.

  • Liquor Infusions – Reserve the cores of apples and pears used in cooking and baking and freeze them in a zippered food storage bag to prevent browning. Add them to brandy or vodka and let the flavors permeate the liquor for a month or two in the refrigerator.
  • Apple and Pear Peel Snacks – Lightly sprinkle the fleshy side of apple and pear peels with a cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake until crisp for afterschool snacks.
  • Jelly – Give apple or pear jelly a new look and added texture by adding chopped peels to the mixture.


Vegetable byproducts are a little harder to recycle but you’ll feel good knowing you’re keeping waste to a minimum with these two ideas.

  • Celery Leaves - When celery is sliced or chopped for soups, stews, and braising liquids, their delicate, flavorful leaves are often discarded because they lose visual appeal when they wilt. Use them fresh as a tender side salad, tossed with a light vinaigrette or sprinkle them on top of freshly grilled fish or poultry.
  • Corn Husks – Add a tropical touch to grilled fish and shellfish by wrapping them in fresh cornhusks before grilling. Use the moist inner leaves to minimize the grassy taste imparted into the food by the harder outer husks. Make your own tamale wraps by separating cornhusks and hanging them on a clothesline to air dry. When they are completely dried, store them in a zippered food storage bag in the refrigerator or freezer.

Use Up Leftovers

  • Be sure to try BigOven's handy "Use up Leftovers" search on our website and the free mobile apps.  Enter three ingredients from your fridge, freezer or pantry, and BigOven will serve up suggestions.


  • Many families compost their biodegradable food waste.  They end up with rich potting soil, and households that compost food waste generate far less trash to pick up, transport and process. It's great for your garden, the environment, and it saves money.


  • Cheese Rinds – When you get down to the hard, inedible rinds on grating cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano, it seems logical to discard them. Instead, put the rinds into a zipper-locked plastic bag, freeze them, and add one or two chunks to simmering pots of minestrone, tomato, or vegetable soup, or marinara or spaghetti sauce. As the ingredients simmer, the flavor of the cheese rinds infuses them. Remove the rinds before serving.
  • Coffee Grounds – While some use old coffee grounds to absorb and deter odors in the trash can under the sink, you can transform them into a light and frosty dessert. Carefully remove 1/2 cup of grounds from the filter and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them. Let steep for at least 8 minutes (the longer the steep, the richer the flavor). Strain the grounds through a clean coffee filter and add a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup sugar to the liquid. Pour the mixture into a metal pan for quick and even freezing. When it hardens, use a dinner fork to scrape the icy mixture into ramekins or shallow stemmed glasses for a delicious coffee granita dessert.