A No Waste Kitchen

A funny thing happens when you become intimately aware of the origins of your food. Especially if you yourself, or somebody you know grew or raised the food on your plate. You begin to respect it, to be more grateful for it, and you want to get the most out of it. Wasting any seems like such a terrible tragedy.

We try to make the most of everything around here, and that includes kitchen scraps. I thought you might be interested in seeing what I do with our leftovers.

Egg shells– composted; dried and kept to sprinkle around tomato and pepper plants; dried, crumbled, and fed to chickens for calcium.

Tea bags- composted

Coffee grounds & filter– composted; coffee grounds dried and saved to sprinkle around tomatoes and blueberries.

Overripe bananas– frozen for smoothies; used in banana bread.

Banana peels- composted (don’t feed to chickens)

Potato peels- composted (don’t feed raw potato or raw potato peels to chickens)

Onion skins and tips- frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Garlic skins and tips-frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Carrot peels– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Celery tips– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Avocado peels and pits– composted (though the pit will take forever to break down, or it will sprout and grow!)

Leftovers- we feed almost all of our leftovers to our chickens, with the exception of anything with a lot of cheese, and sweets. What can’t be fed to the chickens or composted is tossed out for the wildlife.

Bones– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then fed to dogs/cats.

Citrus peels– saved for making a citrus scented all-purpose cleaner by soaking the peels in a jar of white vinegar for about two weeks, infusing the citrus scent into the vinegar. Dilute half and half with water, and use in a spray bottle for a great disinfectant.

Sour milk- allowed to curdle and then fed to the chickens. (There are a ton of other really great suggestions for how to use sour (raw) milk at Healthy Home Economist.)

Syrup from canned fruit– fed to the chickens.

Juice leftover from cooking a whole chicken or a roast- saved for broth or gravy.

Wilted/slimy lettuce– fed to chickens; composted.

Fruit peels and cores– fed to chickens; composted; used to make jelly.

Fat drippings– cooled, hardened and used for emergency candles! (Okay, not all the time, but it’s fun to know it can be done.)

Nut shells– composted (except for Black Walnut shells)

Chicken neck and organs– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens (yes, chickens will eat chicken).

Fish heads and organs– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens.

Moldy cheese– that goes to the wildlife. Can’t be composted, or fed to the chickens.

Wilted herbs– fed to chickens; compost.

Stale bread– frozen to make breadcrumbs at my convenience (also good for croutons)

I think that pretty much covers everything that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. I’m sure there are better ways to make use of some of these scraps, but this is just what I do on a daily basis. I have two bowls on my counter- one for chicken food, and one for the compost.ย  When I clean the plates from the table after each meal, I scrape the leftovers into the chicken feed bowl (unless it’s a lot of food leftover, in which case I’ll put it in a sealable container and save it to reheat later). At the end of each day, we take those bowls out and toss them where they need to go. It’s nothing fancy, but it works.

So that’s what I do, now it’s your turn to share! I wanna hear your best tips for a no waste kitchen!

You might also be interested in reading my articles on What Is Safe For Chickens To Eat and What To Put In The Compost Bin.

46 thoughts on “A No Waste Kitchen”

  1. What a great post….
    Citrus peels….once i am done with infusing them in vinegar i blend them in magic bullet, add some liquide soap and a bit of plain winegar. Use this to clean Kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks and toilets….Just sprinkle a bit of baking soda, pour Orange mix on top scrub and rinse with hot water….smells great and de-cloggs plumbing too. I make apple cider from apple Peels. As per card and dogs…..their hair is saved until spring then places outside for the birds to build nests

  2. Chop up the banana peels into small bits and the chickens will gobble them up! Plus the peels I compost seem to take longer to break down. Our chickens even eat plantain skins if we chop them into parts they can eat

  3. That’s one useful post and a lot of people wrote interesting tips. Here are mine: Donโ€™t use chemical drain cleaners or bleach. Avoid all harsh chemicals that may deteriorate the rubber components or other parts of the disposal. Throw away potato peelings instead of using your garbage disposal. Ground-up potatoes form a starchy paste that clings to parts and may clog your unit or the drain. Coffee grounds and eggshells are also hazardous to your disposal. The small, granular consistency creates a sludge that quickly builds up inside the unit and your drainpipe. Donโ€™t put overly fibrous materials and bones in the disposal.

  4. I chop up and freeze raw spinach, mustard, swiss chard and beet greens all the time. I vacuum seal and cook all sorts of things with them all winter.

  5. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you
    if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look foreard to new posts.

  6. Once I was telling my elderly Aunt Crystal how I always saved or set out any food scraps. She said, well you got that honest, my Daddy always told us “it’s a sin to burn food”. She told that when they were growing up, any garbage went to a burn pile, but her daddy always had them run food scraps out to the woods because “a possum or a rabbit might be looking for something to eat”. This would have been in the 1930s. It warmed my heart to hear this story, and made me feel a special connection to my granddaddy, who died in 1945, long before I was born. Now, ion the rare occasion DH might look at me sideways when I give him a plate of scraps to toss in the yard, I just say, “well it’s a sin to burn food.”

  7. * I save the string from tea bags to tie up my plants when they are drooping.
    *I saved empty jars to pour grease into.
    *I make a tomato fertilizer out of egg shells and boiled water.
    *I save all bags and re-use them (unless there is meat or dairy).
    *I save my rinse water to throw on plants outside.
    *I save my grocery store bags to line the trash can in the kitchen.
    *I save meat scraps, chicken bones, vegetable scraps to make dog food.
    *I save the meat juices and put it in a jar. Refrig. Scrape off the top layer of grease and then freeze the broth for soup.

    I hate to throw things away! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Great ideas! If you cook your stock for 12-24 hours, even chicken bones are soft enough to give to dogs. Just make sure the bones are “mushy” before you give them to the animals.

  9. Bread pudding!

    Also, I save the little slivers of soap and either put them in an old nylon (to dry and later to use as a washcloth with soap in it) or put them in an old liquid soap container, add water, shake and use like the store bought stuff.

    Love your idea for the citrus peel infused vinegar! I’m going to give it a try. Thanks!

  10. I always remove the stems from spinach, ends of tomatoes, etc. and I’d like to know if it’s alright to put them in a freezer bag and save them to make a vegetable soup stock?

      • Raw spinach freezes fine! I have even thrown a whole bag in the freezer once when we had to go out of town unexpectedly. I just opened it up and sauteed it from frozen, and I couldn’t tell much difference between that and sauteed fresh spinach. Great for us, since I’m the only one who likes spinach! It can also be tossed into soups, sauces, stews, or smoothies frozen.

  11. Love this list!

    My mom puts her banana peels around the base of her roses (covered with some soil, of course) to compost directly. She says they love the nutrients from the peels.

    Coffee grounds can also be mixed into a body scrub – wouldn’t want to use it too often so it doesn’t gum up the drain, of course, but still a fun splurge and you could probably even put it in pretty jars for friends if you let them know to use it quickly.

    Coffee and tea could also be used for dying material and fibers prior to composting. You would presumably get lighter colors than if you used the full strength brew (I’m speculating here as I’m only just learning about natural dyes – haven’t gotten to try them yet as my fiber is still packed from the move).

  12. why not give chickens cheese? with little bits of cheese you can play chicken pong. Toss a piece here they all go. toss one there, they go there. I would think it would be a good source of protein.
    We’ve tried banana peels but they just wont touch them.

  13. Thank you! Now I won’t feel like I’m possibly harming my dog by giving her the bones after stock making. ๐Ÿ™‚ We don’t have the space for a compost bin, but we save our egg shells and coffee grinds and filters and just throw them into the garden. They break right down. My husband tills every spring and fall and we never have to put anything on it. We’ve also buried fish bones out there when we have them, too. Love hearing everyone’s comments. I’m pleased to find that we already do most of them and yet, have found a few more to incorporate.

  14. I also do all the same things that you do with our kitchen scraps, except leftover chicken scraps (not the bones) go to the outside dogs and cats; I canโ€™t bring myself to give the chickens back chicken LOL. Not that I think if cooked it would be bad for them, itโ€™s just the thought. One thing I have recently added to our farm is a worm composter. I think itโ€™s all a wonderful circle of life. The castings and tea from the worms fertilize the garden, plus my husband and son use them to fish with, the food from the garden feeds us, and the scraps are separated between the outside dogs and cats, chickens and worm compost. Egg shells are ground and split between the dogs, cats and chickens. The worm composter also gets cardboard from toilet paper and paper towel rolls. In the winter time I make what I call a warm gruel for the outside dogs and cats. I boil the vegetable scraps that are allotted for the chickens and meat scraps and grease allotted for the dogs and cats and make gravy from the broth. I add dry dog food to this and rice or oatmeal. They all REALLY love this!! Including the chickens, they go crazy for it but for them its only a snack to supplement their regular food and scratch. So far this winter my girls have not slowed down at all on their egg production.

  15. I was raised in the city and still live in one. Have never had chickens or any animals other than pets. I enjoy your posts, it seems like a foreign life. I’m not so sure how I well I would do in your place. I buy tea bags and put the paper they were wrapped in into my compost as well. We have a 50 gal metal trash can with holes drilled all over it. We’ve been composting for a year now and I’m amazed that the can is still only half full. Oh, it’s been higher lots of times, but as everything decomposes, the space it takes up is smaller. Hoping to have enough compost for my very small garden this year.

  16. I grind wheat and make all my own bread and cannot bear any waste of bread/crusts so I cube up the bread crusts and keep in a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. When I have 2 gallon bags of diced bread I make a huge batch of dressing (stuffing). I dry the bread crumbs and add homemade chicken stock, celery, onion and seasoning. It will usually make 3 side dishes for our family(8). Never waste bread crusts again!

  17. Oh, I just thought of one more.

    5) Save your butter wrappers for greasing cookie sheets and baking pans with the little bit of butter that is left on them.

  18. GREAT list, Kendra! Here are a few more that you may like, as well, that our family has enjoyed.

    1) Let your orange peels dry out and keep them for fire starters, the orange oil burns a long time while the fire is getting going.

    2) Freeze your fish heads and left over fish parts, then when you are planting your tomatoes in the spring, drop some in the hole before you plant. It makes a slow release fertilizer.

    3) Instead of giving your chickens the fruit syrup from canned fruit, make popsicles for the kids! This has been a big hit with the littles.:)

    4) After baking a chicken, save that yummy seasoned fat in a jar in the fridge for a butter/ oil substitute when sautรฉing.

  19. We do most of that too, but thanks for the tips on freezing the onion, garlic and carrot skins/peels!! Awesome, never thought of that, duh, lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. About feeding chickens chickens: Cows are herbivores, chickens are omnivores. Cows don’t naturally eat any meat other than the placenta as far as I know. Chickens sometimes eat each other alive when kept in horrible conditions, bored and crowded.

    Ive heard you can shine leather with banana peels but have never tried.

  21. Kendra, you do know that mad cow disease started because cows were being fed cow meat? I am really disturbed that you are feeding chicken bits of chicken.

    • Sophie,

      LOL… every person I know who has chickens feeds them leftover chicken. I would think that as long as the chicken you are feeding them is cooked (and must be uncontaminated if you ate it and didn’t get sick) it’s fine. To each his own, but I have no worries about mad chicken disease.

  22. I love reading posts like this. Right now, a lot of my scraps go into the garden. I thought about raising worms but I don’t have the space for that right now. In the summer I take my coffee grounds and disperse it among my tom’s too. How would they work around a wild black raspberry bush, do you think?

  23. I keep a few empty soup cans around, so I can pour off my meat fat/grease into them. I stockpile them in the frig till it’s time to make more laundry bar soap. We’re hoping to get some chickens this year and get our garden started again. So then we can get more out of our compost and scrap bin. We just moved into our new homestead a few months ago. Basically starting from scratch here in central Ohio.

  24. We always had a “scrap pail” under the sink that all food waste would go into for the barn animals. Mostly cats, dogs & chickens. Now I would love to be able to do the same. Living in town we don’t have chickens (and our lifestyle is not really condusive to to having chickens as we tend to travel a lot) but I would love to get to a point in our lives (and location) where a small flock would be possible.

    I need to look into composting again as well. We do have a small garden and we could easily compost, but haven’t done it in the past.

    Thanks for the tip on the onion and garlic skins and scraps. I wouldn’t have thought to use the skins in the stock. I will be doing this from now on!

  25. Right now I don’t have much going on, but I do have a bin in the freezer for stock making, and one for banana peels, fruit scraps, and egg shells to use once I get my compost pile started. In process of cleaning out the backyard and getting a spot that is accessible, not overgrown, and has a path clear of fire ant beds to be able to start my pile. Have lots of “brown” from cleaning up the yard, working hard to balance out the “green” to get a good pile started.

  26. I also put my citrus peels in my tea pot on my woodstove. I leave the top off the pot for humidity and the citrus peel fills the house with a nice fresh scent. If I’m canning or making something that requires cinnamon stick, cloves, etc. I throw them in the teapot. (I became tired of tying cheese cloth, I now put them in a tea ball.)

  27. I think you pretty much have it covered :). I never thought to freeze onion ends and skins. I’ll bet you could put all veggie scraps (except potatoes) in 1 bag or container to freeze. Oh, that would make wonderful broth! I’ve just gave them straight to the chickens or rabbits. I guess I’ve been missing a valuable and delicious step . Thank you!! The only 2 things I do that you don’t have on your list is strain bacon grease and keep it in a small container in the freezer to use in dried beans and greens. (my hubby’s an old Cajun boy). I also bake all my own breads and rolls. End crust are ground or crushed, put in a quart jar and saved for cooking. Wheat, rye, sourdough mixed together. It’s so much better than anything you can buy. My husband will catch me doing or studying something I’ve read on one of your blogs and all I have to say is “Kendra said” and he just smiles.

    • LOL… that’s so funny, Julie ๐Ÿ™‚ Yep, whenever I’m chopping veggies and have scraps (same can be done with parsnips; don’t toss in turnip skins though, they’re very bitter) I toss the peels, skins, and tips into a 1 gallon freezer bag. I also throw chicken necks and organs into the same bag. Then, when the bag is full (or when I have several bags full) I’m ready to throw it all into a pot and make stock. I keep a freezer bag of scraps with chicken parts, and one with beef bones and trimmings to make a chicken stock, and a beef stock. I’ll do the same with fish heads for fish stock ๐Ÿ˜‰ Great tips you’ve added! If we ever have leftover stale bread, I’ll freeze it for future breadcrumbs ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. I have a question… You said that after you make stock from your bones that you then feed them to the dogs. I have always heard that you should never give dogs cooked bones. Thoughts? Have you ever had a problem with this? Thanks!

  29. I was going to say, make sure it’s beef or pork bones you are giving to the dogs! I’ve never had a problem feeding mine cooked bones, either. I like to put ham bones into crock pot ham & beans before I give them to the dogs, too.

    It’s funny, I was raised this way (I’m lucky), so whenever I saw people throwing away food I always thought it was strange. Took a while to get my DH used to doing it this way, but now we all have the hang of it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. We have an outside compost bin and an indoor vermicompost. The worm bin I got for free from my son’s classroom a few years ago, score! I had to pick out some wrappers when I first got it, but now it is thriving and we’re thinking we need another bin for the overflow of worms. I wish we had chickens too! I’m not thrilled with an outside compost, the deer and elk get into it. I put a board over it, but the stinkers push it off. It’s also too close to the house, but with the way this property is laid out, there isn’t a further place to put one really. (I do not purposely feed wildlife, it’s against the law here, and with good reason. (Birds are okay to feed though.))


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