Can you cook with trash? Canadian food expert shares 11 tips to reduce food waste

Canadian food blogger Carleigh Bodrug helps to reduce food waste by posting
Canadian food blogger Carleigh Bodrug helps to reduce food waste by posting "scrappy" recipes. (Photo via Carleigh Bodrug)

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Carleigh Bodrug is on a mission to reduce food waste — one orange peel at a time.

"Scrappy Cooking" is a series where Bodrug, a Belleville, Ont.-based food blogger, recipe creator, NYT bestselling author and founder of PlantYou, takes common food scraps and turns them into delicious plant-based dishes to reduce waste.

From the root to the tip, the content creator posts step-by-step recipe tutorials, video guides and "scrappy" tips on Instagram and TikTok, repurposing things like strawberry tops and broccoli stems into delicious meals that don't clog up the landfill.

"I'm very passionate about the environment and super conscious about food waste, so I started the scrappy series as a way to reimagine the food that we absentmindedly toss in the trash," Bodrug tells Yahoo Canada. "With this series, I want people to look at what they're buying versus what they're actually eating, and then go to the grocery store with intention."

"Food waste is a serious problem and a major contributor to global warming, so by becoming aware of what you're wasting and how to reverse it, you can not only save the environment, but save money as well," she adds.

Bodrug considers food waste to be a serious problem, which sparked her to create the
Bodrug considers food waste to be a serious problem, which sparked her to create the "scrappy cooking" series. (Photo via Carleigh Bodrug)

Bodrug isn't alone in wanting to reduce her carbon footprint. Across the country, there is a growing consensus that we need to take action to address food waste and the production of greenhouse gases.

According to the Government of Canada and Food Secure Canada, the average single-family Canadian household accumulates approximately 200 kilograms of food waste annually, accounting for $1,100 per year. Further, 63 per cent of household food waste in Canada could have been avoided, which has the environmental impact of 2.1 million cars and 9.8 million tonnes of CO2. As a country, 35.5 million tonnes of food waste is produced annually, with fruits and vegetables being the main culprits.

Luckily, Bodrug has developed a variety of recipes and ways to transform food that would otherwise be trashed into mouth-watering concoctions. Read on to learn 11 of her "scrappy" tips to reduce food waste in your home.

Throwing Away Leftover Food In Trash Or Garbage Dustbin
The average single-family Canadian household accumulates approximately 200 kilograms of food waste annually. (Photo via Getty Images)

Hack #1: Transform vegetable scraps into broth

"One of my favourite ways to get the most out of my scraps is by saving them in a freezer bag, and making homemade vegetable broth...You want to save the scraps of heartier veggies like onions, carrots, garlic and broccoli. Water based vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber won’t work as well," says Bodrug.

To create homemade broth, add four cups of vegetable scraps to a large pot. Pour water over top until it reaches one inch above the scraps. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of ground turmeric, black pepper and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow the mixture to cook for three to six hours. Drain the scraps, compost them, and reserve the broth. Keep the broth in the fridge for up to five days as a base for soups or stir fries, or freeze for up to three months.

Hack #2: Store lettuce in a jar to keep it fresh for one month

Can't eat a whole head of lettuce before it goes bad? Fear not — Bodrug has come up with a hack to keep your lettuce fresh for up to one month!

First, wash, dry and chop your lettuce finely. "It is best to use your hands or a plastic knife for this to prevent browning," suggests Bodrug.

Next, transfer the lettuce to a clean, glass container. Add a cloth or paper towel to the top of the jar and change this out every other day. Store the jar in the fridge for up to one month, but be sure to "watch for signs of spoilage like slime or smell. Your lettuce should be crisp and odourless," adds Bodrug.

Hack #3: Make fruit leather out of browning berries

Berries looking a little sad? Toss them in a blender with chia seeds and dehydrate in the oven to create fruit leather — just like a fruit roll up!

To make, blend three cups of berries, one tablespoon of chia seeds and two tablespoons of maple syrup (optional) until smooth. Pour onto a lined baking sheet, and with a flat spatula spread the mixture into an even rectangle. Bake at 175F for approximately four to six hours. The leather is ready when it effortlessly lifts off the lined sheet. Store rolled in wax paper or parchment as desired. View the full recipe here.

Hack #4: Use broccoli stems to make homemade tots

Did you know that broccoli stems are edible? Before tossing them in the trash, why not make these delicious broccoli tater tots instead! In a bowl, add two grated broccoli stems, one finely chopped head of broccoli, one grated potato, one tablespoon of flax meal (mixed with two and a half tablespoons of water), one table spoon of nutritional yeast, one tablespoon of olive oil and salt to taste.

Using wet hands, form the mixture into tots and place on a lined baking tray and cook them for 20 minutes in a 400F oven. For full recipe instructions, click here.

Hack #5: Transform wilting spinach into smoothie bombs

Instead of letting a container of spinach go to waste at the back of your fridge, this is your sign to make smoothie bombs instead. "Smoothie bombs are my quick and delicious smoothie secret," says Bodrug.

The recipe is simple: blend two cups of greens (e.g. spinach, kale, spring mix) with one cup milk of choice and one avocado. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze for later use.

When you're ready to enjoy, simply defrost in your favourite glass or mason jar, or add some fruit and maple syrup and re-blend to take your smoothie to the next level.

Hack #6: Make nachos with unused sweet potato skins

Peeling sweet potatoes? Stop throwing away the skin and make sweet potato nachos instead! "Peeled vegetable skin is one of the most common food scraps. The truth is, carrot and potato skins are not only edible but quite nutritious," explains Bodrug.

To make, cook leftover sweet potato skins in a 400F oven for 50 minutes. Remove the skins, season, and load them up with your favourite dressing and toppings.

Click here for the full recipe.

Hack #7: Create homemade cleaner with old lemon rinds

If you're a fan of using freshly squeezed lemon juice for food and drinks, you'll likely be wasting tons of lemon rinds. Instead, make this DIY lemon cleaner for your sink and countertops.

According to Bodrug, "this cleanser works like a charm and smells amazing. Please note it is not a replacement for an antibacterial deep cleaner but anything you would typically quickly clean vinegar with (we wipe down our fridge, dishwasher and counters with this)!"

To make, soak four lemon rinds in three cups of white vinegar for three to seven days. Add two cups of water and one teaspoon of castile soap before using. Full instructions can be found here.

Hack #8: Bake a cake out of stale bread

Did you know bread is the most thrown out food in the world? Per year, approximately 900,000 tones are thrown out globally! Luckily, Bodrug has the perfect recipe to reduce bread waste and satisfy your sweet tooth.

To make this stale bread brownie cake, combine three cups of cubed stale bread, torn into pieces, one cup milk of choice, one teaspoon vanilla extract, four tablespoons of cocoa powder, half cup brown sugar, one tablespoon flaxseed mixed with two tablespoons of water and one teaspoon of baking powder in a blender until a batter is formed.

Bake at 350F for 37 minutes until cooked through. Top with icing of choice and fresh fruit!

To view the full recipe, click here.

Hack #9: Transform leftover chickpea water into chocolate pudding

If you're a chocolate lover, this rich and creamy aquafaba recipe is for you!

The premise is simple: using a hand mixer, beat half a cup of aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas) until light and foamy. Add half a teaspoon of cream of tartar until stiff peaks form, about eight minutes, and sift a quarter cup of white sugar until dispersed in the mix.

Meanwhile, combine a quarter cup each of cocoa powder and coconut oil to create a chocolate sauce. Using a spatula, fold the chocolate sauce into the aquafaba mixture and leave to set overnight in the fridge.

For full recipe instructions, click here.

Hack #10: Bake savoury focaccia with vegetable scraps

"This is the best bread I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s truly so easy to make! If you have any leftover food scraps, have fun with it and design a beautiful garden on the top of your loaf," says Bodrug.

For this recipe, you'll need warm water, instant yeast, sea salt, olive oil, all-purpose flour and food scraps of choice, such as herbs, leftover vegetables and mushrooms. As it's a detailed recipe, we recommend checking out the full instructions here.

Hack #11: Make tomato powder out of tomato peels

"If you don’t use tomato powder in your cooking, get ready for your mind to be blown. This homemade tomato powder is a great zero waste recipe that will revolutionize your meals. Use it for barbecue spice rubs, or to flavour soups, stews and stir fries! Best of all, this recipe is made using what is essentially a waste product, which means it’s free," explains Bodrug.

To make, reserve eight to twelve tomato skins. Place them on a dehydrator sheet or parchment-lined baking sheet, and dehydrate in the oven at 135F for eight to twelve hours. Next, place the skins into a blender and grind until they reach a fine powder. Store in a sealed container for up to one month.

To view the full recipe, click here.

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