Make the most of your grocery haul by turning food scraps into delicious dishes. With ideas including carrot top pesto and pickle brine marinade, you might be surprised by some of the ingredients that ended up on this list.

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It's a pretty safe bet that at some point, we've all thrown away a leftover scrap of food. The average American household tosses up to $2,000 worth of food every year. While making good use of leftovers or preserving and canning foods are excellent ways to prevent food waste, you may be throwing out food scraps that you didn't even know were edible or could be easily repurposed. For example, did you know all of a watermelon is edible: seeds, rind, and all? We put together a list of tasty ways to use food scraps you may not have tried before.

Use Almost Empty Jars for Sauces

When your jar of mayonnaise or peanut butter is almost empty, use it to shake up a sauce for pasta or make a salad dressing so you'll use every last bit. Bonus: Because you don't have to get out a bowl, this also prevents more dishes from getting dirty!

Put a Cheese Rind in Your Soup

The rind at the end of your Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is packed with a salty, umami flavor that can really enhance your dishes. Try throwing a rind into your pot of minestrone or pasta sauce while cooking and remove before serving. You can also try puffing small pieces in the microwave for a crispy snack.

Turn Citrus Peels into Candy

There's a ton of antioxidants and vitamin C in citrus peels such as grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges. Make sure you wash them thoroughly, then try making candied peels for a better-for-you sweet treat. Use the zest to brighten up baked goods and savory dishes. Or use the peels to make your own limoncello for cocktails.

Coat Your Food with Bottom-of-the-Bag Crumbs

Those crumbs in the bottom of the chip bag or box of crackers don't have to go to waste. Many dishes such as casseroles benefit from their crunchy addition as a topper. Crushed chips also make great coatings for chicken, fish, and other proteins. If your cereal or cookie box is almost empty, save those crumbs to top ice cream or cupcakes.

Freeze Herbs for a Burst of Flavor in Your Dishes

Before leftover herbs can start to turn bad, blend them in some olive oil and freeze them in ice cube trays ($15, Crate & Barrel). Pop a cube into soups for a quick flavor boost or use for a sauce on top of meat or pasta. You can also stock the spice pantry by making your own dried herbs.

Give Fruit New Life Before it's Too Far Gone

This is no surprise, but some fruits on the verge of going overripe are even better baked (we're looking at you, banana bread!). For other fruit that's a little too soft for your taste, but not rotten, make fruit jams or fruit butters made with apples, pears, or peaches in your slow cooker ($60, Bed Bath & Beyond).

Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto
Credit: Andy Lyons

Reap the Nutritious Benefits of Fruit and Veggie Tops

Those leafy greens on most of your fruits and vegetables can have a life beyond the compost bin. Whether you're in need of extra greens for your morning smoothie or want to liven up your pesto, don't let the greens on your produce go to waste.

Get the Carrot-Top Pesto Recipe

Make a Flavorful Broth Out of Meat Bones

So you've mastered your roast chicken recipe, but now have the carcass leftover. Use your leftover beef and poultry bones to make a rich and flavorful bone broth from scratch for soups, stews, and more.

Save Pickle and Jalapeño Brine for Marinades

The not-so-hidden secret ingredient at that popular chicken sandwich restaurant actually uses pickle brine to flavor the chicken breast before breading. Save that jar and use the brine the same way you would vinegar in dressings and marinades. You can also do the same for jalapeños brine. Try adding jalapeño brine to a spicy cocktail.

Turn Vegetable Peelings Into Crunchy Snacks

After peeling carrots or potatoes for recipes, save the scraps and turn them into a delicious vegetable stock for your next soup recipe. You can utilize peelings for DIY chips or even vegan bacon. Of course, you can always go the composting route and place your food scraps in countertop food scrap container ($35, Target) or compost bin.

Enjoy Stale Bread as a Decadent Dessert

If you haven't been using your old bread for bread pudding or French toast, you should definitely give it a try. Dry bread makes the perfect vehicle to absorb the custard and liquid bases for these recipes, making them super delicious. If you don't think you'll use it before it goes moldy, make bread crumbs or freeze it for later.

Pickle Watermelon Rind for a Crunchy Treat

Those giant green melons are actually 100% edible. After you've enjoyed your sweet watermelon, save the rind for pickling. The texture is similar to a cucumber. They can also be juiced or chopped and tossed into your favorite stir fry. Oh, and don't forget you can roast the seeds, too!

Keep this list in mind the next time you get a great deal on that bag of lemons or rotisserie chicken so you can save money while keeping you and your family full.


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