Make your veg go further by easy food waste hacks for flavour, sauces and new techniques.

Top tips for cutting food waste

From lemon rinds to leek tops, here’s how to make your veg go further to save money and food waste.

Tackle food waste by turning scraps on your chopping board into thrifty, zero-waste-inspired creations.

Making the food we already have to hand go further is a great way to tackle food waste. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, there are many leaves, tops or rinds that we throw away that are perfectly good for eating.

Be inspired by some unlikely signature ingredients and these ideas to waste less food:

Brassica leaves

When it comes to cabbages, the whole cabbage is edible and safe to eat. The outer leaves can, however, be unappealing due to their fibrous texture. Rip the leaf with your hands. Does it have fibrous strings running through it? If so, resist the urge to throw them out. These leaves are perfect for making kimchi.

Kimchi is a fermented cabbage dish originating from Korea, made by fermenting Chinese cabbage, carrots, mooli (Asian radish), and spring onions in a spicy marinade of ginger, garlic, chilli, and fish sauce. But many different fruit and vegetables ‘kimchi’ well; use ripe pears or apples that you need to use up for extra flavour.

Swiss chard stalks

Swiss chard leaves and stalks are best treated as separate ingredients. The leaves cook down like spinach, but the stalks remain chunky and coarse. Simmer the stalks in water and blend them into homemade hummus. Or, sautee them with onion into any soup or pie. 

Cauliflower leaves

You have hit the jackpot if you are lucky enough to find a cauliflower retaining its fresh leaves. These leaves are a delicious ingredient. When cooked, they take on a white cabbage flavour with more bite due to the thicker ribs on the leaves. Why not try cooking them into curries or Indian side dishes like Aloo Gobi (spiced potato and cauliflower)? Or, roast them with your favourite spices and blend them into soups.

Limp rocket or herbs

It happens to us all; despite all the best intentions, sometimes herbs and salad leaves look a bit past their best in the bottom of the vegetable drawer. Although their fate may no longer be to morph into a salad, let’s keep an open mind. Your limp leaves are destined to become some form of delicious green sauce. Blend the leaves with toasted pine nuts, basil, cheese, and olive oil to make a pesto. Whizz with chilli, garlic, vinegar, and oil to create a chimichurri sauce to jazz up any meat dish. Add yoghurt and citrus to make a perfect accompaniment to any fish dish.

Leek tops can be made into stock or mixed into mash.

Celery leaves or fennel fronds

When bought whole and fresh, celery should sport a bounty of pretty leaves at the top of the stalks. These can be used as a fresh herb to top any soup or salad. The same goes for fennel fronds, which can be used to substitute dill in any dish to add a new flavour dimension.

Lemon skins

It is a good idea to buy unwaxed lemons whenever possible to use lemon skin. Using lemon skin adds another dimension of lemony zing to any dish that you can’t get with the juice alone. Grate them into any salad dressing to add a citrus tang or add to a creamy pasta sauce.

Leek tops

Leek tops are one of the best vegetable scraps to make a rich vegetable stockTo make a stock, simmer the green parts of the leek with onion skins, carrot peelings, garlic, celery scraps and bay leaves, or whatever aromatics you need to use up. Alternatively, cook down with butter and then stir into mash.


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  1. I take off the dark outer leaves of cabbage and stuff them with a savoury mince, normal or veggie and steam them ,braise them or casserole them,depending what method I’musing at the time. They become tender enough to enjoy as part of the meal,no waste and extra nourishment.😊😊

    1. Forgot to say fasten the leaves with a skewer or wooden cocktail sticks to hold them together.

  2. Don’t forget those broccoli stems. I too often see the florets just stripped off them. If they look a little tough then just slice the toughest outer layer off and cut the stem into sticks or slices and cook with the rest or leave them to use in stir fry on a separate occasion.

    If you have a wilting lettuce just cut the bottom off the stem and place it upright in a little water. It will perk up overnight and you can continue using it.

  3. A pressure cooker will turn those onion and carrot etc offcuts into stock using much less fuel than in a pan.

    In lockdown I made safely untreated Riverford orange peels into yummy candied peel following [more or less] the BBC Good Food website recipe. Still got some in the fridge.

    As a former sewage works lab worker, can I recommend that any utterly inedible bits left from meat cookery other than bones get flushed down the toilet? Less damaging to the environment than leaving to rot in landfill. The sewage works ‘work’ by multi-billions of useful bacteria etc processing the waste into fertiliser, clean water and in many larger works, methane that is harvested to make electricity to run the pumps or the vans.

  4. I keep my lemon skins until I have A few then cut into strips either boil lightly or micro wave then liquidise and stain and I have a fantastic cleaning fluid it needs to be kept in the fridge in a glass bottle ( plastic will not work as citric acid will dissolve it). This is brilliant for sinks toilets etc esp if you live in a hard water area.

  5. Chop up the skin of an orange, or a lemon or a lime, and put it in a 500ml container with a tablespoon of soda crystals. Top up with cold water and put the lid on. Leave for five days, loosening the top now and then in case any gas has built up. Strain into a spray bottle and use as a general purpose cleaner. Interestingly, no matter what citrus fruit is used, the result is always orange.

    1. Soda crystals are sodium carbonate in crystal or powder form. They were used for many purposes – softening water, removing grease – for ages until the Big Boys came along and persuaded us to use branded products which are much more expensive. I buy soda crystals in Sainsbury’s, a kilo bag is about £1, but I’m sure you will find them in other shops too. The packaging will give you some more ideas about what soda crystals can be used for.


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