The One Thing You Should Always Have in Your Freezer

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A 2018 USDA report found Americans waste about a pound of food per day, on average—with a majority of the waste coming from fruits and vegetables. Not only is that bad for the environment, but food waste also wastes money—up to $2,200 per household, according to a report by the Natural Defenses Resource Council (NRDC). We'd personally much rather use that on a tropical vacation, wouldn't you?

Unfortunately, people who eat healthier are more likely to waste food—mostly from produce—as it can be difficult to know how much you need for the week when going grocery shopping. And we all know that sometimes life gets in the way and plans to cook can be thwarted by busy schedules and exhaustion, turning that head of lettuce you had such great plans for on Monday, into trash can fodder on Thursday, when it's wilted and brown.

Related: Quick Weeknight Meals That Pack in the Produce

But in the spirit of reducing food waste (and having those funds to jetset to the Caribbean), we're sharing one of our favorite cooking hacks: Saving veggie scraps!

That's right, everything from carrot tops to potato peels can be saved, and made delicious! At first glance this might sound less than completely appealing, but hear us out: Vegetable scraps serve some pretty amazing purposes.

Save Vegetable Scraps in Your Freezer

Just because you don't want to use those carrot peels or parsley stems in your weeknight meals, doesn't mean they can't serve a purpose! Keep a bag or bin designated for vegetable scraps in your freezer. When it fills up, take an hour on Sunday to whip up a flavorful, low-maintenance homemade vegetable stock.

bowl of broth and veggies on a cutting board

Photo: aluxum/getty images

Just be sure to avoid storing more bitter vegetables in this container, such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts. They don't do well on a low-simmer, and will add unpleasant flavors. But pretty much anything else is fair game!

Related: Guide to Freezing Fresh Produce

Sneak Scraps Into Recipes

Not all scraps have to be destined for the freezer—some actually can easily find their way into your weeknight dinner rotation. Cauliflower steak is one of our new favorite food trends, as it uses the whole cauliflower—stems included!

Try using carrot tops in a chimichurri or pesto, broccoli stems in your next soup, or check out other ways to use some of our favorite veggies from root to stem.

Related: Recipes to Use Up Food Scraps

Use Scraps to Grow More Veggies

This is one of our favorite ways to reuse vegetable scraps, as it earns you new crops of fresh veggies all season long! With a little sunshine, soil, water, and TLC, you can grow fresh greens, herbs, and other produce from pieces you'd throw away otherwise. Sounds like a win-win for sustainability and grocery bills!

Know How to Properly Store Produce

This is an essential for preventing food waste: You can't save scraps if your produce has gone bad. It's important to know which produce belongs in the fridge and which doesn't. Some even need time inside and outside the fridge! Check out our handy guide to produce storage to ensure those fruits and veggies stay fresh and delicious as long as possible.

Related: Guide to Washing Produce

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Put those food scraps to work—saving you time, money, and food waste along the way!
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Lisa Valente
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frozen vegetables