20 Leftover ingredients you shouldn't throw out while cooking

Dec 8, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. ET

One way to save money on that grocery bill is to stop throwing away things you can use. Even if you don't have a compost heap, make sure you save these scraps of food you've been throwing away.

1. Cheese rinds and small pieces of leftover cheese

fromage fort

Image: HarlanH/Flickr

Edible cheese rinds and little bits of leftover cheese can be used to make fromage fort. Just cream them together with some wine and your favorite herbs to spread on crackers or crostini. You may need a bit of butter if you're using mostly hard cheese.

2. Green onions

green onions in a planter

Image: Kevin Hayes/Flickr

Green onions don't stop growing just because they're uprooted. Replant them outside or in a pot right in your kitchen, or just grow them in an inch or so of water.

3. Citrus peels

woman peeling an orange

Image: MarxFoods.com/Flickr

Citrus peels, which have tons of health benefits, can be used in fruit smoothies, fish or chicken and baked goods, or be put into a jar with vodka to make extract. If you have to chuck it, then put it in the garbage disposal, where it will at least keep things fresh.

4. Nutshells

closeup of nutshells

Image: steffenz/Flickr

You can toss nutshells onto your coals (or into a wood chip holder for your propane grill) to add a nutty flavor to your meats.

5. Melon rind

melon cut in half

Image: niznoz/Flickr

Melon rind is actually really high in citrulline, which aids in circulation. They're hard to eat, but you can blend a little in with a melon smoothie to make it easier to ingest.

6. "Unusable" veggie bits

carrot peelings

Image: Didriks/Flickr

After cutting up veggies like carrots, celery and onions, pop the unusable ends and even peels into a freezer bag to save for stocks, or stuff them on the inside of your bird to add a bit of flavor to your roasted chicken or turkey.

7. Bacon and sausage fat

jar of bacon fat

Image: I Believe I Can Fry/Flickr

Pour bacon and sausage fat into a heatproof container over a sieve when you're done cooking, and pop it into the fridge. You can use it later to make gravies or to add an extra layer of flavor to sautéed veggies.

8. Cilantro stems

fresh cilantro

Image: Qfamily/Flickr

Cilantro stems can be blended into soups and salsas, including guacamole.

9. Crumbs from sweets

broken cookie with crumbs

Image: Werwin15/Flickr

You know those leftover bits of cookie, cake and more you have after someone takes the last piece? Save them up, and pop them into a freezer-safe bag to use later as an ice cream or yogurt topping.

10. Stale bread

uncooked croutons

Image: ampresco/Flickr

Turn stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs.

11. Celery leaves

celery leaves

Image: arbyreed/Flickr

Celery leaves are just as nutritious as the stalks, and just as tasty. Use them in salads or even in anything you'd normally use celery.

12. Fruit cores

apple cores

Image: Stacy Spensley/Flickr

Much like vegetable leftovers, you can toss these inside your whole chicken or turkey, even along with some of the veggies (or some of those orange peels you saved), before roasting.

13. Eggshells

broken brown egg shells

Image: Chris Campbell/Flickr

If you're careful when cracking them, you can rinse out eggshells and use them to grow seedlings for your herb garden. If not, then rinse them off really well, dry them, crunch them up as small as possible, and put them in your soil. They'll deter certain pests and make your plants healthier.

14. Chard stems

bundled chard stems

Image: eflon/Flickr

You can cook chard stems just like you cook asparagus.

15. Broccoli stalks and leaves

broccoli stalks

Image: Rick Harris/Flickr

Broccoli leaves and stalks are edible, yet many people throw them away. Instead, save them. The leaves are yummy in salads. The stalks can be cooked just like broccoli. They're especially good in cheese sauces and casseroles.

16. Avocado pits

woman holding bowl of guacamole with avocado seed

Image: Mr.TinDC/Flickr

When you cut up an avocado, save the pit. If you have any leftover avocado or guac, then store it with the pit to keep it from browning as quickly. You can even grind it very finely (with a very powerful food processor — those seeds are sturdy) for smoothies. If you're extremely industrious, you can use it to grow an avocado tree.

17. Beet greens

beet greens in a dish

Image: NatalieMaynor/Flickr

Beet greens actually taste a lot like Swiss chard, and you can use them in just the same way.

18. Squash seeds

squash cut in half with seeds

Image: Paul-W/Flickr

Much like pumpkin seeds, squash seeds can be seasoned and roasted.

19. Leftover coffee

cup of coffee

Image: The Way of Slow Travel/Flickr

If you don't drink all your coffee, then pour it into ice trays and freeze it. You can use it later for chocolate sauces, cakes, brownies and mole sauce.

20. Brining juice

fresh jalapeños in brining juice with cilantro

Image: joshbousel/Flickr

The leftover juice from pickles, jalapeños, pickled veggies and more can be used in vinaigrettes, martinis, bloody marys, sandwich salads (like tuna or chicken) and more. Or just soak some freshly sliced cucumbers or jalapeños in it for a couple of weeks for a fresher, pickle-like snack.

hacks for leftover ingredients

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