container of organic food waste

The ugly food trend is designed to help people embrace produce that is perfectly safe to eat but doesn’t look great. You might have tried mindful grocery shopping and following a meal plan or dedicated to composting. However, you may still be unhappy with the amount of waste you’re creating.

Food waste is a complex problem that doesn’t have a simple solution. Considering that 40% of all food in the U.S. is tossed, it’s evident that the current food system is unsustainable. Food loss occurs at every level of the supply chain, and over 60% of waste is created outside the home (via Feeding America). While we can’t change the system overnight, we can try to manage our own food waste.

Changing our perspective can help accomplish this goal. Instead of seeing less-than-perfect produce, leftovers, and scraps as trash, let’s see them for what they are — a versatile addition to our diets. Repurposing food is eco-friendly and saves money. Who knows, maybe upcycling food will become the dominant form of consumption, and browsing our list of foods you can stop throwing out may be an excellent first step.

Pasta water

draining pasta water

Many people pour pasta water down the drain. Once you learn the value of this often discarded elixir (or "liquid gold"), there’s no turning back. Water conservation aside, saving pasta water is a fantastic way to elevate sauces, soups, baked goods, and even drinks.

If it isn’t more than a few days old, you can reuse pasta water to cook more pasta, rice, or anything boiled in plain water. Starch released as the pasta cooks causes the cloudy appearance. Together with a mild salty flavor, this thickens pasta sauce and is the secret to restaurant-worthy pasta dishes.

Additionally, you can incorporate pasta water into bread and pizza dough, substitute it for soup stock or use it to soak legumes. You can even use pasta water in cocktails or drink it alone.

Stale bread

loaves of stale bread


Even for bread storage pros, there’s a chance that it will go stale. Unless moldy, it’s unnecessary to throw bread out. You can revive a stale loaf by wetting the crust and placing it in the oven or microwave, and there are dozens of ways to reuse stale bread. Turn the crust into breadcrumbs or transform sliced bread into French toast or bread pudding, for example.

Before the abundance of today’s supermarkets, many recipes and techniques focused on using every bit of food. Italian cuisine has excellent examples of stale bread dishes, from salads mixing veggies, dry bread, and olive oil (panzanella) to ribollita (a bread soup). The same goes for strata, meatloaf, and stuffing, and stale bread is an excellent binder for meatballs or crab cakes, as well as a soup thickener. Don’t forget croutons, a wonderful crunchy addition to soups and salads.

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