10 Innovative (and Delicious) Ways to Use Your Food Scraps

Make use of every morsel.
Make use of every morsel.
sanddebeautheil/iStock via Getty

Chances are, you’re cooking at home a lot more these days. All that extra cooking means your trash bin may be rapidly filling with food scraps. If you'd hate to see those bits of food go to waste, check out these creative ways to reuse your food scraps. 

1. Reuse pickle brine.

After you’ve snacked on your last pickle, there’s no need to dump all that scrumptiously sour brine down the drain. Instead, add items like hard-boiled eggs, canned artichokes, onions, garlic, or even watermelon rinds to the brine. You can tenderize meat with pickle brine by using it as a marinade; use it to give Bloody Marys an extra kick; add it to barbecue sauce for extra flavor; or you can even use it as a secret ingredient in mac and cheese.

2. Keep a scrap container in the freezer.

Vegetable peels and tops are excellent ingredients for homemade stock. It can take a while to accumulate all those morsels, so The Kitchn recommends keeping a scrap bag in the freezer. You can even save parmesan rinds and add them to stocks or soups along with the vegetable scraps for a more robust flavor.

3. Roast potato peels for creative “crisps.”

A most a-peel-ing snack.leskas/iStock via Getty Images

The Guardian refers to these roasted, repurposed potato peels as “crisps” and suggests tossing them in olive oil, sea salt, and herbs before popping them in the oven. The Kitchn is perhaps more realistic and refers to these snacks as something between a potato chip and a French fry, and suggests roasting them for 15 minutes and then sprinkling them with cheese and scallions.

4. Use bacon grease to make bacon-scented candles.

You already know you can save bacon grease and cook with it to make pretty much anything all the more tasty. But did you know you can fill your home with the mouth-watering meaty aroma with some homemade bacon-scented candles? All you need is 1/2 a pint of bacon grease, 1 pound of beeswax, 1 square of red wax dye, and three candle wick bases. Then, follow these simple instructions from MyRecipes.com to, as they say, “make your entire life smell like bacon.”

5. Make flavorful vanilla sugar from used vanilla beans.

Susan Westmoreland, culinary director in the Kitchen Appliances & Technology Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, suggests reusing vanilla beans. “Because a vanilla bean has a great deal of flavor, it can usually be reused several times before its aroma and taste are depleted,” she explains. She suggests using the beans to make vanilla sugar. After washing and drying the bean, slit it lengthwise, spread it open, and bury it in a jar of sugar, using approximately 2 cups of sugar per bean. Vanilla beans are so potent, Westmoreland writes, that you can keep adding fresh sugar every six months and still get a strong vanilla flavor. You can use the sugar to flavor coffee or tea, as well as in baked goods.

6. Use leftover coffee grounds as skincare.

You shouldn’t use coarse coffee grounds on your delicate facial skin, but they can make for a great body scrub. Caffeine tightens and awakens the skin, and Elle suggests mixing 1 cup of coffee grounds with 6 tablespoons of coconut oil and 3 tablespoons of sea salt or sugar for an invigorating DIY beauty treatment.

7. Reuse tea bags in the bath, or as cool eye compresses.

Create your own at-home spa experience.omgimages/iStock via Getty

Well + Good recommends recycling a few tea bags for a soothing, fragrant bath (they recommend using something like chamomile or ginger). Also, you can use cool teabags, particularly chamomile or green tea, over closed eyelids to reduce puffiness and dark circles.

8. Use eggshells in your coffee to make it less bitter.

Good Housekeeping suggests adding an eggshell to your coffee grounds when they’re in the filter to make your morning cup of joe less bitter. The calcium carbonate in the shells, which is an alkaline material, helps neutralize the acid in the coffee. Eggshells are also great in the garden—as part of a compost pile, they decompose quickly and add calcium to the soil. They also repel plant-eating pests, and can even keep deer away from flower beds.

9. Reuse corn cobs to make corn stock, corn jelly, or even to smoke meat.

After you’ve stripped your corn cobs to make a delicious summer meal, you can use the cobs to make a sweet, golden-hued stock. You can also boil the cobs, strain the liquid, and add pectin for jelly, or use them in place of wood chips over charcoal to give meat additional flavor.

10. Use leftover pasta water to create a unique whiskey cocktail.

Most foodies seem to agree that pasta water is liquid gold. Rachael Ray recommends mixing some of it into pasta sauce as a starchy, salty thickener, as well as freezing the leftovers in ice cube trays to use later in sauces and soups. But one of the most creative uses for pasta water is courtesy of Kim Stodel, the beverage director at Los Angeles-based Providence. Stodel told NBC News in 2017 about a cocktail she created called the “Carbonara Footprint,” which uses one egg white, .75 ounces of pasta water, Angostura bitters, fresh lemon juice, and bourbon. Sounds like a great reward for reusing all those food scraps!

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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Why Do We Say ‘Spill the Beans’?

This is a Greek tragedy.
This is a Greek tragedy.
anthony_taylor/iStock via Getty Images

Though superfans of The Office may claim otherwise, the phrase spill the beans did not originate when Kevin Malone dropped a massive bucket of chili at work during episode 26 of season five. In fact, people supposedly started talking about spilling the beans more than 2000 years ago.

According to Bloomsbury International, one voting method in ancient Greece involved (uncooked) beans. If you were voting yes on a certain matter, you’d place a white bean in the jar; if you were voting no, you’d use your black bean. The jar wasn’t transparent, and since the votes were meant to be kept secret until the final tally, someone who accidentally knocked it over mid-vote was literally spilling the beans—and figuratively spilling the beans about the results.

While we don’t know for sure that the phrase spill the beans really does date all the way back to ancient times, we do know that people have used the word spill to mean “divulge” at least since the 16th century. The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest known reference of it is from a letter written by Spanish chronicler Antonio de Guevara sometime before his death in 1545 (the word spill appears in Edward Hellowes’s 1577 translation of the letter).

Writers started to pair spill with beans during the 20th century. The first known mention is from Thomas K. Holmes’s 1919 novel The Man From Tall Timber: “‘Mother certainly has spilled the beans!’ thought Stafford in vast amusement.”

In short, it’s still a mystery why people decided that beans were an ideal food to describe spilling secrets. As for whether you’re imagining hard, raw beans like the Greeks used or the tender, seasoned beans from Kevin Malone’s ill-fated chili, we’ll leave that up to you.

[h/t Bloomsbury International]