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!

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Coca-Cola Is Discontinuing TaB After Almost 60 Years

Stock up while you can.
Stock up while you can.
lokate366, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In 1963, Coca-Cola debuted TaB, a one-calorie diet soda that came in a pink can and promised women the chance to “have a shape he can’t forget.” The beverage was intended, as the commercial’s catchy jingle was quick to remind you, “for beautiful people,” with the sunny implication that sipping it could make you one of them.

TaB began to lose popularity after Diet Coke was launched in 1982, but a small crop of devotees still prefer it today. There’s even a website called ilovetab.com that keeps tabs on where the beverage is sold and which celebrities are spotted with a can in hand.

Unfortunately for fans, the Coca-Cola Company has finally decided to discontinue the drink just a few years short of its 60th anniversary. It’s not the only casualty: ZICO coconut water, Odwalla juices, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, and Coca-Cola Life (a reduced-sugar version of Coke with stevia leaf extract) are also being retired, along with a few regional and international products.

Though plenty of businesses have scaled back their offerings—or gone bankrupt—due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company maintains that these changes were in the works long before then. That said, “the ongoing COVID-19 supply chain challenges and shifting shopping behaviors prompted the company to fast-track its plan,” Coca-Cola explained in a press release.

TaB is now more of a nostalgic cult classic than a lucrative asset. According to The New York Times, Coca-Cola circulated about 3 million cases of TaB in 2011—not even half a percent of the number of Diet Coke cases produced in the same year. But that’s not to say people won’t be sad to see it go.

“We’re forever grateful to TaB for paving the way for the diets and lights category, and to the legion of TaB lovers who have embraced the brand for nearly six decades,” Kerri Kopp, Diet Coke’s group director for North America, said in a press release. “If not for TaB, we wouldn’t have Diet Coke or Coke Zero Sugar. TaB did its job.”

[h/t The New York Times]