Whenever I toss out liquefied cucumbers, moldy bread or uneaten leftovers, I imagine dollar bills going in the trash; What a waste! I always think about all the people who suffer from hunger or food insecurity, too…and it just feels wrong.
Food Waste Contributes to Climate Change
But I never realized until recently that food waste is a huge environmental problem that contributes to climate change. Seriously. The food that goes to our landfills produces methane gas as it rots and methane is the second most common greenhouse gas. [This occurs mostly because the waste in a landfill doesn’t get enough oxygen.]
After learning this, I’ve started my own personal crusade to reduce food waste in our household, one small step at a time. That’s a fair warning, friends: You can expect to see more posts on this topic in the coming months.
How Much Food is Wasted in America?
Maybe you don’t have tons of leftovers or spoiled produce in your household (teenage boys, anyone?) — but I have to be honest and say it’s been a struggle for us, especially since we’re empty nesters.
Apparently, we’re not alone. Here in the U.S., the average American family tosses out about 25% of the food they purchase each year. The total added to our landfills, according to the USDA, is about 103 million tons annually — the equivalent of over 450,000 Statues of Liberty! At 24%, food waste is the number one material in our landfills.
I’m convinced we can each do something to reduce this disturbing trend.
One Small Step: Turn Vegetable Scraps into Broth
Today, I want to share a simple idea to save some of our kitchen scraps to make our own vegetable broth. The idea, of course, is to use vegetables that are past their peak or to find a useful way to deal with peels, stems and leaves from our meal prep each week.
Making homemade vegetable broth isn’t a new or complicated idea. Some of our grandmothers made their own broth without giving it a second thought or thinking it was shareworthy…lol. But times have changed and I think we can all use a gentle nudge in this direction.
Let’s get started!
How to Store Your Kitchen Scraps
First, save your vegetable scraps. Just put them in a large jar, paper bag or other container of your choice and keep them in your fridge for up to a week or in your freezer for longer (my preference). Add to the jar as you go — but don’t allow it to defrost in between uses, since this will turn the scraps to mush. You’ll need at least 4 cups of vegetable scraps to make a good broth.
What Should I Save?
Carrots, onions and celery are the foundations of a good homemade vegetable broth. You’ll want to save all the trimmings and peels from those — and if you don’t have any, plan to add some to your broth as a starter.
In lesser amounts, you can save peels and trimmings, as well as end pieces from: asparagus, leeks, scallions, carrot tops (limited amount), green beans, mushrooms, squash, garlic (limited amount), sweet peppers and tomatoes. There’s debate about potatoes (sweet and regular). Some people say they’re too starchy and turn mealy, while others toss those in, too. I haven’t tried this yet, so be sure to let me know if you do.
What Not to Include:
- Anything moldy or rotten; Past-peak is fine and is one of the goals here.
- Anything that will cause bitterness: This includes kale, broccoli, cabbage, turnips, kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts, rutabagas and zucchini.
- Anything that will darken the broth: spinach, swiss chard, beets, etc.
- Any herb that will intensify the flavor too much: Herbs can be used in small amounts, but be careful not to add too many.
Step-by-Step to Making Homemade Vegetable Broth
1.) Start with the foundation: about 1-2 large onions, 2 medium carrots and 3 celery ribs, all chopped. To this add your vegetable scraps (about 4 cups) in a stock pot.
2.) Add optional seasonings of salt, pepper, garlic, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, basil, etc. Just be sure not to go overboard. You can also season your broth just before using it.
3.) Cover the ingredients with water. Don’t overfill with water or your broth will be too diluted.
4.) Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer 1-2 hours. Taste the broth throughout (at a minimum after one hour) and if it’s good, stop cooking. Simmering too long can cause bitterness.
5. Strain the broth into a bowl and discard all the mushy vegetables or add them to your backyard composter, if you have one. High five for you if you’re composting already!
6.) Store the vegetable broth in your fridge for up to a week or freeze it for later use. Make this practical for the way you cook. If you use small amounts of broth at a time, consider freezing it in an ice cube tray.
Note: If you choose to freeze broth in a glass jar, leave one to two inches of headspace to allow the broth to expand.
How to Use Homemade Vegetable Broth
- Add it to grains or rice instead of water.
- Use it when making soup.
- Substitute it in recipes calling for chicken broth.
- Add it to stews.
So there you have it. This isn’t an exact recipe, so don’t stress over it. If you avoid veggies that cause bitterness and don’t over-simmer it — you should end up with a flavorful vegetable broth that can enhance your everyday cooking. Plus, you’ll be “re-purposing” and breaking down some of your vegetable scraps first instead of just sending them to a landfill.
Side Note: As I was writing this post, I got an email notice that our small city now offers a food composting drop-off site. Yippee! We won’t have curbside pickup, but it’s a start until I can get my own compost bin going again. Be sure to check with your city or town to see if this is an option for you.
Let me know. Have you ever made your own broth? Comment below and share if you have any favorite methods or ingredients.
I am not a licensed nutritionist, medical professional or cosmetics expert. The information provided on Honest + Simple is for general informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food + Drug Administration and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease. Before making decisions about your health or other concerns, please consult a qualified professional and do not rely on this website for medical advice.