Man throwing carrots in trash

I was very disappointed yesterday to find that some potatoes I bought, although they looked good on the outside, had big, spoiled spots on the inside. But I didn’t throw them out; they still had some good parts.

I laughed, remembering how Mom would declare, “Hey, that’s still good!” as she carefully cut out the spoiled bits. Sure, the potato (or apple or piece of cheese) was one-quarter the size when she was done with it, but she was not going to throw away food that was still good. I am the same way; I use the good parts and put the spoiled pieces in the compost pile.

It’s not hard to use up pieces of trimmed fruit. Just toss them together in a fruit salad or blend them into a smoothie. If I have just a few pieces, I’ll mix them with yogurt or my morning oatmeal.

There are even more possibilities for bits of vegetables. If I have small amounts of veggies (like a few strips of pepper), I’ll add them to an omelet or a stir fry. A half of a cup of peas or some broccoli stems could be peeled, chopped, and added to a stew or to mac and cheese.

Pasta primavera is a great way to use bits of carrot, zucchini, peas, asparagus, or whatever you have on hand — you don’t need to have a lot of any single vegetable to make this dish. Toss the veggies with cooked pasta and some good olive oil for a satisfying, frugal vegan meal that uses up those good bits.

I also like to make minestrone soup to use up bits and pieces of vegetables. Cook whatever vegetables you have in a broth with tomatoes, beans, and tiny pasta and serve it with a nice crusty piece of bread. This soup is great for the end of your garden’s harvest season when you may have very little left.

You can even use cleaned veggie peels and stems to make vegetable stock. Just make sure they aren’t waxed like turnips sometimes are. I freeze carrot peels and tops, zucchini stems, and onion ends, and when I have enough, I wrap them in cheesecloth and put the bundle in my slow cooker to simmer. When it’s done, I can compost it all, even the cheesecloth!

So before you throw “spoiled” food out, check: Are some parts still good? With just a bit of thought, we can prevent so much food waste.

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By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.