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Three More Things You Do NOT Have to Throw Away!

The following post is from Katie of Kitchen Stewardship:

3 Things You Didn't Know You Could EatI’m always very proud of the small amount of trash our family produces in a week and wish we could have even less recycling, but packaging continues to come into our house, grrr…

We use reusable snack and sandwich bags, washable hankies and cleaning rags (my toddler barely knows what a paper towel is!), avoid plastic wrap and styrofoam, cloth diapered for a while, take our own containers to restaurants for leftovers and do our darndest to create as little waste as possible.

I’ve written often here on the subjects of reusing, recycling, and avoiding disposables…so I’ve already covered the fact that your school can sign up to reclaim strange items like cheese wrappers, foil drink pouches, and even personal product waste like makeup tubes via Terracycle, which my son loved helping with. And we’ve discussed how to save things like orange peels and potato skins from the garbage and put them to good use instead. (My kids can never decide if they like our homemade potato salad better or the “potato crispies” we get from the skins!)

In fact, I shared 200 ways to practice the 3Rs to save the earth last year and then another very specific 101 things you can reuse instead of recycle this year.

You’d think I’d be out of ideas.

But when I was asked what to do with bacon grease and some other things that people felt guilty about throwing away (you can’t compost meat products), I knew I had to share just a few more ideas.

Don’t Throw Away Good Bacon Grease

Save Your Bacon Grease

Did you know lard is over 50% monounsaturated fat? That’s the same healthy fat lauded in avocados.

You read that right – pig fat is good for you. Blame Crisco’s brilliant marketing decades ago for making the American public think otherwise. (More here if you’re the curious type.)

So how do I “dispose” of bacon grease? Into a glass jar, into my fridge (although it can hang out at room temp for many days too), and back into my skillet to pan fry asparagus or green beans. It’s also ah-maz-ing incorporated into hamburgers, about 1-2 tablespoons per pound. It’s what steakhouses do to get that crispy outside and the “what’s the awesome taste?” burger.

One caveat is that chemicals, hormones, pesticides, etc. accumulate in the fat of an animal, so if you’ve got conventionally raised store bacon, it’s your call whether you pitch or reuse.

But if you’ve splurged for pastured bacon anyway, oh, man, you gotta save the fat to improve your investment! (If you are throwing away grease, pour it into a tea cup, let it solidify, then scrape into the garbage.)

You Can Eat Strawberry Tops

Eat the Tops of Your Strawberries

I shared this tip with a neighbor who had just picked many, many pounds of strawberries and was looking at the rest of the day hulling and freezing them.

Wide-eyed in disbelief, she cried, “You just saved half my day!”

I had asked her how she uses the berries, and when I found out most of them are frozen whole for smoothies, I told her that we’ve been leaving the hulls (the green tops) on for years and are still around to tell about it. We make green smoothies anyway, so those greens completely disappear.

I also leave the tops on when I make strawberry fruit rolls (here’s a video tutorial to show how I make over 4 square feet in about 3 minutes) and they truly cannot be seen there either, even though the only ingredient in our dehydrated snack is “strawberries.”

This tip may be too late for most of the U.S. strawberry season, but I hope you can remember it for next year and save yourself some time (and avoid that pile of strawberry hulls for the garbage and compost that always makes me bummed out that I paid money per pound for such a heap!).

Chicken Bones…Off the Plate!

Use Chicken Bones for Chicken Stock...Even Off Your Plates

I hope you already know that you can make homemade chicken stock from a chicken carcass, and even that you can reuse the bones three or more times until they’re practically falling apart.

But what about when you serve fried chicken or grilled bone-in chicken and have all those un-compostable bones on the plates?

Why not put them in your stock too? It’s going to boil and cook four or more hours – will there really be any germs that survive? Nope.

So grab those chicken bones, steak bones, and  ham bones from the plates and don’t ever throw them away without using them for at least one batch of stock (ham bones go in our slow cooker beans, mmmmmm…). If you just have a few, freeze them in a bag until you have enough for a good pot of stock.

If you hide this fact from your family, that’s okay. They might not understand the beauty of reusing!

The same “throw everything in the stock” mentality also applies to those slimy bags of internal organs you’ll find inside your chicken, the onion and garlic skins you’ve probably been throwing away or composting, and carrot and celery ends as well as fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, thyme and more that you can’t use fast enough. Just don’t put greens or broccoli in your stock; they’re too bitter.

When the carcass or random bones have done their duty and expended all the nutrition they have to give, you typically do have to throw them away at that point, but readers with high-powered blenders tell me they just blend up the soft bones in their last batch of stock and use that portion for thick soups or cooking rice anyway so it doesn’t matter if it’s clear. One way to save more from the garbage can…

I guess I could have called this post “Things You Didn’t Know You Could Eat” since that’s the main idea here: Don’t toss it, eat it!

What do you reuse that most people just throw away?

Katie Kimball has been “green” since 5th grade when she read 50 Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. She remains slightly disappointed that she didn’t actually save the whole thing back then, but now that she has 3 kiddos counting on her, she keeps plugging away hopefully. Katie blogs at Kitchen Stewardship about real food and natural living and is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and other eBooks, available for Kindle.