Cost of living: How to save money by cooking food we normally throw away

These offcuts can be turned into delicious meals, drinks and treats

Imy Brighty-Potts
Friday 21 October 2022 12:18 BST
Shopping is becoming increasingly stressful as prices climb (Alamy/PA)
Shopping is becoming increasingly stressful as prices climb (Alamy/PA)

The cost-of-living crisis is affecting shopping baskets all over the country.

Millions of households are skipping meals or finding it hard to put healthy food on the table, Which? research suggests.

Among the 9% who said they are finding it “very difficult” to get by, half (50%) said their household was skipping meals, and almost half of all consumers (46%) said they were finding it more difficult to eat healthily compared with before the crisis.

If you wanted to save a bit of money on your weekly shop, it could be worth looking at all the food you throw away. While they might not be the most glamorous of ingredients, they can be cooked up into some tasty dishes, drinks and snacks…

Fruit skins

Chef Mary-Ellen McTague at Eat Well MCR (eatwellmcr.org) recommends holding on to unwanted fruit skins.

“Boil them with sugar to make fruit jelly or cordial,” she says, suggesting you add gelatine to make jelly.

Vegetable peel

“Wash or scrub veg before peeling, so you can use the skins. Roast the peel and add to meat stocks, or make a veggie stock,” says McTague.

Otherwise, she says: “Deep-fry or roast until crispy and eat as a snack. Or don’t peel veg and cook with it on – veg tastes much nicer with the skin on.”

Fat off of meat

Avoiding buying a cheaper bit of meat because it has too much fat, or throwing away the fat on the meat you buy? There are easy ways to use it up.

“Roast it, and [then] simmer with caramelised onions and roast veg scraps [and water] for a couple of hours to make a broth,” McTague suggests. You can use that as a base for soups, or the chef recommends reducing the stock, adding packet noodles and green veg (either fresh or frozen) to make a hearty meal.

You could even make a meaty treat out of any unused fat. “Deep-fry or roast in a very hot oven to make crackling. Salt and eat as a snack,” McTague explains.

Fish heads

Buying filleted fish tends to cost more money. Not only could you save some cash by buying it whole, you can also make delicious sauces from any offcuts.

“Fish [heads and offcuts] make really excellent stock,” says McTague suggests. Cook with white wine and water “for 20 mins at a gentle simmer, then strain. Reduce until concentrated then add cream and a bit of lemon juice for a really luxurious fish sauce, lovely with any poached fish.”

Bones

Similarly, McTague says: “I always keep bones and make stock – [it’s] really handy to have in the fridge to make a quick soup.”

Simply cook the stock with tinned or dried beans and pulses and a handful of veg – making for “a really quick, easy and healthy lunch”.

Cores and seeds

Throwing away the seeds and cores from fruit and veg you buy? No need – they could become a tasty snack.

“Pumpkin and squash seeds are lovely toasted, and apple cores can be boiled for syrup or cordial – like fruit skins,” McTague says.

Vegetable tops

Instead of spending money on pre-packaged salad, you can fashion a delicious side dish from veg you already have.

“Beetroot leaves are really nice as a vegetable – treat it like spinach or chard and steam lightly or wilt in butter,” advises McTague. “Use spring onion tops finely shredded as a herb garnish. Carrot tops are lovely dressed in a mustard vinaigrette and served with the carrots.”

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