5 Awesomely Useful Things Most People Throw Away – Kitchen Edition

Dear readers… I have a confession. I hoard butter wrappers and a few other things most people consider to be garbage. Now, don’t go turning me in to the reality T.V. networks just yet. I promise you that there are indeed applications for all of these items aside from  making me sound like a crazy person.

Whomever coined the phrase “waste not want not” really knew what they were talking about. If you’re willing to relegate a section of your freezer to storing a few things, you can save yourself a significant amount of money, improve some of your recipes and reduce your waste. Sounds like a win-win-win to me.

1. Parmesan Rinds

I suppose my first bit of advice here is to stop buying bad, over processed cheese. Sure, the good stuff is a couple dollars more expensive, but it will last you a lot longer. If you buy quality, a little goes a long way. You’ll need half as much cheese to get twice the flavor. Less money, fewer calories, happier taste buds. This is especially true with very hard cheese like Parmesan and Romano.
If you’re already buying the good stuff, stop throwing away your parmesan cheese rinds! Parmigiana reggiano or pecorino romano traditionally comes with a natural rind. It’s essentially dehydrated cheesy awesomeness. When your cheese is gone and all that remains is the rind, put it in a plastic baggy and store it in your freezer (I currently have 2 or 3 in mine). Next time you’re making a batch of soup or stock, throw in one of the stored rinds at the beginning of the simmer time. They impart a beautiful richness and depth of flavor to broth and take your soups from good to amazing. It’s a nice little touch that adds so much to your dishes.

2. Chicken Bones and Backs

Now, I’m not implying that you should start scraping off your dinner plates into a freezer bag (though you could if you decided to go hardcore), but chicken carcasses from your Sunday roast could be the beginning of a fantastic batch of chicken stock. I like to freeze them in air-tight freezer bags and store until I have 2-3 small chicken backs. This way, I can make 2 gallons of stock at once. It’s just as easy to make a giant batch as it is a tiny one, so why not? Save yourself some time down the road.

I like to freeze 2 quarts of the finished stock in in ice cube trays (transferring to a freezer bag), for when you only need a splash of broth. My ice cubes are about 2 tablespoons each, perfect for those times when you only need a splash. The rest is poured into 1 quart batches in gallon sized freezer bags and frozen for use in things like soup, stews, chili and risotto.

Buying pre-made chicken stock gets expensive. The organic brand that I prefer rings up at almost $3.00 for a quart. I won’t touch the ubiquitous red and white cans partly because I detest the taste, and partly because I have no idea what 3/4 of the ingredients are. Okay, it’s also because I’m insanely spoiled by our freezer full of homemade stock. With minimal effort, you too can be a chicken-stock-snob.

When you make a large 2 gallon batch of homemade stock, you would have to spend $24.00 to get an equal amount of store-bought broth. Assuming you need to buy a couple dollars worth of herbs and veggies to complete the batch, that’s a $20.00 savings for something that tastes infinitely better, and doesn’t have any tounge-twisting, scary words on the ingredients list. Oh, and don’t forget to add your Parmesan rind for an uber-tasty, almost free batch of stock.

3. Butter Wrappers

This one is insanely simple. When you unwrap a stick of butter, the wrapper has remnants of buttery goodness on it. The oily paper is perfect for prepping a dish for baking. I like to rub down the inside of my bread pans with the buttery paper for an even, oily coat that helps my bread loaves slide out easily. They work equally well for casserole dishes, or anything that you would normally spray with a non-stick coating before using to bake. Simply store the wrappers in an airtight container in your freezer until you’re ready to use them.

With all of the wrappers I saved from Christmas baking, and the addition of my new favorite kitchen gadget (yay misto oil spayer!) I don’t think I’ll be buying any cans of non-stick cooking spray for quite some time. It’s like money in your pocket.

4. Glass Jars

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a brand loyalist. My tastes are particular, and when I find something that I like, I buy it again and again. This is especially true with mustard. I love, love, love dijon mustard. I started saving my mustard jars, scrubbing the labels off and filling them with spices. Because of my mustard loving, jar rescuing ways my spice cabinet is filled with matching jars. It’s very organized, and I love how the jars allow me to dig right in with my spoon. It also allows me to buy my spices in bulk, per ounce instead of dropping a few dollars every time I need to replace something in the spice cupboard.

If you find yourself buying the same item again and again, you too could have a cupboard full of matching spice jars. I also use them to make salad dressing. Just dump in your ingredients and shake to emulsify. No tedious whisking for this girl, only super fun, vigorous jar shaking.

5. Stale Bread

It’s rare that bread goes uneaten in our home. Ovi and I are bread lovers to the max. We’ve been known to devour almost an entire loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. We make approximately 2 loaves a week, and sometimes, only sometimes – the fresh bread is done baking before the first loaf is finished. I’ve learned to just give up and freeze it. No one wants 2 day old slightly stale bread when there is a hot, fresh loaf flirting with you on the bread board.

Stale bread is an amazing thing to have in your freezer. You can dry it out completely, and run it through your food processor for cheap and delicious bread crumbs, tear it into chunks for panzenella (bread salad), re-hydrate in a bath of warm water or milk, squeeze out the excess and add to meatballs or meatloaf for an extra juicy meatball/loaf – there are so many options. My all time favorite, is saving up a pound or 2 of bread, and turning it into a wild mushroom dressing to serve alongside roasts. No need to wait for holidays for this one, it’s good all year round.

If you’ve made it this far into the post, I salute you. You have some serious blog-reading tenacity. It’s a long one, but hopefully some of my eccentricities will prove to be useful tips. If you have any more money saving ideas that use things we would otherwise throw away, please feel free to share in the comments section. I’m always looking for new things to add to my “crazy bin” in the freezer.


4 thoughts on “5 Awesomely Useful Things Most People Throw Away – Kitchen Edition

  1. If it were a kitchen exam, I would be scoring about 50%. The rind idea is excellent. I am a long time convert to quality ingredients and the rinds have been making it to rubbish. Our herbs and spices are a mish-mash of bags, bottles and jars.
    One, suggestion, add any leftover wine into the ice cube tray too. Great when a small amount is needed. Not that I need an excuse to open a bottle.
    Great post,

      • ha! i’ve also seotrd the whole bag of tortilla chips from costco in the freezer. i freeze rice and bread also. other faves to freeze; chunks of getting-too-ripe bananas (to throw into smoothies), baked goods (so we don’t scarf down the whole recipe the day it’s made), nuts so they don’t go rancid, the excess of flavorful things called for in recipes (ie the rest of the chopped spicy pepper, the extra lemon juice or zest, the extra grated ginger, the rest of the tomato paste)

    • I also store my nuts in the freezer(there are so many pleacs to go with that, but I’ll keep it clean!!) I’ve discovered that I love to just eat them as a snack straight out of the freezer, so it’s like a two-for. Two for the price of one! I got this freezer trick from my friend Jill!

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