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Cooking Tips

Waste Less: 13 Ways to Be Thriftier in the Kitchen

Here are some of the most creative ways our readers ensure every crust of bread and languishing herb is put to use.
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Published Apr. 24, 2023.

Over the years, our readers have sent us countless thrifty tips, from creative uses for leftovers or ingredients to clever tricks for repurposing disposable packaging. Here are 13 of our absolute favorites.

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1. Dry your excess herbs rather than composting them. Place a wire rack in a sheet pan and lay the herbs out to dry on top of it. After the herbs are dry and crispy, gently rub them through the grid, allowing the leaves to fall away from the stem.

2. Conserve excess ginger or turmeric by peeling the leftovers and chopping them in the food processor, then storing them in a flat layer in a zipper-lock bag in the freezer. You can break off pieces as needed.

3. Put your stale baguette to work: Break it into pieces and use the abrasive chunks to clean cast-iron and carbon-steel pans.

Don’t toss your almost-empty bottles:

  • 4. Add water and your favorite spices to a bottle of almost-empty ketchup or mustard, shake, and pour the liquid over chicken or pork as a marinade.
  • 5. Use every last drop of chocolate syrup by filling the bottle with milk and shaking to make a delicious chocolatey drink (this also works with Nutella jars). 
  • 6. Use the last of a jam or jelly jar to make a slightly sweetened, fruity vinaigrette: Just mix mustard and vinegar or citrus juice into the jar, then stream in some olive oil while whisking.
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7. Even if you only need the juice of half a lemon, juice the whole lemon and freeze the excess in an ice cube tray.

8. Turn empty broth boxes into ice packs for your cooler. Wash out the containers, fill them with water (leaving some headroom), replace the screw-top lids, and freeze. 

9. Make your zipper-lock bags do double duty. Rather than freeze portions of frozen items such as sauces, sautéed vegetables, or shredded cheese in individual bags, put two portions in a gallon bag and fold it in half before freezing—this allows you to remove one portion and pop the remainder back in the freezer.

10. Turn broken chips into bread crumbs. Blitz the small, broken pieces at the bottom of your pita or tortilla chip bag in your food processor to make crispy crumbs for breading cutlets.

11. Cut your kitchen sponges in half. Your supply will last twice as long, and the smaller sponges can navigate crevices more nimbly.

12. Save cut-off crusts from bread to toast and eat as croutons.

13. Keep the end of your nutmeg after grating. Toss it into a small jar of sugar to infuse the sugar with its warm, spicy flavor. Use the sugar as a topping for baked goods or as a sparkly rim for a cocktail glass.

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