Just a few more ideas before I finish up with things I've learned from An Everlasting Meal.
First things first:
Ends, a definition: Bones, peels, skins, scraps, stems, and well, ends--the parts of the food you usually chop off and throw away.
Now what to do with them?
1. Compost them. This is the easiest thing for most of us to do if we have a garden. If it was grown from the ground (as in NOT dairy or meat products) it can be composted. If you have a garden, but composting seems really daunting, check out this post.
2. Feed them to ducks or chickens. Okay, okay, I realize that this isn't the most practical thing for those of you without backyard livestock/ponds. But I did think it might be a fun thing to do on a picnic at a park. Just save those strawberry tops and broccoli stems and feed them to the ducks instead of the standard bread.
3. Make stock or soup. Many people (and by people I mean really frugal people) keep a bucket or Ziploc bag in the freezer with their ends. When they get enough, they cover them with water and boil until you can taste a vegetable/meat and it tastes like water and you can taste the stock and it tastes like vegetables/meat, meaning that all the goodness of the vegetables/meat has been transferred to the stock.
4. Use the water you've boiled vegetables in to water your plants. Or as the base for a stock instead of plain water. Adler actually stores her veggie waters in the fridge awaiting further use. I don't know if I'm that dedicated, but in the summer, I often use that water for my patio plants.
5. Use them in something else. I admit that this doesn't work for all types of ends. There's only so much you can do with onion skins for example. But many ends can be re-purposed. I admit that a lot of this is theory to me as I've never tried these things. However, I trust that giving a few a try would get our grandparents/great-grandparents smiling in their graves. Stems from herbs you used to garnish last night's meal can be used in a soup or casserole tonight. Animal (or sometimes vegetable) skins can be fried up (okay, gross, but that totally works for some people). Fat from stock can be used to saute your vegetables. Parmesan rinds can be used to flavor soup. Stale bread can be used to make croutons, bread crumbs, bread pudding, or any of a number of other bread based things. You get the idea. I admit that if you did this with everything, it could get a little exhausting. Or maybe not. Maybe if we learned to do this sort of cooking and did this with everything, we'd only have to go to the store once a month. And we'd always have something waiting for dinner.
The other day for lunch I had a bunch of broccoli stalks saved. I'd used the tree-like heads for various meals. The stalks had kept surprisingly well. One batch was about 2 weeks old and no different in firmness than the fresh bunch. So I decided to give my ends a whirl. I made them into matchsticks and roasted them. They were delicious and gave me a lunch side dish for 2 days. Then I chopped the leftover leaves and bits I'd peeled off and fed them to our ducks. I have to say I felt pretty good about it all.