We are ALL about using what we have, wasting less food and wasting less money on groceries! Start using MORE of these produce and perishable items with these simple kitchen hacks!

We're all on a mission to be less wasteful. Buuuut let's face it, sometimes produce can be temperamental and spoil before we use it during its prime! Don't be so quick to toss it in the garbage though. Oftentimes there are plenty of ways to use more of our food, even if it's a little old, wilted, or bruised. Here are 9 things that you can be salvaging from the trash bin!

1. Strawberry Tops

We go through so many strawberries during the summer, especially in smoothies for a refreshing lunch item! If you are chopping the top off of a strawberry, here's a fun way to make use of that little pile of produce leftovers: Infuse them in water, vinegar or tea!

sliced strawberries on a cutting board, from ShelfCooking.com

Plop your strawberry tops into a glass of water, adding any other fruit you'd like, for a little refreshing boost to your plain ole' drink. You can also add them to hot or cold teas, and even infuse vinegar with them for a sweet surprise!

2. Shrimp Tails

Once you take the tail off of your shrimp, they aren't trash yet! No, we aren't going to eat them. But you can use them in your own stock for a seafood soup!

shrimp on wooden kabobs for grill, from Shelf Cooking

We love making our own stocks for soups! Stocks are a liquid base for soups, sauces and stews. We've shared posts about the best beef broth and chicken broth substitutes too!

Make your own simple shrimp stock with 4 basic ingredients:

  • Leftover shrimp tails from about 1 lb. of shrimp
  • 1 Tbs. of canola or vegetable oil
  • 1.5 Cups water
  • Salt to taste

Sauté your shrimp tails in the oil for about 3 minutes, stirring often. Then add the water and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Press down on the shells with your spoon to extract any extra flavor and juice. Pour the stock through a mesh strainer into a saucepan, pressing down on the shells until all the liquid is extracted. Add a pinch of salt, and voila! You've got shrimp stock, which would be FANTASTIC in a risotto or gumbo!

3. Open Avocados

If you've cut open an avocado but you haven't used the entire thing, you know that you have a fine window before it turns too brown to be appetizing. Don't let extra avocado go to waste by turning brown in the fridge!

slicing avocado for baby food, from Shelf Cooking

To preserve leftover avocado and keep it green and appetizing for another two days, add an acidic agent and limit the exposure to air! An acidic agent would be lemon or lime juice. Sprinkle the top of your exposed avocado with some lemon/lime juice and cover tightly with plastic wrap to keep it fresh!

If your avocado has already turned soft and mushy in spots, here's an additional way to use it up! Turn it into a creamy salad dressing! You'll be blending it up, so pay no mind to any brown spots!

To make your own delicious and nutritious avocado salad dressing, you'll need:

  • 1/2 Cup Ripe, soft avocado
  • 1/4 Cup Plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 2 Tbs. Lemon juice
  • 3 Tbs. Olive oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup Water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor and you've got yourself a dang delicious salad dressing that you'd never know contained brown avocado!

4. Herb Stems

After you cut the beautiful leaves off of fresh herbs, are you tossing their stems into the trash? Don't!

You can use them to make something so simple yet so fancy looking. Are you ready for this? Make your own herbal-infused olive oils! There are whole specialty stores devoted to this very product, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your own home, or even sitting in your garbage can. These can also be beautiful homemade gifts!

So here's how to DIY an herb-infused olive oil using the discarded stems from your herbs:

  • Add approximately 1 cup of herbs stems for every 2 cups of olive oil. Blend your herbs and olive oil in a blender until smooth.
  • Simmer the herby oil over a saucepan, simmering for just about a minute.
  • Strain into a bowl with a fine mesh strainer.
  • Store in the fridge in an airtight container and use within a week.

5. Wilted Greens

We buy greens with the best of intentions….and then they start to wilt in the fridge, so we chuck them and go order a pizza. Just us? Or is that you too? If wilted greens give you the heebie jeebies, we aren't going to convince you to plug your nose and gag it down!

bowl of homemade pesto, from Shelf Cooking

You can make your own PESTO SAUCE from greens that are wilted! Traditional pesto is made from basil, but there's many ways to modify that! We've also done a post on the many ways you can use pesto sauce here.

  • 3 Cups Greens (Spinach, arugala, kale, etc.)
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 1/3 Cup Pine Nuts
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • Juice from Half a Lemon
  • Salt & Pepper

Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until it reaches a pesto consistency! Enjoy!

6. Leftover Pickle Juice

Recycle that jar of leftover pickle juice and fill your own items with flavor! First, we have already covered 15 Ways To Use Leftover Pickle Juice. But the most simple thing is you can reuse the vinegar mixture to pickle your produce or even hard-boiled eggs. Somethings we LOVE to pickle:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Radish
  • Jalapenos

Or simply make MORE pickles, and use our best recipe for homemade pickles here!

7. Blackened Bananas

We have passed the freckled banana phase, and now they are just blackened. Ick! Toss them?


They are still edible, still full of flavor, even though the skin in unappealing. (Una-peel-ing! Haha! Sorry, had to.)

If you can't use them for a smoothie or banana bread right now, you can freeze them for later. Sometimes it's even BETTER to use frozen bananas for smoothies to make them colder and creamier! Be sure to peel them first, then freeze them in an airtight bag. Here are our favorite smoothie and banana bread posts!

8. Stale Bread

If you've got some stale bread on your hands, you're halfway to homemade croutons!

homemade croutons fresh from the oven, from Shelf Cooking

Make your own tasty croutons with our recipe here!

9. Bruised Apples

You give all the apples a once-over in the grocery store to pick the shiniest ones. Inevitably, sometimes they still get bruised! If you've got some especially gnarly apples on your hands, they won't make a great crispy snack, but they aren't destined for the dumpster yet. A soft apple, even with it's brown spots, can still make the most tasty and delicious applesauce or apple butter.

Homemade applesauce in a glass bowl from Shelf Cooking.

Check out this Homemade Applesauce Recipe That's Cheap and Easy!

Which one are you going to try first?! We can't wait to make more use out of things we already have on hand!

If you loved these ideas, here are some more great posts you might be interested in:

Have a great day!