Upcycling Food: What It Is + 5 Ways to Get Started

September 14, 2022

Have you heard of upcycling food? It's a newer trend in the food space where you create dishes that would have otherwise been tossed out. It's a great way to cut back on food waste and even lower your grocery bill, but it can be hard to get into the frame of mind needed to execute it properly.

To learn more about upcycling food and how to do it, keep reading about this rising trend and discover how you can incorporate it into your life on a regular basis.

Upcycling Food: What It Is and How To Do It

If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably already in the habit of recycling certain things, such as plastic, glass, and more. But what if you could take it a step further and cut back on your food waste while also saving money on your grocery bill and even support the climate, too?

I’m talking about upcycling food. Upcycled food is simply creating a dish made from ingredients that otherwise would have been tossed out, such as scraps from a prior meal. Think leftovers but on a whole new scale.

The first benefit that comes to mind? You’ll no longer be tossing as much uneaten food, which accounts for 6 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions throughout the world. But there’s more.

You’ll also be saving yourself some money by making your food stretch further—and we all know that organic, fresh produce isn’t exactly what you’d call cheap! In addition to meals, you can also use your food scraps for other purposes, such as homemade cleaners! The options are truly endless.

But how practical is it? I’m so glad you asked!  Let’s take a look at some of the top ways you can get in on the trend of upcycling food.


Upcycling food - Dr. Pingel


How To Upcycle Food: 5 Ways to Use Upcycled Food

Here are 5 of my top tips for upcycling food.

1. Turn fruit into on-the-go snacks.

Whether you have a dehydrator or an oven, you can dehydrate your favorite fruits to make dried fruits for on-the-go snacks. So, how is this a tip for upcycling food?

If you’re anything like most people, we don’t always get around to eating our produce before it begins to lose its freshness. But by dehydrating your fruit, it will last longer and serve as a quick and easy snack for when you’re craving a little sweetness.

2. Toast bread into croutons.

Just as with our produce, it’s pretty common for bread to go stale—especially when you’re nearing the end of the loaf. One thing I love to do is cut up my gluten-free bread and pop it into the oven to create croutons for my salads. It’s a great way to add texture, saves on the cost of (and chemicals in) store-bought croutons, and cuts back on excess food waste!

3. Save citrus peels for cleaning solution.

I’ve been known to add a little lemon peel to my water from time to time, but I also love to steep citrus peels in vinegar for a quick and effect at-home cleaning solution! I like to pack a jar full of peels and then fill it with vinegar for at least a week.

Then, combine the vinegar with a little castile soap, lemon oil, and water, much like this recipe shows, and there you have it—a versatile, multi-purpose cleaner!

4. Transform vegetable greenery into pesto.

If you love pesto, this is one upcycling food trend you’re going to want to try! Simply use your vegetable greenery (I often use carrot top greens) as the base for a delicious pesto.

Just blend your greens with some nuts, basil or sage, olive oil, and garlic and watch your family ask for seconds—never knowing your secret ingredient!

5. Use apple cores to make apple juice.

Finally, one of the most common scraps that makes for a great upcycled food is an apple core! Personally, I like to use apple cores as the base for a healthy homemade apple juice.

Place a small pot of water on the stove and throw in your apple core(s). Add in a little honey or monkfruit sweetener, and a delicious apple juice awaits you! You can also add a little cinnamon for extra health benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Upcycled food is simply creating a dish made from ingredients that otherwise would have been tossed out, such as scraps from a prior meal. Think leftovers but on a whole new scale.
  • The top benefits of upcycling food include saving money on your grocery costs, cutting back on food waste, and even limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Some of my top tips for upcycling food include: dehydrating old fruit, toasting stale bread for croutons, using citrus peels for homemade cleaning solutions, using veggie greenery for pesto, and utilizing apple cores to make apple juice.
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