NBC senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle is trying to teach her family to about food waste and conservation so she did something that might seem a bit unusual to the initiated — she started cooking with food scraps. "Scrapping," or using the stuff we normally throw out, from the tops of carrots to onion skins and even chicken carcasses is having a moment as more people turn their focus toward ways to help conserve and eliminate food waste.
"It’s always driven me nuts that we throw out so much waste, and that we don’t find a way to repurpose leftovers," Ruhle told TODAY Food. "The ends of carrots, potato peels. I’m pushing my kids to care about waste and conserve. It's something we're committed to."
Earlier this month, Ruhle posted pictures and a video on Instagram of her and her daughter Drew using the skins of potatoes to make a pre-dinner snack. It attracted the attention of Food Network celebrity chef Tyler Florence who is also into the idea of reducing food waste.
"We’ve gone through a hard year financially and everybody’s tightening their budgets," Florence told TODAY. He said that beyond helping the environment, addressing food waste is a big way Americans can save money. "In any given year 31% of food is thrown out at home," he said.
Ruhle said that during the pandemic repurposing food she otherwise may have thrown out became a huge priority. She tried to give old loaves of bread new life and set aside Sundays to empty out her fridge and become what her kids called a "kitchen sink cook," making a meal out of a mish mash of everything so very little went to waste.
"We’re super lucky to have fresh fruits and veggies," said Ruhle. "I make a lot of bone broth why not throw the ends of your carrots in?"
Ruhle is also a big fan of "ugly food" subscription boxes that contain imperfect produce that otherwise might have gone in the trash but is completely edible.
"When we’re making smoothies once it’s in the blender it doesn’t matter what it looked like," she said. "Even the core of the apple, I just put it in the freezer to use it later."
Ruhle said that even if her scrapping creations aren't her kids' favorite foods that it's all about the adventure of cooking together and about making them more aware of the bigger picture.
"It all goes down the same place," she said.
"Your crisper drawer probably has some sad stories in there," said Florence, talking about the produce we buy with the best of intentions but then end up leaving to wilt.
His best tips for reducing food waste include shopping from recipes and portioning out food from larger packages so that nothing goes stale.
"Make a conscious decision," he said regarding meal planning. "Instead of filling the fridge back up again when you go shopping, figure out what you’re going to make for the week."
He said that instead of letting kids open a bag of chips, a better idea is to portion it out into sandwich bags so it stays fresh.
There's also plenty we can all do with food scraps.
"I’m going to make this dish — chili chicken rice," he said about Instagram Live he did with Ruhle, below. "It’s a hybrid of a paella and it’s the perfect vehicle for leftover corn, leftover potatoes, leftover carrots with sliced chicken on top, so your kids will eat it."
Florence said it's all about finding these "vehicles" that you can start sliding in your food scraps into. "We like to make veggie stock at our house," he said. Soups in general are hearty and cheap and a great way to use up any "trimmings." "The peel from garlic — it tastes like garlic," he said. "Keep it in the freezer in a Ziploc."
Another way to use up produce is to make a big salad.
"Make sure you’re adding more vegetables to whatever you're cooking," he suggested. "We try to have a salad for every meal. Slice carrots, cucumbers. Salad is a great way to use up a lot of vegetables."
"Everything in the kitchen has culinary value and nutrition," said Florence. "And you pay for it."