Healthy Cooking

Why a ‘Freezer Trash Bag’ Is an Upcycler’s Best Friend for Combatting Food Waste

Erin Bunch

Photo: Getty Images / Maskot

Food waste is a tricky topic, because, at least IMO, it makes just about everyone feel a little bit guilty. It’s not like we don’t see the number of food scraps and past-sell-by-date items we’re chucking on the regular (about one pound per day for Americans), after all. It’s just that many of us don’t know what else to do with the bits and bobbles that end up in the trash, especially if we can’t compost. Fortunately, Feel Good Foodie blogger Yumna Jawad recently shared with Well+Good a super-easy trick you can utilize no matter the size of your household or your cooking output: freeze vegetable scraps for stock.

Of all the many things you can do to help mediate the climate emergency—and FYI, food waste is thought to be responsible for up to eleven percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—this might be the easiest. Basically, Jawad advises to simply collect your veggie scraps in a gallon freezer bag (or reusable gallon freezer bags) and then once the bag is filled, dumping it into a pot to make soup stock. “Basically a freezer trash bag is what I like to call it,” she shared at Well+Good’s recent 2021 Trends event.

Typically, Jawad explained, her bag is full of peels—usually from onions, potatoes, carrots, and the like—but you can toss almost anything into yours. This includes peppers, green beans, leftover herbs, veggie leaves (say, from celery), and even the (washed) tops of veggies that would otherwise be discarded (e.g. carrot tops). In fact, there are only a few veggie scraps she advises against adding to the mix. “The things I like to stay away from are cruciferous vegetables because they can be really bitter in a stock, and I would say also the tops of some of those really bitter root vegetables, like turnips and radishes,” she said.

Once your bag is full—about three to six cups of veggies—Jawad said to dump the entirety of its contents into a pot along with water. She likes about three times more water than veggies, but this is a matter of preference—the more water you add, the thinner the stock will be.

To make it a chicken stock, she suggested tossing in a carcass or other bones from previously-cooked along with the vegetables. If you want to keep things plant-based, she recommends adding beans instead to give your stock the gelatinous quality you would otherwise get from using bones. Any type of bean will do, but she prefers canned white beans or cannellini beans for the color. You can also add salt, pepper, and other seasonings at your discretion, she said. “My mom also likes to add a cinnamon stick in there,” she shared. “It gives it this warm and yummy flavor.”

Once you’ve added the desired ingredients, bring your mixture to a boil and let it simmer for two, three, or four hours. “It’s just going to make your home smell so good,” she said. Then, separate the liquid from the leftovers and you can use the soup stock for up to seven days (or longer, if you freeze it).

As for how to then use your stock, Jawad notes that there are innumerable ways, especially around the holidays. “We add it to stuffing, we use it in the mashed potatoes, we use it for the gravy—there are so many different uses for it,” she said. “You can even use stock to make an oil-free dressing.” Because it’s so versatile, she keeps it on hand at all times, which is extremely easy to do thanks to her freezer trash bag.

Looking for a way to use up your new homemade stock? Check out this Italian “meatball” soup:

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