How to Upcycle Food to Reduce Waste & Save Money

Are you tired of throwing away food scraps and leftovers? You can lean into upcycling to put more of your food to good use! Upcycling food is a great way to reduce food waste and save money. Instead of tossing out those carrot peels or broccoli stems, you can use them to create delicious and nutritious meals.

If you’re interested in upcycling food, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started. You can find recipes online or in cookbooks that focus on using food scraps and leftovers. Additionally, the Upcycled Food Association provides information and resources on upcycling food and even offers a certification program for upcycled food products. With a little creativity and effort, you can reduce your food waste and create delicious meals at the same time.

Why Upcycling Food is Important

Upcycling food is a crucial step towards reducing food waste and promoting sustainability in the food industry. Here are some reasons why upcycling food is important:

Reducing Food Waste

Upcycling food is an effective way to reduce food waste. When you upcycle food, you are taking ingredients that might have otherwise gone to waste and turning them into something new. This means that less food ends up in landfills, where it can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions as it decomposes and lead to other environmental problems.

Saving Money

Upcycling food can also help you save money. By using ingredients that might have otherwise gone to waste, you can reduce your grocery bill and make the most of the food you have on hand. This can be especially helpful if you are on a tight budget or trying to save money.

Promoting Sustainability

Upcycling food is a sustainable practice that can help to promote sustainability in the food industry. By reducing food waste, we can conserve resources and reduce the environmental impact of food production. This can help to create a more sustainable food system that is better for the planet and for future generations.

Encouraging Creativity

Upcycling food can also be a fun and creative way to cook. By using ingredients in new and unexpected ways, you can create unique and delicious meals that are sure to impress your friends and family. This can be a great way to explore new flavors and cooking techniques, and to challenge yourself in the kitchen. I always like to call these “cleaning out the fridge” meals!

How to Upcycle Leftovers

Leftovers from restaurants or previously cooked meals are absolutely included in upcycling opportunities. They do not have to be fresh ingredients. In fact, they mostly aren’t in my experience! Here are some basic tips and recipes to help you upcycle your food scraps and leftovers.

Basic Tips

  • Store your leftovers properly: Make sure to store your leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer to keep them fresh for longer.
  • Use your senses: Before throwing away leftovers, use your senses to determine whether they’re still good to eat. Check for any unusual smells, colors, or textures.
  • Get creative: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor combinations and techniques. Upcycling your leftovers is a great opportunity to get creative in the kitchen.

Classic Upcycle Recipes

Here are some recipes to help you upcycle your leftovers:

1. Frittata

A frittata is a great way to use up leftover vegetables, meats, and cheese. Simply whisk together some eggs and milk, add your leftovers, and cook on the stove or in the oven until set. For a vegan version, you can experiment with silken tofu or chickpea flour instead of eggs and milk.

2. Fried Rice

Fried rice is a classic upcycling recipe that’s easy to customize. Use leftover rice, vegetables, and meats to create a quick and delicious meal.

3. Soup

Soup is a great way to use up leftover vegetables, meats, and grains. Simply sauté some onions and garlic, add your leftovers, and simmer with broth until everything is heated through.

4. Quesadillas

Quesadillas are a great way to use up leftover meats, cheese, and vegetables. Simply layer your leftovers between two tortillas and cook on the stove or in the oven until crispy and melty.

5. Smoothies

Smoothies are a great way to use up leftover fruits and vegetables. Simply blend your leftovers with some ice and your favorite juice for a healthy and delicious drink.

These are just a few ideas for upcycling your leftovers. Get creative and experiment with different recipes to find what works best for you. Happy upcycling!

Creative Ways to Upcycle Food

If you’re looking for ways to reduce food waste and save money, upcycling food is a great solution. Upcycling food is the process of transforming food scraps or leftovers into new, delicious dishes. Here are some creative ways to upcycle food in your kitchen, garden, and compost pile.

In the Kitchen

  1. Turn stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs: Instead of throwing away stale bread, cut it into cubes, toss with olive oil and spices, and bake in the oven until crispy. Alternatively, you can pulse stale bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs for use in meatballs, casseroles, or as a coating for fried foods.
  2. Use vegetable scraps to make stock: Save vegetable scraps such as onion peels, carrot tops, and celery leaves in a container in your freezer. When you have enough, simmer the scraps in water for a few hours to make a flavorful vegetable stock that can be used as a base for soups, stews, and sauces.
  3. Make smoothies with overripe fruit: If you have overripe fruit that’s too mushy to eat, blend it into a smoothie with yogurt or juice. You can also freeze the fruit in a zip-top bag and use it later in smoothies or baked goods.


  1. Use coffee grounds as fertilizer: Coffee grounds are a great source of nitrogen and can be used as a natural fertilizer for plants. Simply sprinkle the grounds around the base of your plants or mix them into the soil.
  2. Compost food scraps: Composting is a great way to turn food scraps and yard waste into nutrient-rich soil for your garden. You can compost fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, and yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings.
  3. Use eggshells to control pests: Crushed eggshells can be used as a natural pest deterrent in your garden. Sprinkle the shells around the base of your plants to deter slugs, snails, and other pests.
  4. Turn food scraps into compost tea: Compost tea is a nutrient-rich liquid that can be used to fertilize plants. To make compost tea, steep compost in water for a few days, strain out the solids, and use the liquid to water your plants.

Upcycling food is a great way to reduce food waste and save money. With a little creativity, you can turn food scraps and leftovers into delicious new dishes and improve the health of your garden.

Challenges and Solutions in Upcycling Food

While upcycling food can be fun and rewarding, it can also come with some challenges. Here are a few common challenges and some solutions to help you overcome them:

  • Lack of inspiration: If you’re not sure what to do with a particular ingredient, try searching online for recipes or ideas. You can also check out cookbooks or ask friends for suggestions.
  • Food safety concerns: It’s important to handle food safely when upcycling. Make sure to follow proper food safety guidelines, such as keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, and storing leftovers promptly.
  • Time constraints: Upcycling can take a little extra time and effort, but it’s worth it. To save time, try prepping ingredients in advance or making larger batches of upcycled dishes to enjoy throughout the week. Remember, the freezer is your best friend!

Tips for Success

Here are some tips to help you upcycle food successfully:

  • Get organized: Keep track of what ingredients you have on hand and plan your meals accordingly.
  • Be creative: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavors and ingredients.
  • Use the whole ingredient: When possible, use the entire ingredient, such as using broccoli stems in a stir-fry or making stock from veggie scraps.
  • Freeze leftovers: If you can’t use up your upcycled creations right away, freeze them for later use.
  • Have fun: Upcycling food is a great way to get creative in the kitchen and reduce food waste. Enjoy the process and savor the results!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some upcycled food examples?

Simple examples of upcycled food would be creating a stir fry from a previously cooked dinner, using veggie scraps to make a soup broth, or turning stale bread into croutons.

What are some upcycled food recipes?

There are many upcycled food recipes that you can make at home using food scraps and surplus ingredients. Some examples include banana peel bacon, vegetable scrap broth, and carrot top pesto. You can find a variety of upcycling recipes online or in cookbooks focused on reducing food waste.

What is the upcycled food trend?

The upcycled food trend is a movement focused on reducing food waste by creating new, high-quality products from surplus food. This trend has gained popularity in recent years as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of food waste and seek out sustainable food options.

Can food scraps be upcycled?

Yes, food scraps can be upcycled into a variety of new products. Fruit and vegetable scraps can be used to make broth, smoothies, and even flour. Other food scraps such as coffee grounds and spent brewing grains can be used to make snacks and baked goods or can be used in your garden.

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Citations for This Article


Plonkey, Jim. (January 19, 2024). How to Upcycle Food to Reduce Waste & Save Money. Natural Replacements. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from


Plonkey, Jim. "How to Upcycle Food to Reduce Waste & Save Money." Natural Replacements,


Plonkey, Jim. "How to Upcycle Food to Reduce Waste & Save Money." Natural Replacements, Last modified January 19, 2024.

Jim Plonkey

Jim Plonkey is a Co-founder of Natural Replacements. A digital marketing professional with a passion for sustainability, Jim lives in Southeast Michigan and enjoys traveling to new places, spending time outdoors - kayaking, hiking, and gardening, and yoga.

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