Produce Has Never Been So Expensive—Here's How To Get the Most Out of Your Veggies

You might just be throwing out the best part of your vegetables.

farm delivery box in hands of a person wearing a flannel shirt and blue chamboard apron
Photo: Getty Images/Milan_Jovic

It's safe to say that grocery prices are pretty steep nowadays. While it's easy to justify paying higher prices for pantry staples and frozen food that will last you a while, it's hard to see money going to waste on produce that goes bad in a few days or that you throw away part of because you don't know what to do with it.

Recently, a TikTok featuring a shopper breaking off the broccoli stems in the grocery store so they didn't have to pay for the parts they don't use went viral. If you think about it, it's a smart hack for produce that's priced per pound, so if you're just going to throw the stems away, why should you pay for the extra weight?

Even a Walmart employee responded to TikTok's "Broccoli Gate" and said that is a perfectly acceptable thing to do in the produce section.

But if trimming down your veggies in the aisle isn't for you—or you find yourself with produce that you physically can't trim in the store (think potatoes)—the good news is there are ways to use those leftover bits. In some cases, the leftover pieces are actually the most flavorful and nutritious parts of the veggies, so don't throw them away.

We asked our Allrecipes community members how they use leftover vegetable pieces, plus we'll share some of the Internet's favorite ways.

First, a good rule of thumb to remember: When in doubt, most vegetable scraps can be used to make flavorful veggie stock.

How To Use Every Last Bit Of Your Vegetables

Broccoli Stems

Tomato-sauce topped manicotti pasta in a baking dish
Three-Cheese Broccoli Manicotti. Chef John

Because the internet was baffled by Broccoli Gate, it's only fair to start with broccoli stems. Of course, the easiest way to use them to roast them along with the florets—they'll take on a mild and sweet flavor in the oven. Just be sure to trim off any tough parts on the stem before roasting.

If you're looking for a way to hide the stems, the best way is to use them in recipes where the broccoli will be added to a food processor. Think broccoli soup, broccoli pasta sauce, and even smoothies.

"I keep just broccoli stems and sometimes throw a few in smoothies. [You] can't taste them at all," says Allrecipes Allstar Angie Fuller.

Or, you can add them to almost any recipe that calls for broccoli—there's hardly ever a reason to only use the florets. Just remember broccoli stems will need longer to soften than the florets, so you should cook them separately. Try Chef John's Three-Cheese Broccoli Manicotti, Broccoli Chicken Divan, or Broccoli Garlic Angel Hair Pasta.

Mushroom Stems

close up view of Chef John's Creamy Mushroom Pasta garnished with cheese in a white bowl
Chef John

Despite the fact that many recipes call for mushrooms to be separated from their stems, most stems are edible. In some mushrooms, the stems are actually more flavorful than the caps.

However, while edible, some stems are too woody to enjoy. So, stick with more tender stems by adding them to your meatloaf, stuffed peppers, pasta sauce, or your favorite mushroom recipes.

Potato Peels

Potato Rolls on a baking rack

The potato may be a humble hero in your kitchen, but we all know it's too delicious to waste any part of it—even the skins.

Sure, most of us have used our potatoes to make potato skins before, but did you know you could save the peel shavings to make a delicious, crispy snack?

Instagram user @Blair_call likes to air-fry the leftover potato peelings and eat them like a potato chip. You could also bake them or fry them in a shallow pan with oil. Once crispy, serve them topped with salt and Parmesan cheese or with your favorite chip dip.

Crispy potato chips aren't the only thing you can get out of your boiled and peeled potatoes—you can also use the potato water. Reserving pasta water is a cardinal rule of cooking pasta and the same can be true of potato water.

Similar to pasta water, potato water has all the starchy goodness that helps thicken soups, stews, and broth. So, if your baked potato soup is a little too runny, instead of using a slurry, you can add a splash of the potato water you just created.

Potato water is also commonly used to make potato bread.

Herb Stems

close up view of salsa garnished with cilantro in a glass bowl, served with tortilla chips

Sure, most recipes tell you to pick the leaves off your cilantro, parsley, dill, and basil stems—but the stems are just as edible and flavorful.

Whenever you're making a cilantro-packed salsa or a homemade pesto with fresh basil, throw those herb stems in the mixture too. You can use the herb stems in almost any recipe that calls for fresh herbs—for example, Allrecipes Allstar Diana Bishop uses them in her soups and Instagram user @mammaferri uses them in her omelets.

We promise, no one will ever know!

Brussels Sprout Stalk

If you don't buy on-the-stalk Brussels sprouts, then this one won't apply to you. However, if you do purchase the full stalk or grow your own, you don't need to throw that stalk away once you take the Brussels off.

Instead, roast the stalk alongside your Brussels sprouts. Once the stalk is tender, cut it length-wise and scoop out the insides—you can't eat the outside of the stalk. Enjoy the pulp on its own or topped with Parmesan.

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