Zero Waste for Kitchen Leftovers

The motivation for my transition to a Zero Waste lifestyle has everything to do with supporting the Circular Economy. Zero Waste for Kitchen Leftovers ties into Conscious living and the Circular Economy. In the Circular Economy, we aim to protect and restore the resources we get from nature. We then cycle the waste from those resources right back into nature, or into another usable product cycle that will not contaminate the planet.

What I’ve learned this far is that going Zero Waste is a lifestyle goal to work gradually towards, once you’ve decided to Live Consciously. It is not a switch that you flip or a crash diet.

A Profound Quote:

“The Transition to a Zero Waste Lifestyle is Not a Sprint; It’s a Marathon”

I would compare the gradual transition to Zero Waste lifestyle to a marathon. In a marathon, the athletes need to pace themselves so that they can endure the grueling 42 km distance.

In the same way, transitioning to Sustainable Living and a Zero Waste lifestyle is Not a Sprint; it is a marathon. We each have to pace ourselves in the journey towards a Zero Waste lifestyle.

It’s not about throwing everything out from the get-go and replacing it all with Eco stuff. That wouldn’t make sense. It’s this gradual approach that I’ve decided to adopt in my transition to a Zero Waste Kitchen and Zero Waste Cooking.

Conscious Living and Zero Waste

Conscious Living and Living a Zero Waste lifestyle are like two sides of the same coin. They both require us to practice responsible shopping, whether we are buying food, clothes, laptops or toothpicks.

As you select your next product, think about a couple of things:

  1. What will this item be at the end of its useful life?
  2. Will it be reusable?
  3. What environmental impact will it have once it’s trashed?
  4. Is it compostable? Will it be biodegradable? If not, then what happens to it?

The answers you get should then guide your buying choices. It’s all about being connected to the results of our buying decisions.

When it comes to the kitchen, the entire process of cooking and our ultimate enjoyment of food at mealtimes generates plenty of waste, probably the most waste in the house. I touched on this in my post on My Zero Waste Kitchen.

We already know that food waste is biodegradable and can be composted, so what happens to the kitchen leftovers is a no-brainer in the Circular economy.

The renewed thinking with Zero Waste Cooking is that we now want to know how we can:

  1. Store or preserve our fresh produce so that it keeps longer?
  2. Reduce the amount of food we throw away
  3. Reuse the scraps from kitchen left-overs?

Malaysian Food and the Circular Economy

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Malaysian cuisine is a blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian cooking traditions, with rich ingredients and plenty of flavors. We use lots of herbs, spices and condiments, some fresh and some dried.

Examples of Malaysian food and dishes

At home, I make lots of seafood, fish, and chicken dishes, as well as a variety of legume meals. Our staple is rice, but we also do noodles, tofu, and bread in different ways, as well as a variety of greens and veggies to balance everything off.

The Most Common Ingredients in Malay Cooking Include These:

  1. Coconut
  2. Turmeric root
  3. Ginger root
  4. Tamarind fruit
  5. Pandan leaves (Fragrant Screw Pine leaves)
  6. Curry leaves
  7. Lemongrass
  8. Chilli Peppers

By now, I’ve already put in place an efficient (more or less) system of shopping for produce and ingredients for our meals, as well as a way to store them.

What I needed to learn was what to do with my scraps once they became scraps!

Pre- Zero Waste, my habit had always been to toss all the scraps away into the kitchen bin, without a second thought. Now that I’ve started this exciting journey of discovery, I’ve learned so much; it’s a season of finding out that there’s life beyond the scraps.

Let me share with you how we try to achieve Zero Waste with our kitchen leftovers.

Making Stock from Vegetable Scraps

Making vegetable stock from scraps is a popular way of reusing the veggies leftover from cooking. And after making the stock, the reused scraps are waste and can be composted.

A stock being made from fish and vegetable scraps

The important thing to note before you make the stock is that the scraps need to be clean. Make sure they don’t have any soil on them before you put them into the stockpot. So wash them thoroughly before you begin.

The scraps I like to make stock with include:

  • Onion cut-offs
  • Spring onion cut-offs
  • Chicken bones
  • Leeks
  • Carrot peels and ends
  • Coconut flesh
  • Pandan leaves
  • Curry Leaves
  • French Beans
  • Coriander stalks
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Potato peels

Making the stock is easy:

  1. Simply toss all the scraps (pre-washed) into a right size stockpot with enough water, cover and bring it to boil.
  2. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat and let everything simmer for about 1.5 hours. I don’t add salt to my stock because I will salt the food during the main meal preparation process.
  3. After 1.5 hours, turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Pour the pot contents through a colander so that the stock goes through and into another container or pot. I usually sieve the stock a second time, this time through a stainless steel sieve, to catch any stray veggie bits in the stock.
  5. Allow the stock to cool further before pouring it into mason jars and refrigerate.
  6. The leftover veggies sieved from the stock can now go into the compost bin since any remaining nutrition has been steeped into the stock.

What to Do with Leftover Coconut Shells:

Coconut milk next to coconut shells

When you’re done getting all the yummy goodness out of coconuts, don’t be so quick to toss out the empty shells. There are lots that can be done with them.

I discovered a craft market in Sabah town, where they collect coconut shells and turn them into jewelry and other handicrafts. So any time I cook with fresh coconut, I wash and put aside the shells in a small gunny bag, and then deliver them to this craft market every two weeks.

If you’re into crafting, you could explore re-purposing coconut shells into other things. There are lots of fun ideas online of things you could make the shells into.

But if DIY shell craft is not your thing, you could find out if you could donate them to a school for art projects, or if anyone else would like to have them for their craft-work.

Make Money from Coconut Shells Crafting

I found lots of handmade coconut products on Etsy that people were making money from. So you can Make Money through Coconut Crafting too.

Organic Handmade Coconut Bowl

Image: – Organic Handmade Coconut Bowl

Coconut crafting is a Sustainable Business that puts into practice the concept of a Circular Economy. Take a look at what the amazing team behind Coconut Bowls are doing.

They make a variety of beautiful coconut bowls, spoons, chopsticks, and so much more. They even have these coconut soy candle-sticks, which smell amazing according to the reviews.

Their beautiful bowls can be used for salads, cereal, ice-cream, and much more. Their business has an end-to-end sustainable approach, right from the source of their coconuts. Read about their inspiring Story here and get motivated too.

What to Do with Leftover Ginger Root Peels:

Ginger and lemon tea in a teapot and a teacup next to it

Ginger has a considerable number of medicinal benefits and is loved all over the world for the health boosts it gives when consumed in tea or food.

After peeling the ginger root for use in cooking, I usually keep the peels in a small zip-lock bag in the fridge. I use the peels to brew ginger tea since the peels are also really flavor-full, and they make a rich-tasting tea.

What to Do with Leftover Lemongrass:

Lemongrass has a refreshingly fragrant aroma and has numerous health benefits too. Although the flavor does not keep as long as ginger peels once cut, I still keep the leftovers in a ziplock bag in the veggie compartment of my fridge and use them to brew some delicious tea later.

What to Do with Leftover Turmeric Peels:

Turmeric is another wonder spice I love to cook with. It is known for its numerous health benefits, including having anti-cancer fighting properties.

Turmeric being ground to make turmeric spice

While I was pregnant last year (2019), I had to stop cooking with it because it may cause contractions in expectant women. When I do use it for cooking, I use the leftover peels in a face mask, because turmeric has antioxidants in it, which are lovely acne-fighting, skin rejuvenating chemicals.

I simply blend the peels with a little water to make a paste, mix in a teaspoon of honey and cover my face with this paste. I wash off the mask after 15 to 20 minutes, pat my skin dry and moisturize.

What to Do with Leftover Chicken Bones

Chicken in curry sauce with rice and peppers

We love chicken meals in our home, so each week, we pile up a good amount of leftover chicken bones. I know that it’s possible to make stock from these bones, but I still end up with chicken bone waste.

Composting chicken bones seems to be an uncertain route to go down because the majority are against including them into your compost. I did find one or two Zero Waste gurus who do support composting chicken bones.

Read about how to incorporate meat and bones into your compost here. I also came across this idea to make chicken bone fertilizer on WikiHow: Take a look at that process here.

What do you do with your leftover chicken bones? Please drop us a comment and let us know what works for you. We would love to know.

Home Composting Made Easy – Composting Kitchen Scraps

Home composting is a practical way of disposing of organic and biodegradable household waste. We’re talking food leftovers, peels, coffee grounds, leftover tea leaves, and all that lovely assortment that’s been certified as waste.

Flowers and green leftovers left in a box to turn into organic compost

All this is then added to grass and hedge clippings, pruned flowers, grass, and the like. The combination is then allowed to decompose together through microbial action, producing a rich black material called compost. Learn more about Composting 101 here.

Compost is also known as hummus or ‘Black Gold’ because the result of good compost is usually rich enough to support healthy plant life and crops.

Although I’ve given a simplified description of composting, there’s a little more that goes into the process of preparing proper composting. For instance, many experts advise that fish scraps, meat scraps, and grease Should Not be added to compost.

This is because it makes the compost mix take longer to decompose, and causes it to stink up, attracting cats and dogs to your compost heap. These animals start digging through your compost in the hope that they may get a free meal from it.

To learn how to do home composting correctly, follow these creative tips from Jill Spencer of Den Garden here, as she shares the Hows, the ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts.’

Are you already composting your kitchen leftovers? How are you doing your home composting? What has your experience been – has it made a difference to your garden? What do you do with your chicken bones and all the other bones?

Handy Tips for Your Zero Waste Learning Curve

This has been another learning curve for me. I hope you’ve also picked up one or two Zero Waste Tips that you can implement at home. In case you’re wondering how I started my Zero Waste journey in Malaysia, you might want to check out this post. It will show you my turning point and may even inspire you to start thinking differently about living consciously.

You might also like what I discovered can be done with leftover coffee and tea. From odor neutralizing to fantastic fertilizer for your flowers, and even a slug deterrent. More of that in my post on Zero Waste for Coffee and Tea Lovers.

And whatever works for you, remember to share it with someone else. Tell a friend to tell a friend. Let’s spread the message: Zero Waste in our homes and kitchens is worth working towards.

It’s the little things we do each day that make a world of difference.


What do you do with your kitchen leftovers? What else do you do to keep a Zero Waste Kitchen? We would love to know:

Drop us a line on any of our Social Media handles, or share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments.

Let’s Do This Together!


2 replies

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Leftover tea leaves and coffee grounds are so versatile. There are so many sustainable ways to reuse them in and around the house, before composting them. If you loved these tips, you may want to check out some more nifty ones on Zero Waste for Kitchen Leftovers. From stewing pineapple skins to brewing ginger peels – you will love all the clever things you could do with kitchen leftovers. […]

  2. […] my next post, I will share my experiences with Zero Waste for Kitchen Leftovers. Malaysian cuisine generally uses a lot of ingredients. Which in turn generates lots of scraps and […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *