We’ve found 40 ways to get some use out of your food waste and some of them are sure to surprise you.
One thing you’ll want to be mindful of if you do use peels and skins is that they should be thoroughly washed first. This removes any residue from the outside (whether it’s dirt, something sprayed on the item, or just a grimy fingerprint) that could make you sick.
1. Make a face scrub
Most nutrients are in the peels of these foods anyway, so why not just blend them up and apply? Ingredients like yogurt, honey, sugar, or aloe can be added for texture.
Just make sure you don’t use anything that can stain your skin. This is not the time to reuse your beet skins!
For some great ideas on how to make fruit peel masks at home, click here.
2. Deodorize your disposal
One great way to make use of citrus peels is to grind them up in there a few times a week. This cleans off the steel blades AND helps neutralize odors.
3. Dry lemon peel for seasoning
Next time you need to squeeze a lemon (such as when life hands them to you and you’re making your lemonade), be sure to save and dry those leftover peels. Dried lemon peel can be mixed with all sorts of herbs and spices to make a great rub, seasoning, or even a tea.
Here are some instructions for making your own lemon pepper seasoning.
4. Wipe away water stains with orange peel
As a bonus, you’ll leave behind a nice, fresh scent!
5. Potato peel chips
Just toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until crispy. See this video for more.
Now you have a high-fiber potato chip. Bet you can’t eat just one!
6. Apple peel jelly
Next time this happens, don’t throw them (or the cores!) away but try making some “apple scrap jelly” instead.
All you need is some water, sugar, and lemon juice and you’re ready to go. The Spruce Eats has detailed instructions here.
7. Just eat it
Things like apples and potatoes probably won’t make you balk, but you may not be excited about chowing down on an orange or banana peel or a watermelon rind. Nevertheless, there are ways to make it work. You can dry them, fry them, mince them, or even wait until something is super ripe and the peel becomes soft enough to eat.
Or if you’re a smoothie fan, just grind it up and suck it down fast, knowing that you doubled or tripled your nutrient intake and reduced waste.
8. Potato peels for puffy eyes
Some people insist that the catecholase in potato skins help vanquish signs of sleepiness faster than anything else. So if you’re peeling potatoes for your morning hashbrowns, stick some potato peels in the fridge, then slap them on and look wide awake by the time you’re done with breakfast.
9. Don’t toss tomato peels
One popular use for tomato skins is to dehydrate them and turn them into flakes or powder to add to recipes later – you can even sprinkle it over popcorn!
10. Avocado peels for everything
There are a couple of things you can do to take advantage of the peels. First, you can dig deeper when you hollow out your avocado half – get out as much as you can and don’t avoid scraping the skin.
You can also take the leftover avocado peel and rub it in your hair. Yes, it’ll feel silly taking your produce peels up to the shower, but you’ll get a free avocado hair mask out of it without any of the other filler ingredients! Just let it soak into your hair during your next warm shower before rinsing.
One study even found that dried avocado peel can be used to make a nutritious tea!
11. Make mango simple syrup
But that doesn’t mean they should go in the trash (although some people – especially those very sensitive to poison ivy, which is in the same family – can be allergic to them!).
While sugaring up your fruit even further is typically not the best way to go, mango skin can be extra bitter, so in this case, a mango simple syrup might be your best bet. After all, who doesn’t want their cocktail (or virgin mango soda) to be extra nutritious? We like this recipe from Serious Eats.
12. Orange peel potpourri
Not only does orange peel make your house smell particularly fresh, but if you boil it with some cinnamon and nutmeg instead of drying it, you’re sure to get that warm cozy scent wafting all over your house instead of just one room.
13. Orange peel to keep your brown sugar soft
Just toss a piece of rind in your airtight container and it will retain the moisture much longer than if you left the sugar in there alone. This also works if your sugar is already rock solid – it’ll soften it up.
And unlike using a piece of bread, it’s less likely to grow mold quickly.
14. Orange peels for bug repellant
Did you know the oil derived from orange peels is a natural insect repellant? Some people rub orange peels on their skin (though you’ll have to be careful about adding some serious SPF to that), but you can also sprinkle orange zest around your garden to repel flies and mosquitos!
We don’t know how we feel about the orange peel as fashion statement pictured here though unless we get really desperate.
15. Orange peel for teeth whitening
Teeth can be sensitive, so what works for one person may not work for the next, but plenty of people looking for natural ways to whiten their teeth have reported great success after rubbing the white pith of an orange peel along their enamel.
The thing about citrus, however, is that is can damage your enamel if you don’t do it right.
Marc Lowenberg, DDS, a cosmetic dentist in NYC, told Harper’s Bazaar that rubbing the peel on your teeth for a minute a few times a week and then following up with your normal tooth-brushing routine will be your best bet.
This is certainly a case where you need to rise properly afterward so you don’t end up doing more harm than good. Don’t let that citrus sit on your teeth too long!
16. Vegetable peels for easy stock
Just be careful with the beet peels, unless you like pink soup!
17. Sweet potato toner
For example, if you boil them up, you can use the nutrient-rich water later as a facial toner once it cools down. Since sweet potatoes themselves are good for your skin, you can even take the skins and rub the insides on your hands or other areas of your body (face included) that need an antioxidant boost.
Yes, you’ll feel silly and you’ll certainly want to wait for them to cool down, but who said you couldn’t squeeze in a little self-care in while cooking?
18. Clean your houseplants with banana peels
Take a banana on the greener side and rub the inside of the peel along those big leaves and watch them shine!
19. Pureed cucumber peel mask
Keep those peels off to the side to use later. One great way to give your skin a boost is to puree the peels and mix with yogurt and honey for a face or under-eye mask of whatever texture you’d like.
You can also add them to a water pitcher in the summer to get refreshing cucumber water!
20. Lemon peel to clean your kettle
Since it’s best not to ingest that in concentrated doses, take your extra lemon peel and boil the remnants in your kettle before dumping it out. That should remove those white deposits (and it won’t leave behind the taste that vinegar – another solution that removes deposits – can).
If you use lemon often enough, you can probably drink the tea that comes out afterward! But if you’re cleaning up some serious buildup, best to pour that straight into the sink.
21. Add kiwi skin to salad
For example, if you chop up kiwi skin and marinate it in your salad dressing for about 10 minutes, you can add them to a salad for extra nutrition and you won’t even know they’re there!
22. Orange or lemon peel candle
If you’re feeling really creative, you can even follow these instructions from Brit + Co to make the peel into its own candle by pouring in wax.
Just remember that you’ll want to keep it stable and put it on a flame retardant surface!
23. Crisp an eggplant skin
Try using this crispy stuffed eggplant skin recipe from Divine Spice Box. The crunchiness really helps turn it from a vehicle for other food into an edible bowl.
If you’re really into crispy veggies, you can make this eggplant skin “bacon” for an extra healthy snack.
24. Make some tea
You can even add fruit rinds in with your tea bags for a little extra zest.
25. Peach peel face scrub
If you’re not a fan of the fuzzy outer layer of peaches, there are some great instructions out there to peel it off easily. Once you have you peel ready, plenty of glamazons swear by sprinkling a little sugar on the inside and using it to exfoliate your face!
We’re going to give this one a try, but one thing we know is that too much sugar and scrubbing too hard could result in damage. This is one experiment where it’s best to proceed with caution and a light touch.
26. Use peels as compost
You’ll need to do some research about which scraps are the best and which might be too much for your soil to handle if you’re going to add them directly to your dirt, but composting is a different process and can handle just about any scrap.
Here’s a good place to start for more information.
27. Mind your watermelon rind
While they still might not sound like something you want to eat, you can get creative with preparation to make it more palatable.
The Kitchn recommends pickling it, turning it into chutney, and using it in gazpacho. Then there’s frying it, putting it in a smoothie, making it into preserves, or just sucking it up and chowing down on it.
28. Lemon peel to clean steel
Some natural cleaners swear by using half a juiced lemon to get their stainless steel, chrome, and copper sparkling clean, though that will require a thorough rinse right afterward. Others make a paste using salt or cream of tartar or add some vinegar for a super-powered clean.
Check out more here.
29. Root vegetable skin ravioli
Grinding up those skins and adding cheese makes a super-nutritious filling for your next ravioli.
30. Cucumber peels repel ants
Those little guys WILL eat the inside of a cucumber, however (see this time-lapse video for proof) but some peel left at door jams or cracks where they enter your house is a safe and natural way to rid yourself of these pests and not harm pets or children in the process.
The only downside is that it’s a temporary solution – ants will return as soon as they can’t smell the cucumber, so only use fresh peels.
31. Infuse butter with garlic skins
This is the case for both garlic and onion!
32. Alleviate itch with onion and garlic skins
By boiling the skins in water, you can then apply the cooled off toner to your skin for an anti-inflammatory effect.
Of course, some people are sensitive to these foods, so a topic treatment should also be avoided for anyone who can’t eat them safely.
33. Pineapple skin tea
But the skin contains the enzyme bromelian (an anti-inflammatory that’s also useful in clearing up sinus congestion), as well as manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin C, thiamine, and vitamin B, which are all great for your health.
While there are ways to eat the peels, your best bet is to boil it down to make a tea. However, pineapples contain a lot of pesticides which are hard to wash off. In this case, it’s best to use organic!
34. Cook your cauliflower leaves
Grilling or roasting them will give you a delicious, crispy treat, a lot like kale chips.
35. Fruit peel for DIY dye
Head over to Lemons for Life for more info on how to boil your lemon and orange peels specifically for safe and sustainable dyeing projects.
36. Squash peel soup stock
37. Try citrus printing
Instructions can be found here by Rhythms of Play.
38. Orange oil bath
To make orange oil, simply grind up the peels and ferment them in vodka for about 3-6 days (shaking it up when you remember). Then, simply remove the orange peels and put them in a cheesecloth. Squeeze hard and capture the orange oil that comes out.
Only a few drops will go a long way for bathtime bliss.
39. An apple a day keeps the wrinkles away
To top it off, the malic acid in the fruit also has an exfoliating effect – and it’s gentle enough to use every day (if you have that much apple peel).
Simply leave the residue on for 5 minutes so it has time to absorb and then rinse your skin with water.
40. Polish your shoes with a banana peel
We don’t know who figured this out, but it appears to be true that you can shine your leather shoes with the inside of a banana peel!
Best to use one on the fresher side so the inside doesn’t shed as much, but as you can see from the experiment done by Yuppie Chef, the banana peel got the shoe shinier than traditional shoe polish!