7 Smart Cookbooks for Preventing Food Waste at Home

These cookbooks make the most of all the peels, seeds, roots, and stems you might normally throw away.

seven cookbooks

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It won't come as a surprise that the United States has a food waste problem, but when you get down to the numbers, it's still shocking. An estimated 30-40 percent of the entire US food supply ends up in the landfill each year, wasting the precious resources used in its production and contributing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the ecosystem. All that waste has enormous ecological and economic impacts, both nationally and globally. Americans waste $408 billion on food annually, according to the nonprofit Feeding America. That's about 108 billion pounds of food, or 130 billion meals.

There are small ways to fight this battle in your own home—including with cookbooks that make the most of all the peels, seeds, roots, and stems we might normally throw away. While confronting such a consequential issue may feel daunting, these cookbooks are full of creative, achievable solutions and keeper-level recipes.

  • Scraps, Wilt + Weeds: Turning Wasted Food into Plenty

    Cookbook titled "Scraps, Wilt + Weeds"

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    In innovative dishes like Cauliflower Core Cacio E Pepe and Seared Romaine Lettuce Bottoms, NOMA co-founder Mads Refslund shows that otherwise discarded foods can become restaurant-worthy meals. You may never casually toss coffee grounds again after making Coffee Grounds Ice Cream or Coffee Grounds Biscotti. And in the final chapter, Refslund and co-author Tama Matsuoka Wong share the importance and practicality of foraging, a concept that goes hand in hand with fighting food waste.

  • Waste Not: How To Get The Most From Your Food

    Cookbook titled "Waste Not"

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    With 100 recipes from chefs including Tiffany Derry, Elizabeth Falkner, and Lee Anne Wong, "Waste Not" provides clever, approachable recipes for full-use cooking. The book’s five sections address cooking whole fruits and vegetables; tackling ‘off’ cuts of meat, scales, and bones; finding creative uses for scraps; breathing new life into leftovers; and utilizing fermentation to extend the life of a variety of ingredients. In the first chapter, Stem to Stem, the authors make a strong case for cooking ingredients in their entirety, from root to tip, with dishes like Whole Carrot Lentil Salad and Whole Orange Almond Cake.

  • The Taste of Country Cooking

    Cookbook titled "The Taste of Country Cooking"

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    If you thought combating food waste was a modern trend, Edna Lewis will prove you wrong in "The Taste of Country Cooking." Inspired by her upbringing in a small farming community owned by formerly enslaved people, Lewis shares the wisdom she gleaned on everything from planting crops to foraging for wild ingredients. With useful advice on ‘putting up,’ aka preserving seasonal foods beyond their season, Lewis gives us a road map for making the most out of what we have and extending the bounty of a season long after the weather has changed.

  • Cooking with Scraps

    Cookbook titled "Cooking with Scraps"

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    "Cooking with Scraps" meets cooks where they are—namely in a refrigerator teeming with produce that needs to be cooked...yesterday. Quick “Clean Out the Crisper” notes provide recipes for stratas and pickles to tackle those odds and ends. And if you usually throw out your beet, carrot, or radish greens, this book will break you of the habit with recipes like Spicy Carrot Top Kimuchi, Beet Green and Eggplant Pizza, and Radish Top Ohitashi, a Japanese-inspired preparation that combines the greens with dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.

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  • One: Pot, Pan, Planet

    Cookbook titled "One Pot, Pan, Planet"

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    In many ways, "One: Pot, Pan, Planet" feels not like a treatise on food waste, but like an everyday cookbook that just so happens to naturally reduce waste with smart, useful ideas. Jones shares the sobering food waste stats in a section called “How not to waste food (& money),” but more importantly she advocates shifting the way we think about food, from how it’s grown to how it’s stored. Grouped by the vessels in which they are cooked, the recipes in the cookbook like Carrot & Sesame Pancakes and Lemon, Tomato & Cardamom Dal, are sure to make their way into your regular rotation.

  • Everyone's Table: Global Recipes for Modern Health

    Cookbook titled "Everyone's Table"

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    "Everyone’s Table" isn’t overtly about sustainability or combatting food waste. Instead, former Top Chef contestant Gregory Gourdet addresses the more personal issue of wellness. But unsurprisingly, the two go hand-in-hand, and in "Everyone’s Table," Gourdet shows us how nourishing ourselves, in turn, supports a healthier food system. In particular, Gourdet’s recipes for Bread & Butter Squash Pickles and Chile and Lime-Pickled Rhubarb from the “Ferments, Pickles, and Preserves” chapter will have you extending the life of peak-season produce for months to come.

  • An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace

    Cookbook titled "An Everlasting Meal"

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    “Great meals rarely start at points that all look like beginnings. They usually pick up where something else leaves off.” Such is the tone and wisdom within "An Everlasting Meal." In her 2011 cookbook, Tamar Adler shares a thoughtful approach to the art of cooking. Inspired by the classic M.F.K. Fisher book "How to Cook a Wolf," each chapter in "An Everlasting Meal" is a kind of how-to, from How to Boil Water to How to Be Tender, not collections of recipes but reflections on how to look at food and cooking, which, once you see it Adler’s way, will never be the same again.