7 Super Cheap Foods To Stockpile That People Usually Throw Away

Ashley Hetrick
By Ashley Hetrick December 22, 2017 11:12

7 Super Cheap Foods To Stockpile That People Usually Throw Away

If your great-grandmother saw half the things you just throw away, I’m sure she’d have some stern words for you. These days, food comes pre-packaged, prepared, trimmed, peeled and neat.

While boneless chicken may be convenient for some, practically speaking, it’s robbed you of some of the most nutritious parts of the bird. (And charged you more for the privilege.)

Still, what do you do with all the extras? How do you turn the parts of food that people normally throw away into nutritious meals?

Someday, we may not be living in such a land of plenty. Practicing using up every last bit today, could save your life tomorrow.


I can’t help but laugh when I see frugal foods that our grandparents new, coming back into style like this generation invented them. Bone broth is my favorite example.

It’s the ultimate cheap food, and a great way to get the last little bit of nutrition out of an animal. These days, it’s marketed as an “artisanal food” and marked up to as much as a dollar an ounce.

What is it really? Bones. The same bones you scraped off your plate and trashed at the end of your meal.

Bone broth is extremely easy to make at home, and completely free if you do it right. Simply save the bones from your meats throughout the year in freezer bags until you have enough for a slow-simmered batch of nutritious bone broth.  You’d be surprised at how many bones the average family throws away in a year.  If you plan ahead, bone broth can be canned for long-term preservation.  Each year, my family cans around 200 quarts, all made from the leavings off our plates.

If we bought the “artisanal” version, that stockpile would cost us nearly $3,000. Can you believe it? All made from bones we would otherwise throw away.

Even after you’ve made bone broth, you’re still not done getting every last bit of nutrition out of bones. It’s easy enough to process bones into homemade bonemeal to nurture your garden. Straight bonemeal is high in phosphorus, a nutrient that’s hard to come by from other sources, including compost.

It can sell for as much as $10 per pound in high-end garden stores, or you can make it yourself for free.

Organ Meats

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that knows how to make good use of organ meats these days. While beef sells for high prices, the most nutritious parts such as the liver, heart, and kidneys sell for as little as $1 per pound. Some butchers will even just give them away because they can’t find customers who want them.

Meanwhile, high-end restaurants are serving Pâté to wealthy customers who don’t know a cheap thing when they see it. It’s delicious, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be expensive.

If you’re squeamish about the texture, you can extract the nutrition from organ meats into organ meat stock to use in your everyday cooking. Organ meat stock adds an extra layer of richness to food that’s hard to match any other way, and it can be canned for long-term preservation in the same way as bone broth.

Bacon Grease

Chances are, your great-grandmother kept an old can or jar next to collect all the extra bacon grease after breakfast. That same grease was scooped out to make the perfect home fries, cut into biscuit dough, or was added to a hot cast iron pan for a truly authentic southern cornbread.

Related: Pressure-Canning Hamburger Meat for Long Term Preservation

The best part about bacon grease, besides the fact that it tastes like bacon, is that it keeps almost forever. That can of bacon drippings just sat there on the stove, ready to use, no refrigeration needed.

Stale Bread

Even in times of hunger, there was stale bread. Historically, bread was baked in batches to conserve fuel and oven time. By the end of the week, there likely wasn’t any fresh bread left. That doesn’t mean the stale bread was thrown out. Every bread-eating culture has traditional recipes for dealing with stale bread and turning it into something extraordinary.

What we call “french toast” the French call “pain perdu” or forgotten bread. Though you’ll find it at the brunch menu at fancy restaurants, it’s just a cheap way to use up stale bread.

Croutons are nothing more than stale bread that has been toasted and cut into cubes.

Breadcrumbs were a traditional way to work stale bread into meals, bulking up sausages and meatloaves at the same time. While today you can buy prepackaged breadcrumbs, they’re often not much cheaper than the meat they’re replacing.

Chicken Fat

These days, you can buy a fancy tub of rendered duck fat for close to the price of a whole chicken. Yet, at the same time, chicken fat is trimmed and thrown away. Chicken fat from healthy, free-ranging, bug-eating backyard chickens is just as tasty as high priced duck fat and was a traditional staple in home kitchens. If you’ve ever processed your own backyard chickens, you know that chicken fat is soft and yellow, full of natural vitamin A and omega fatty acids.

Exactly like high priced duck fat, but often overlooked. Ask the butcher at your local grocery store to save you off a tub of chicken fat to render at home. Odds are, he’ll let you have it for free and will be glad to be rid of it.

Related: 23 Things a Prepper Should Never Throw Away. Why?

Sour or Expired Milk

We all know that milk doesn’t really go bad on its expiration date. It’s good for at least another week, but even still, when it does “sour” it’s still perfectly good for cooking. Some recipes even call for soured milk and have you substitute fresh milk with a little vinegar added to sour it. Sour milk creates a wonderful texture and complex flavors in home-baked bread, and it adds extra lift to pancakes.

At some point, most people have had a gallon of milk go just a bit sour. While a bit sour is good for baking, truly spoiled milk can taste horrible. Once milk starts to get a bit sour, either use it immediately in baking or take the jug and put it in the freezer.

Frozen milk isn’t the best for straight drinking, but this isn’t drinking milk, it’s already soured milk that you’re saving for baking. Any texture changes in the freezer are irrelevant.

Our local grocery store has a bin in the back of their walk-in refrigerator where they keep expired milk for employees to take home. About once a month, I ask if I can have some to take home. It all expired the day before, which means they can’t sell it, but it’s got plenty of good shelf life left. Sometimes I can get 8 or 10 gallons. I keep one for fresh use and make cheese out of the rest.

Related: Debunking Expiration Dates: What You Need to Know

I now have several pounds of cheese that I can wax and store in my basement for long-term preservation, at no cost to me. If I don’t get to the milk in time to make cheese, it’s still fine to pop it into the freezer and save for baking later on.

Fruit and Vegetable Peels

Just about every type of fruit or vegetable peel is good for something.

Apple peels and cores can be cooked down into tasty apple jelly, no pectin or added sugar required. Literally just take the peels and cores, normally thrown away, and add them to a pot with some water instead. Simmer for a few hours, and then strain and cook the liquid a bit further until it jells. It can be canned for long-term preservation.

Citrus peels can be candied to add to bread or marmalade, or zested and used for flavoring. Limoncello, an expensive Italian liquor, is nothing more than lemon zest soaked in vodka with a bit of sugar added.

Since you’d normally throw away the peel, zest your lemons (or another citrus) into a jar of vodka before you use them. You can add them in one at a time as you use your citrus, and it’ll develop more flavor with each zest added. It takes the zest of about 5 lemons, plus about 1/4 cup of sugar, to make a pint of limoncello.

Related: How To Make Survival Dandelion Jelly with 2 Years Shelf Life

Just about any type of fruit peel can be made into vinegar by adding a bit of water and allowing it to ferment. It’s traditionally done with apple peels to make inexpensive apple cider vinegar. However, any peel from a sugary fruit, like a pear, mango or pineapple can be submerged in water and fermented into homemade vinegar.

Potato peels can be cooked in a little water to make “potato water” which when substituted for regular water in baked goods gives them a soft and pleasing texture. Rich “potato bread” that you buy in the store actually isn’t made with whole potatoes, just potato water in place of tap water.

Most vegetable peels can be saved in the freezer and added to stocks and bone broths. This is especially true of onion peels, which are rich in vitamin C, and add great flavor and color to stocks.

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Ashley Hetrick
By Ashley Hetrick December 22, 2017 11:12
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  1. liz December 22, 14:27

    how do you make cheese from soured milk?

    We pour bacon grease into paper egg cartons for a fire starter. Break them apart and store in a plastic bag for easy carry.

    Reply to this comment
  2. TxGrandma December 22, 14:34

    Great read! I’m 72 and remember a lot of cooking
    the “old fashion” foods. Don’t remember why I stopped,
    but this was what my mother did, and her mother too!

    Reply to this comment
    • some one December 22, 15:08

      i make my own soups and always get the cuts with bones and skin when possible. it makes the best tasting soup.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Sustainable PF December 22, 15:08

    When done with those peels into the garden compost pile with them!

    Reply to this comment
  4. JULIE December 22, 15:58


    Reply to this comment
    • Lauren December 23, 00:45

      You can make cottage cheese by cooking sour milk in a double boiler over simmering water until it begins to whey (when the watery part of milk separates from the curd, or cheese). Strain it through a towel to remove excess milk, and add in some cream and salt and pepper to taste.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Sammy December 22, 21:15

    Except for the bacon grease, this ALL sounds like “compost”. Which I will add to my gardens to grow some real food.

    Let it all rot… mother earth will reclaim her own

    Reply to this comment
  6. KatiePrep December 23, 02:31

    I don’t know how or when you got out of date milk or where employees can take it home, by law it can’t leave the store. For another reason, if it got into the wrong hands and was used and the person got sick, the store could be sued. My local Kroger marks down foods as “Managers Special” and a specially colored price tag and sells it before the expiration date, but not after expiration date.

    Reply to this comment
  7. fee December 23, 06:33

    Why is the picture of moldy bread on here? Moldy bread is not the same as stale bread . . .

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 25, 21:49

      I don’t have any particular use for moldy bread. Perhaps it can be used for compost, I don’t know.

      I do save the crusts of bread. I cut them in small cubes, lay them out singly on a plate and freeze them. When I am using the oven for some other purpose, I put them in the oven, thaw them and then dry them. I save the dried bread in jars for use in emergencies. If you come to my house in an EOTW situation begging for food and have nothing to offer in exchange, neither needed labor nor material goods, and have children, your children will receive the bread soaked in bacon fat. You, unfortunately, will have to go dig for dandelions or some other substance. If you present yourself as willing to work and have skills that can be utilized, I may allow you to borrow a pellet gun to hunt small game for the community pot. Dried bread won’t be as calorie dense as hardtack, but it appears to have the same storage abilities as hardtack. At least a year or so into the experiment it is still not moldy in the jars and doesn’t appear to have any visible degradation. It may be losing food value, but I don’t know of any way to test for various vitamins and minerals outside of a laboratory.

      Reply to this comment
    • momstransam December 26, 17:43

      Growing up, we were not wealthy. My mother would cut (slice) off ALL the mold and there you go good bread to eat, bake or cook with.

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck January 6, 04:49

        Same with moldy cheese. I still cut the mold off, wipe the cheese down with vinegar and it’s good to go. Been doing that for about sixty years and it hasn’t killed me yet. After all, we eat blue cheese and that is mold and a lot of it.

        Reply to this comment
  8. Labienus December 23, 11:09

    I use expired milk in my garden. Plants seem to like it.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Mic Roland December 23, 12:27

    The apple peel thing is right on. We saved all our peels and cores from our apple trees’ harvest. Cooked down and strained through a sieve, the ‘throw away’ peels made many jars of applesauce.

    Could use some recipes for using chicken fat. Each autumn sees the ‘retirement’ of a couple of older hens. They’re always well-stocked with the yellow fat. (roosters, not so much). I rendered some down to try making soap out of it, but other uses would be good too. What do you have?

    Reply to this comment
    • emmer December 25, 22:35

      soap may not harden w chicken fat. you can use it in cooking/frying by rendering it just like you would lard. keeps a long time in the frig or freezer, too.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Illini Warrior December 23, 14:27

    and there’s a whole host of veggie parts that are usually garbaged – they can be rooted out and planted to re-grow the entire veggie ….

    salvaging at it/s best ….

    Reply to this comment
  11. Powder horn December 23, 15:00

    Great article! I am old enough to remember all those items. There is one very important exception. Commercially grown chickens are fed arsenic which collects in the bones, one of the reasons it’s not wise to give dogs and cats bones.

    Reply to this comment
    • Lauren December 23, 15:30

      Great point

      Reply to this comment
    • fee December 23, 19:51

      Wouldn’t the arsenic also collect in the fat? Which would mean do NOT get the chicken fat from the butcher? Actually, those chickens would be full of GMOs and glyphosphate anyway. I know in people everything collects in the fat. I would say to ONLY use fats from organically fed animals!

      Reply to this comment
      • emmer December 28, 19:13

        minerals tend to end up in bones. hormones tend to collect in fat, as do fat soluble vitamins. lead and arsenic cross system barriers. livers are front line in detoxing, and pull out medications, alcohol, toxins, etc and send to kidneys which send out of the body. l and k are damaged by same. oversimplification, but easy to remember generalities.

        Reply to this comment
    • Jugband December 23, 20:34

      Cooked chicken bones present an extreme choking hazard to dogs.

      Chicken bones are a choking hazard to begin with, but after they’ve been fried or roasted, they are much worse.

      Reply to this comment
  12. Powder horn December 23, 16:35

    Thought the whole point of this was to share information, not criticize those who do.

    Reply to this comment
  13. fossil December 24, 01:44

    I’m ninety-seven and in my whole life have never seen any waste. But I have seen a tremendous amount of valuable resources not put to use. The point is if you see something as waste you will likely throw it out but if you see it as valuable you will find you will find many uses for it.

    Small changes are made by changing the way you do things. Big changes are made by changing the way you see things.

    How to information on anything is on the web

    Reply to this comment
    • shalimova December 24, 10:38

      Arsenic collects in the chicken livers. Commercial chickens are fed Roxsarsone, containing arsenic, to kill internal parasites.

      Reply to this comment
    • ChARLey December 24, 14:02

      You win the Internet with the best reply to a thought provocing, but incomplete article. Thank you!

      Reply to this comment
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