Here's a quiz:
1. You've purchased beets at your local farmers market with the greens still on. What do you do with the greens?
2. You're preparing fresh broccoli. You've cut off the florets and only the stalk is left. What do you do with the stalk?
3. You're having acorn squash with dinner tonight. You've cut them in half and scooped out the seeds. What do you do with the seeds?
I'm sure you have an idea where this is going but your answers to these questions seperate the truly frugal from the frugal newbies. Don't worry, we were all frugal newbies once!
Here's how I answer the questions:
1. I chop the greens, lightly steam them and freeze them for use in recipes over the winter. I don't use them now because I have plenty of fresh vegies available from the CSA and the greens freeze well.
2. The answer to this questions depends on how woody the stalk is. If its very woody and has a hole in the center, it may be worthless. If not try peeling the outer skin off and using the center as a crunchy addition to salads (similar to water chestnut in texture.) Depending on how thick the skin is, you may steam and freeze it for use in soup (if you're unsure if it will soften up enough, a whirl in the blender may be an idea.)
3. Squash seeds can be baked like pumpkin seeds. I think they even taste a little better.
So how does a person learn what's usuable and what's compost? My two favorite resources for this are Carla Emory's Encyclopedia of Country Living and that old standard, The Joy of Cooking. The strength of the Joy of Cooking is not its recipes, it is the basic food prep information and the variety of foods mentioned. (Its not a cookbook I would go out and buy but, since everyone seems to get it as a wedding present, I thought I'd mention it. I see it all the time at used book sales.) Other places to learn more about using it all are depression era and other old cookbooks. Talk to your grandmother or anyone else who was affected by the depression. They know all the tricks for letting nothing go to waste.
My grandmother has been gone for many years but I have wonderful memories of being in her kitchen and in her garden. I've often been told by my mother and my aunts that things I do remind them of her (composting, gardening, canning, bread baking.) She would have been an awesome resource!