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Hey, it happens. Sometimes we don’t get to use food we’ve purchased before it goes bad, but that doesn’t mean you should just toss it! There are uses for expired food that you can safely include in recipes, crafts, beauty, and more.
It’s no secret that food waste is a major issue around the world, and one of the main causes of this waste is expired food. However, just because a food item has passed its expiration date, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be thrown away. I’m sharing some creative and practical ways to make use of expired food that can help reduce waste and save you money.
Not down to use expired food for other things? Here are some food coupons and deals to replenish your pantry for cheap. Be sure to also download the KCL app for more life hacks and money-saving tips, deals, and coupons. For additional savings hacks and smart shopping tips, text HACKS to 57299.
1. Paint with spices that have lost their potency.
Some spices will lose their flavor over time. Whole spices tend to stay fresh for about four years, ground spices for about three years, and dried leafy herbs for only about one to three years.
If you have ground spices like nutmeg, paprika, cinnamon, and other colorful seasonings that have been sitting in your spice rack for years, turn them into paint! Just add a teaspoon or so of hot water and let kids paint away — they’ll love the smell!
2. Make stale crackers, chips, cereal, and popcorn edible again by toasting in the oven.
Who doesn’t love a crunchy, salty snack?! Spread stale snacks in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop them in a 350-degree oven for three to five minutes. Store them in ziplock bags for an easy go-to snack.
3. Make finger paint with expired Greek yogurt.
Mix yogurt with food coloring or even Kool-Aid mix and let kids paint on a white, plastic tablecloth. As long as the yogurt isn’t too far gone (no more than three weeks past expiration), you can still eat it.
4. Use sour milk to make cakes, biscuits, waffles, and pancakes.
Sour milk (aka slightly expired milk) is a great substitute for buttermilk and actually works quite well in baked goods. Just don’t add it to your bowl of cereal. Use these milk coupons to get a fresh gallon.
RELATED: The Ultimate List of Recipe Substitutions
5. Disinfect your kitchen with dry white wine.
If you have dry white wine that’s been uncorked for a few days, use it to help remove ring stains on your kitchen countertops. If you’re looking to kill germs, alcohol doesn’t typically have enough of a concentration to handle the job. Most wines contain only about 10 – 15% alcohol by volume, which is not enough to kill most bacteria.
Warning: the acidity of wine can damage some countertops, like granite.
Pro Tip: Proper cleaning and disinfecting practices are important for maintaining a safe and healthy kitchen environment. This includes regularly washing surfaces with soap and hot water and using disinfectants as needed to kill germs.
6. Exfoliate your face with expired Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt is packed with lactic acid, a common ingredient in beauty products. To use your slightly expired yogurt as a face mask, mix:
- 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey (a natural moisturizer)
Apply the cream to your face and leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off with warm water.
7. Microwave stale bread for 10 – 20 seconds to make it edible again.
If you have bread or stale bagels that are too chewy to enjoy, wrap pieces in a moist paper towel and microwave. Start with 10 seconds. The moisture will soak into the bread.
8. Condition wood furniture with expired mayo.
The oil in mayonnaise helps moisturize solid wood tabletops to restore moisture and even remove water stains. The trick here is to use mayo that hasn’t expired too long. Expired mayo can contain harmful bacteria that could transfer onto your furniture and potentially cause damage or even health issues. Nobody wants that.
Perhaps if you have a few squirts left before throwing it away, you can use it to condition wood furniture. You can also try using natural oils such as olive oil or coconut oil.
9. Saute wilted or slightly brown lettuce.
It’s common to saute most greens, so why not lettuce? Just don’t eat rotten lettuce that’s been sitting in brown juices. Yuck! My summertime treat is to grill romaine and have a grilled Caesar salad. It’s definitely more creative than a standard salad. Produce coupons will help save some bucks when you restock.
10. Empty expired canned goods and recycle the can.
Yes, emptying expired canned goods and recycling the can is a great way to reduce waste and help the environment. Try to buy only what you need and use up any perishable items before they expire. Consider donating any unexpired canned goods that you won’t use to a local food bank or charity organization to help those in need.
11. Soften brown sugar clumps in a blender.
Stick hardened brown sugar into a blender and pulse until usable. Depending on how hard the chunks are, you may need to add a few drops of water to help break up the clumps. Another option is to add a piece of bread to the package to keep it soft.
12. Turn stale bread into croutons or breadcrumbs.
If your bread is still slightly soft, slice it into 1/2-inch cubes and bake in a 300-degree oven until all the moisture is gone. Put some aside to use as croutons. For the other half of the baked cubes, fill your blender up to a third of the way and blend to desired texture. Store crumbs in the freezer up to two months.
13. Replant celery stumps.
So many times I have only used a stalk or two of celery. Instead of tossing any leftover celery that’s gone stale, use the base to grow more! Stand the base in a small dish of water for a week or so until new leaves appear in the center. The leaves will be yellow at first, but they’ll turn green eventually. When that happens, plant the celery in the ground or in a pot with soil.
Learn more about growing new vegetables from leftovers here.
14. Trap fruit flies with stale red wine.
Leave a bit of red wine at the bottom of the bottle and let it sit out. The flies will flock to the sugary liquid and get trapped inside. You can also put the red wine in a separate container, cover it with plastic wrap, and poke holes in the top so flies can get in, but not out. Use wine coupons when you buy a new bottle.
15. Exfoliate your face, hands, and body with stale coffee grounds.
Add grounds to facial or body scrubs and enjoy smoother skin! Coffee grounds contain caffeine, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well as a gritty texture that helps to physically exfoliate the skin. Start with a small amount and test an area. Just use it gently on your face to avoid irritation or infection.
16. Keep a bag of wilted herbs and vegetable scraps in your freezer for making stock later on.
Don’t toss those wilted herbs and vegetables in the trash! Freeze them for later and make homemade vegetable broth. I like to collect them until I’ve filled a large Ziploc bag.