Eat It Up!

150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Buy


By Sherri Brooks Vinton

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Don't toss those leftovers or pitch your beet greens! Eat it up! Sherri Brooks Vinton helps you make the most out of the food you bring home. These 150 delicious recipes mine the treasure in your kitchen—the fronds from your carrots, leaves from your cauliflower, bones from Sunday's roast, even the last lick of jam in the jar are put to good, tasty use.




I love good food. Well-raised food. Local, seasonal food that reflects environment and culture and tradition. And I will go to great lengths to get my hands on it. CSA memberships, farm stands, farmers’ markets, and trusted third-party vendors—I always find a way to track delicious eats. Good food means something to me. That rustic, slightly gnarled bunch of carrots isn’t just rabbit food—it’s a farmer’s hard work, well-tended soil, good clean water, and days of warm sun that I hold in my hand. And now that I have it home, it’s lunch.

Having been a farm groupie for some time now, perhaps my feelings about well-raised food run a little more deeply than they do for most. And that’s okay. You don’t have to wax poetic about your groceries to want to get the most out of the food you bring home. Enjoying every last bite of the food you buy makes sense for a lot of different reasons. Here are just a few:


Saves Money

Food costs. Throw out your food and you’re throwing out your money. It’s hard to imagine buying new clothes, coming home, and throwing half of them away, yet that’s what many of us do with our food. Maybe not all at once, but a little bit at a time. And it adds up. I sometimes catch myself as I’m about to toss out something that represents a relatively small percentage of my total grocery bill, such as leftover rice. It’s easy to just pitch it, but by doing so I’m getting less for the money.

Half of last night’s rice, a few bites of chicken, a handful of broccoli florets. That amount of food is often discarded without a second thought. But when you stop to look at it, you haven’t just thrown out a bite of this and that. Sauté it up with an onion and maybe some sesame oil and you’ve got dinner. Save those bits and bobs and you haven’t just saved the cost of the leftovers, but the cost of the new meal you didn’t have to make. Eating it up, saves it up. After all, no one ever got rich by wasting money . . . or food.

Saves Time

We’re busy people with busy lives. Who wouldn’t want an extra slice of time in their week? Using up what you have on hand can mean more efficient trips to the market. Utilizing leftovers from last night’s dinner gives you a running start on tonight’s meal prep. Eat it up and you’ll spend less time buying and cooking it up.

Tastes Great

There’s no sustainable kitchen practice that’s worth a fig if it doesn’t lead to a tasty meal. Food is about pleasure, first and foremost. Although there are a lot of reasons to support local agriculture—from environmental to social to economic—I was lured into the Real Food movement by my taste buds. Locally raised, in-season, fresh-from-the-field grub is the tastiest you will find. When I’m eating up every last bite of the food I have in my kitchen, I’m not thinking, Oh, clever frugal me; I’m thinking, Dang, that looks tasty.

I can remember my Granny Toni giving the jar of her home-canned tomatoes a swish with a little water and pouring it into whatever sauce she was making. I made some wisecrack about her being such a penny-pincher and she said to me, “It’s not just the money, it’s the flavor. You’ve got to get all the flavor into the pot.” I think of that every time I take the extra effort to get to the dregs of the jam jar, the last bit of pickle juice in the crock. Don’t waste it, taste it!

Preserves Natural Resources

It takes a lot to grow food. A lot of water, a lot of energy, a lot of fresh air and sunshine. Every step in the process—from planting the seeds to weeding to harvesting and shipping—is quite resource intensive. Machinery needs to be powered. Fields are irrigated. Crops are transported. Even the most sustainably run farm uses natural resources to produce the good food that fills our plates. By enjoying every last bite of the food that comes out of this process, we lower the resource-to-calorie quotient. Eat it up and you’ll be doing your part to use but not waste the air, water, soil, and energy it takes to grow our crops.

Honors the Farmers’ Hard Work

Accountant, marketer, customer service representative, advertising exec, machinist, weather forecaster, ecologist, community organizer—these are just some of the jobs that a modern farmer needs to be expert at these days. Oh, and having the ability to actually grow food. And not just make it come out of the ground but do it well. That means properly prepping the soil so the carrots grow straight, knowing the exact moment to harvest broccoli before it bolts, curing the sweet potatoes so they don’t rot, understanding the positive effects of frost on parsnips, puzzling out your fields with underplantings and crop rotations that not only maximize the space, but encourage fertility and more. And doing all those things before many of us have even had our first cup of coffee. It’s not just hard work, it’s incredible shape-shifting, mystical, miracle-making stuff. The best way to honor the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to fill your market basket? Eat it. Every bite of it.

Maximizes Farmland Productivity

More people means we need to grow more food, right? Well, how about instead of growing more, we just eat what’s already there. Americans only consume about half of the food that comes off our fields. Simple math, we can have about twice as much food without planting a single acre more, if we just eat what we grow.


With so many great reasons to enjoy every last bite, it’s hard to believe that, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is discarded. Through our production and distribution methods to our commercial and home practices, we waste twice as much food as we did in the 1970s. As the world’s population expands, the knee-jerk reaction is to grow more. But I say: before we plant more crops, let’s eat what we’ve already sown. If we reduced our food waste by only 15 percent, we could feed 25 million Americans. Reduce it by 30 percent and we would have enough food to nourish the 50 million Americans that identify as food-insecure. Is food waste an easy problem to solve? Not entirely. But there are some simple steps we all can take to utilize more of the harvest.

It’s important to keep in mind that food waste isn’t just scraps. Reducing it doesn’t mean that you’ll be eating anything that isn’t perfectly wholesome and delicious. The fact is that the majority of the food we waste isn’t spoiled or inferior, it’s perfectly good food that is simply discarded along the food chain. Here are some of the ways that we lose what we grow:

In the Field

A lot of our food never makes it off the farm. It’s the misshapen tomato in the field that the packer won’t accept because it’s not picture-perfect. The crop that’s left in the ground because a glut in the market has dropped the price of the food so low that it is no longer profitable to harvest it. It’s the secondary crop, such as broccoli and cauliflower leaves that haven’t found a market. It’s the orchard of apples left unpicked because the farmer could not find the labor to pick it. In these ways and more valuable food is wasted right where it is grown.

In Processing and Packing

Produce again enters into a beauty contest in the processing and packing phase of distribution. Packers adhere to strict appearance standards when grading produce for distribution. Food that doesn’t look pretty is downgraded or discarded. Edible carrots that aren’t perfectly straight, for example, are often kept out of the marketplace because they don’t meet industry standards for appearance. Perfectly delicious food that can’t find a buyer at the retail level or that won’t bring enough profit to the packer, perhaps because there is a glut of supply, can be discarded as well.

In the Store

Retail shelves are kept fully stocked—above the amount that is expected to be sold—to present a picture of abundance that is attractive to the shopper. The overstocking practice causes food to bruise from the weight of the display and overhandling as shoppers repeatedly pick through the pile, leading to a high percentage of waste.

In the Home

Americans throw out about half of the food that they bring home. Some of it spoils before it is eaten. Some is tossed because it has passed the sell-by date on the carton. A lot of our food hits the bin after it’s prepared, either as uneaten portions on our plate or leftovers that go idle in the fridge.


In this book, we’re going to deal with the food waste issue that we, as eaters, have the most control over—in our homes. There are a number of ways to reduce food waste on the consumer end. Even if you don’t do every one of these, all the time, your small changes can make a big difference. Here’s a start:

Buy Directly from the Grower

At every point in the food chain, there’s another chance for “shrink,” or “shrinkage,” as the grocery industry calls it—the percentage of food that is spoiled, damaged, or simply discarded along the path from field to point of purchase. Shorten the chain by buying directly from farmers and you minimize those opportunities for waste.

Buy Ugly Food

Good, wholesome food is always a beautiful thing to behold, but not always in “straight off the pages of a food mag” kind of way. Some produce may have a shade of uneven coloring or be a tad misshapen. Tastes just as good, but maybe looks a little less than lovely. Such items are often sold by farmers as “seconds” at a discount price and are a great way to get good food for less. And though a harder sell for the farmer, such produce items are a prized treat for the buyer in the know who seeks out substance above style.

Look for Heirloom Produce

Heirloom produce—those varieties that have been passed down through generations of farmers—is grown for its taste, rather than its appearance. The tastiest tomato may very well not be the perfectly shaped, Stop sign red, iconic fruit but, rather, the “cat-faced” sample, as food-lovers call them, with its uneven lumps and bumps and shaded coloring. In fact, many of the heirloom varieties of produce have much more flavor than their commercial counterparts but aren’t grown industrially because their odd shapes and sizes do not suit the automated equipment used in giant scale operations. You, however, not needing widget-shaped foods suited for standardized machinery, can enjoy all the oddly colored, lopsided but delicious produce that you can get your hands on.

Eat “Trash Fish”

“Trash fish” are not fish from the garbage bin, they are simply fish that rarely make it to the table for any number of reasons. Most often the term is used to describe lesser-known but perfectly tasty fish that haven’t gained the popularity of such species as cod, salmon, or tuna, so they don’t get ordered by name. Trash fish, such as dogfish, which resembles a meatier version of cod and is just as tasty, has yet to find its audience. So, until it does, it’s considered a trash fish—a hard sell. Trash fish is also used to describe “by-catch,” the fish that are discarded from the day’s take because they weren’t the intended catch. Fish that get caught up in shrimp nets or simply weren’t the targeted species are examples of by-catch, and although perfectly edible, are most often tossed back into the water dead and dying. According to Oceana, by-catch may represent 40 percent of the global fishing intake—a shocking volume of waste.

Eating trash fish creates a market that is more flexible and less wasteful. So, when your fishmonger offers you something that you’ve never heard of before, why not give it a go? After all, no one wanted Patagonian toothfish until it was renamed Chilean sea bass. And when your creative chef buys up the random fish hauled back with the day’s scallop harvest because he or she would rather see them in a stew than tossed overboard, dig in. Trash fish is good fish.

Organize Your Fridge to Reduce Spoilage

Out of sight, out of mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve meant to eat it, I’ve planned to eat it, I’ve wanted to eat it, but I just forgot it was there. A tasty bit of cheese in the back of the drawer, three lovely steamed shrimp, half a cup of caramel sauce—how could I forsake you? To avoid losing valuable bites to the chaos of the fridge, it helps to have a system. Try some of these tips:

  All leftovers live on one shelf. Visit it first before making your next dinner plan or shopping list, to see what you can eat up.

  It’s a date. Take a tip from the pros and label all leftovers or opened containers with a “made on” or “opened on” date. Keeping a roll of painter’s tape and a marker in a nearby drawer makes it easy.

  Squirrel it away. Bought the big size because it was half the price? It’s not savings if you throw it out. When possible, section off the portion you can use right away and put the rest in the freezer. Works great for hard cheeses, family packs of meat and fish, cream cheese, butter, pasta sauce, breads, and cakes, and even keeps grains and flours fresher, longer.

  Delicate on top. Sturdy produce, such as carrots, celery, apples, and broccoli, can live at the bottom of the crisper very happily. Layer more delicate items, such as peppers, peaches, and summer squashes that might bruise or crush on top of those. Lettuces, herbs, and other leafy items should be on the very top. Eat down through the layers.

  Don’t show your perishables the door. Sure, it’s convenient to have the milk and eggs on the door for easy access, but it doesn’t guarantee the longest shelf life. Through the constant opening and closing, the items on the door see the highest temperatures. If you have a high turnover of milk and eggs, you might not notice a difference, but if those items are going off before you can enjoy them, you might relocate them to a cooler compartment. Leave the door for the much less perishable hot sauce.

  Keep dairy on the low down. Yogurt, sour cream, and milk do best on the lower shelves of the fridge, where the air is colder.

  Keep meat on the way low down. Meat should be stored at the lowest point in the fridge, preferably in a meat drawer if your fridge has one. Not only are the lowest shelves the coldest (cold air sinks), but you don’t want the juices from these items to drip on and contaminate any of your other refrigerated foods.

Understand the Shelf Life of Food

Some eaters keep their food until it is much too old. Other eaters throw it out way too soon. The key to reducing food waste in the kitchen is to know the half-life of the food you eat. No one wants to pitch food that’s fit to eat, but push that line too much and you could get yourself sick. The dates on the package can be informative, but don’t always have the precise info you need (see page 11 for information on package dating).

Good thing your senses give the best clues to rot, particularly when it comes to raw food. Unless it is contaminated from the start by food-borne pathogens picked up in the field or in processing, spoilage makes itself known. If that jar of marmalade is growing a beard, the smell of your milk turns your stomach, that pork chop feels slimy, it’s got to go. There is no cooking or preserving process that can redeem it.

Cooked foods have expiration dates, too. A good rule of thumb about cooked food that I learned when getting my food handler’s certification was that cooked food is generally safe for up to five days, except for shellfish, which is wholesome for three days after cooking. So, that means that all those “Seven days of post-Thanksgiving leftovers” may be stretching it a bit far. And some dishes may lose flavor or texture even sooner, so always look to your recipe for storage tips.

More detailed information about food spoilage is readily available online. Apps and websites make it easy to look up the life expectancy of any number of foods. You can start here: Still Tasty ( is a website and app created by a cooperative effort of the USDA, FDA, and CDC that offers shelf life and storage dates for thousands of food items. You’ll also find more information on expiration and sell-by dates (and what they really mean) on page 11.

All food will stay fresher, longer in a fridge that is kept at its chilly best. Food spoils very rapidly at 40°F and above, so you want to stay well below that without getting to a frosty 32°F; 35/36°F is usually a good setting that will compensate for regular opening and closing of the door.

Wrap It Up

Air is a spoiler. It can dry out moist foods, make dry food stale, and carries pathogens. To improve the shelf life of your food, it’s best to keep it under wraps.

Cover items that go in the fridge. I am not a big fan of copious amounts of disposable wraps in the kitchen, so I often opt to cover my refrigerated foods in a reusable way. You can use reusable containers. Or you can use the dishes you already have on hand to do the trick. I slide a plate over filled bowls and use bowls as cloches to cover plates of food. An inexpensive set of clear plates and bowls doubles as extra serving and mixing pieces and make it easy to see what’s on hand.

Dry goods and snacks, such as cereals, grains, cookies, and crackers, suffer from exposure to air as well. Big rubber bands and clothespins are great for securing original packaging after opening. I store opened bagged items, such as beans and rice, in large canning jars to prevent exposure to air and keep pests away. For cookies and crackers, is there anything cuter than an old-fashioned or even newfangled breadbox, cookie jar, or cracker canister? Keeping one on the counter keeps food fresh and handy.


Mold seems like it would be a pretty clear indicator of spoilage, but the line of good vs. bad mold can be blurry. In some foods, such as cheese, charcuterie, beer, and pickles certain bacteria are introduced or encouraged to colonize to abate other, pathogenic strains and to develop the flavor of the food. For example, the colonies of Penicillium that constitute the blue veins of Roquefort are good for the cheese as they keep contamination at bay during the aging process and they taste good, too.

Spontaneous mold development, however, is not always a good thing. I’ve heard a number of eaters tell stories of their grandmothers simply peeling back the furry mold from a jar of jam and digging in. I don’t recommend it. Not all mold is beneficial and the mold you see is not the whole story. Mold isn’t just something that lives on the surface; it runs deep with rootlike structures that reach down into soft foods. Moldy yogurt, for example, isn’t just spoiled where you see patches of fuzz—the spores extend down into the container. If it’s furry, best to pitch it.

One exception to this rule—hard cheeses. Such food products are too dense for surface mold to penetrate. Surface bloom on these items, unless it is black mold, can be safely scraped off and the rest of the cheese can be enjoyed. Spontaneous mold blooms on other fresh or cooked foods are an indication of spoilage.

Label It

It’s not just for refrigerated items. Label all cooked and opened food with the date that it was prepared or unpackaged. Keeping a roll of painter’s tape and a permanent marker in the kitchen drawer makes it a snap.

Know Your Labels

Okay, prepare to have your mind blown. The “expiration” dates on your food are not guarantees that your food is fresh. They are indicators of peak quality and suggested display times for retailers.

“Use by,” “Best by,” and “Best before,” indicate the last date that the manufacturer guarantees quality. Not safety, but quality. These labels are usually reserved for nonperishables, such as jams, mustards, and sauces that will naturally start to separate or discolor with age. The product may very well be fine to eat (i.e., unnoticeably different) after this date—a long time after this date in fact—but the manufacturer will no longer stand behind it. For example: an unopened bottle of olives past its date may be a little paler in color than you expect when you open it. While they may be fine to eat, you will no longer be able to send them back to the manufacturer, complaining of their mild hue.

Sell-by dates are often used on perishables, such as milk and meat. This is the last date that the product can be displayed for retail, as suggested by the manufacturer. Think of it as a guide, but not a hard-and-fast rule. Grocers may still sell the product after its sell-by date and you may still enjoy it. For example, a carton of milk will be taken off the shelf on its sell-by date, but is still wholesome until sometime after that date—seven to ten days for reduced-fat versions and five to seven days for whole milk.

The exception here is baby food and formula. These items have dates that indicate expiration that one should always heed.

Utilize the Whole Foods You Buy

I am convinced that eaters throw out a good portion of the food they buy because they don’t even know it is edible. I was at the farmers’ market a while back and handed the farmer several fennel to ring up for me. He proceeded to twist off the stalks and fronds and hand me back just the bulbs. When I questioned him about taking half of my food for himself he laughed and said he just assumed that I wanted them trimmed; everyone did. And miss half the fun? No, thanks. Same with beets and their greens, carrots and their tops, and on and on. That’s the fun of good food, eating it up, and you’ll find lots of tips for this waste-saving measure in the book.

Eat Up Your Leftovers

And if you overcook? No reason to pitch that little extra this and that. Up-cycle it! As a matter of fact, a handful of cooked veg or protein can make for a whole new meal if you know how to do it. There are a number of recipes at the end of this book to get you started.

Understand Stale vs. Garbage Pail

Age is not necessarily a bad thing (and I don’t just mean in women and wine).

Just because a food isn’t at its peak of freshness doesn’t mean it has to be tossed in the bin. Stale bread makes fantastic Panzanella (page 188). Celery that is beginning to wilt can be refreshed in an ice bath. Old wine? We call that vinegar. Throughout this book, you’ll find loads of tips for getting a second life out of good food.


I often use the freezer to buy myself some extra time—it extends shelf life simply and easily. From a crust of bread to a few berries that I know I won’t get to in time to some extra soup, duck fat, or half a jar of BBQ sauce that I know I will love to have . . . later. I have some specialized containers for the purpose. You know the ones—inexpensive, washable, reusable, stackable. I use freezer bags, too. Lay them flat when you put them in the freezer, so you can stack them efficiently. I also use a fair amount of glass jars as well. Canning jars are fine in the freezer. They have an extra-thick glass that holds up well under freezing temps. Just be sure not to fill them to the top, to allow for your contents to expand—maybe ½ inch for small jars, and up to an inch for quart-size.


And when the last little tasty morsels have been gleaned from your groceries and you’re left with the truly done and inedible, pile it up, let it rot, and plant it again to grow another great meal. The end of one road can be the beginning of another if you compost your scraps. Sound a bit too Little House on the Prairie? You don’t need to be a pioneer to do it—you just need the spirit. Compost buckets, bins, and barrels come in a wide range of sizes—from “urban” small (for under the counter or in the corner of the tiniest of studio apartments) to “homesteading” mammoth (to create enough compost for all your garden beds and then some).

Don’t want to do it yourself? Many towns and cities are creating municipal composting programs. San Francisco’s is mandatory. And if you don’t want a DIY solution or your town hasn’t gotten on board the compost train just yet, check in with your local farmers’ market. Many markets, such as New York City’s Greenmarkets, are implementing “back to the farm” programs that will return residential food scraps with the growers to turn into this valuable, nutrient dense fertilizer. See Resources (page 223) for more info on getting the good rot.



  • Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 7/19/16
    “In many ways, Eat It Up! is a recipe for returning to the kitchen economy of a century ago when stale bread became bread pudding and leftover bones were simmered in a pot of broth. Vinton's recipes include great ideas for using fruit peels, vegetable stalks, fat and ‘whole animal dishes' that overlook nothing that is edible. Eat It Up! is a call to arms as well as a cookbook.”

    Joint Forces Journal, 7/14/16
    “Sherri Brooks Vinton helps you make the most out of the food you bring home. The 150 delicious recipes…show you the way to mine the uncovered treasures in your kitchen—that's right, the limp celery stalks, leaves from your cauliflower, bones from Sunday's roast, and even the last lick of jam in the jar are all put to good, tasty use.”

    Sand and Succotash, 7/28/16
    Eat It Up! comes to the rescue with produce insights, pantry tips, upcycling scraps recipes, and how to use up every bit of that whole chicken you came home with.”

    Huffington Post, 8/5/16
    “Vinton's book offers recipes that'll help you cook up pretty much any food scrap into a delicious meal ? think dishes like Radish Tops Tabouleh ? but it also shares other helpful tips along the way, like how to properly stock your fridge to fight food waste before it starts.”
  • Praise for Eat it Up!

    Myrtle Beach Sun News, 5/17/16
    Vinton presents ways using up food can save time, taste great, [and] preserve natural resources…Usually I wait until a book comes out before I send in a review, but this one merits a pre-order…Even the most experienced chef will find this book interesting and the novice chef will get off to a good start on cooking without waste.

    Booklist, June 1, 2016 issue
    “A sterling resource for the ecologically minded cook.”

    January Magazine, 7/3/16
    “Vinton's well thought out recipes show us how to use every little bit. Nor is all (or even any!) of this ‘leftover food.' Vinton's 150 recipes feel very fresh and new…and many are real keepers. Eat It Up is one for your permanent cookbook shelf. A book that will make you better, inside and out.”

    Greene County Record, 7/13/16
    “Recipes…for a no-waste, great-taste kitchen.”

On Sale
May 24, 2016
Page Count
256 pages

Sherri Brooks Vinton

Sherri Brooks Vinton

About the Author

Sherri Brooks Vinton is the author of Put ’em Up!, Put ’em Up! Fruit, and The Preserving Answer Book. Vinton began her food career on the back of a motorcycle. A cross-country ride brought her face-to-face with the negative impacts of industrial agriculture and compelled her to begin a quest for food raised with integrity. Since then, her books, appearances, and hands-on workshops have taught countless eaters how to find, cook, and preserve local, seasonal food. Whether developing content, organizing events, or consulting with clients, Vinton is always working to find her next great meal. To learn more, visit

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