What to do with bento scraps: No-waste ideas for leftover food pieces

by on March 31, 2013 · 17 comments                       

what to do with leftover bento scraps

photo: Bent on Better Lunches

“Wow. That’s a lot of WASTE! Do you just throw out all the scraps?”

My community of  Bento Bloggers and Friends and I get asked this question. A lot.

On my Facebook wall last week, long time EasyLunchboxes packer, Lissa Kristine, posted:

“What do you do with the scraps left over from using the FunBites cutter or cookie cutters to cut out sandwiches? I love my FunBites cutter, but it leaves quite a bit of waste – especially the heart one. What should I do? (These are for adult lunches- not kid ones, by the way.)”

So I asked my friends for some answers…..

Cristi of Bent on Better Lunches says, “NO! I don’t throw them out… If I was to throw out all the post-cookie cutter remnants, then yes, that would be wasteful… but I use the scraps :)…since I started making their lunches with shapes & themes, I have all these little scraps of cheese, ham, fruit or whatever, that I scrape into a container and put in the fridge, so later on when I am hungry, I have something to toss into a salad or fold into a quesadilla, or mix with an egg in a bowl and cook into an instant omelet in the microwave, or just nibble on as finger food. So the scraps are actually getting put to good use! I have even planned dinner around the scraps I will make with lunch – for example, when I made the Hugs & Kisses lunch above, I knew I’d have lots of ham & cheese bits leftover (and I ended up with more than I anticipated since I made too much and they didn’t finish it) so I planned to put them in a quiche to enjoy. I can see that becoming a regular thing… I love quiche. I also use  scraps to make Veggie Soup.”

Over on MOMables, you’ll find Cristi’s Breakfast Muffins From Zero-Waste Lunches – a delicious day-starter that uses all kinds of cheese and veggie scraps left over from lunch-making.


photo: MOMables

Karen of What’s in Our Lunch Bags saves them and makes a Compost Lunch.

Nina of Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love makes a mean French Toast Casserole.

make french toast casserole from bento scraps

photo: Mambelly.com

Rachel of Rachel’s Random does a variation of the above casserole, but makes super kid-pleasing Bento Scrap French Toast Muffins. She suggests adding scraps of fruit for a little something extra.

bento scrap french toast muffin recipe

photo: Rachel’s Random

Amanda of Food, Family, Fun freezes her bread scraps and pulls them out when she wants to make British Bread Pudding.

Michelle of Creative Food shared this yummy wrap idea with me:

bento scraps to veggie and cheese wrap by Michelle of Creative Food

photo: Creative Food

If she doesn’t save them for a different recipe altogether, Rebecca of Bentos on the Bayou incorporates the scraps from her kids’ lunches into a simple but tasty lunch for herself.

Or, she saves them up for a family favorite meal they call Wolfatouille. It consists of brown rice, black beans, and whatever vegetables she has leftover from the week. Any rice, legume or veggie scraps she hasn’t already used up from the week’s bentos go into it. Rebecca generally seasons her Wolfatouille with chili powder & garlic, but sometimes she throws other spices or herbs in there too. She notes, “It’s fast & easy, hearty, and provides us with a large bowl of leftovers each time I make it.”

Alexandra of Lunch with Eyeness says, “Stir fry is another good way to use up extra veggie scraps.”

Kendra of Biting the Hand That Feeds You celebrated Earth Day with Mama’s Scrap Heap Lunch. Her lunch is recycled/re-used! All the spinach, carrot, fruit leather, and cheese scraps from her daughter’s lunch went into her lunch.

what to do with leftover food scraps from making cute lunches

photo: Biting the Hand That Feeds You

“Making cute shapes out of our foods can create a lot of waste, so I often get asked what I do with all my scraps. To be honest, I usually eat them right then and there. Or Z will come and want to eat her beautiful lunch right away, so I throw scraps her way as a distraction… I also will toss them into my lunches, or store them in reusable containers in the fridge for another day. Another option is to keep scraps in the freezer until you have enough for something big. I usually cut out my bread before adding spreads, so they could be saved for home-made croutons, bread crumbs, or meat loaf.” - Kendra, Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Sarah of More Than Your Average Mom freezes veggie scraps so she can make a great kitchen staple – homemade vegetable broth – as she’s no longer a fan of the store bought, overly salty variety.
Sarah promises – once you make your own, you’ll never want to buy it in a box or can again. Smile

diy veggie broth from veggie scraps

photo: More Than Your Average Mom 

Even more ideas for bento scraps:

Tips and Tricks for Waste Free Bento Lunches. Use up your leftover food scraps.

There are countless ways to use up the scraps of food leftover from making bentos. But if you’re still coming up short, a little imagination mixed with a little Google will probably yield a myriad of additional ideas Smile

If you have a neat way to use your scraps, please let us know in a comment below!

reduce reuse recycle bento scraps

photo: Zoe’s Lunchbox

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1 Jackie March 31, 2013 at 6:58 pm

What a fabulous collection, thank you for sharing a great resource! So much better than the bread crumbs I use to make homemade chicken nuggets or schnitzels :-)
Jackie is the cool author of..Bunny FootprintMy Profile

2 Kelly Lester March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I’m lucky to have so many creative friends Jackie! It’s my pleasure to share them all :)

3 Lissa Kristine March 31, 2013 at 8:22 pm

These are great! I love the idea of using scraps in salads or omelettes- especially the cheese. I don’t generally have the need to pack a fun lunch for a child AND pack food for myself. I just like having fun lunches. My first day using my FunBites, I used the heart one on some pre-sliced cheese. I ended up making a little sailboat out of the pieces to put on top of my blueberries.

The french toast casserole (and the muffins) both sound like great ideas- especially for grab and go breakfasts. I just have to figure that one out. I can’t exactly spread peanut butter and jelly (or almond or sunbutter) on each individual Funbites square. And mustard and french toast are words I wouldn’t generally use together. I think that might be my biggest challenge: using the bread after I’ve added a spread. I’ve always assembled sandwiches and THEN cut them.
Lissa Kristine is the cool author of..2012 in review: 2013 will be BETTER!My Profile

4 LudicrousMama November 10, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Yeah. It’s harder to do for FunBites. Mini cookie cutter sammies aren’t As hard to individually spread. So when I reaaaaally don’t want to just suck it up and spread each square separately, I make sure to spread PB and J thickly to the edges. Then I just eat the scraps right there. (Less mess if you cut the top slice before putting it on the spread-covered bottom slice. Just keep the top slice bits in the cutter and move them to the other slice before cutting it too.)
LudicrousMama is the cool author of..Packin’ It Dye-Free for the Movies!My Profile

5 xealia March 31, 2013 at 9:37 pm

I have 5 guinea pigs so any fruit or veggie scraps I have left over get donated to the piggies as part of their nightly salad!

6 feelingalittlelunchy April 1, 2013 at 3:03 am

Love it! Thanks, Kelly! I will be a little honest, too…my dog eats a lot of bread.

7 Kelly Lester April 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm

As long as someone’s getting fed… :)

8 Michelle | Creative Food April 1, 2013 at 7:20 am

What a great round up Kelly! Lots of great ideas for using up food scraps!! Thanks for including me in there too! :)
Michelle | Creative Food is the cool author of..Angry Birds Birthday Party IdeasMy Profile

9 Shannon April 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I think I was away when you had posted this, but one of my favorites for the sandwich cutouts is to save the outside of the bread for egg in a hole for the mornings, or occasionally for dinner. The last batch of Cutezcute sandwiches I cut out, I centered perfectly on the bread so the leftovers would work!
Shannon is the cool author of..Easter Leftovers Bento IdeasMy Profile

10 Kelly Lester April 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Such a cute idea Shannon! Love that one :)

11 Rebecca April 6, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Fantastic idea Shannon! I’m going to have to try that one!
Rebecca is the cool author of..15 Minute Friday #3My Profile

12 Rebecca April 6, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Kelly, you have posted so many incredible ideas! I can’t wait to try some of them that I haven’t done before, especially the breakfast muffins and french toast muffins! I feel honored that you included my ideas in this round up. Thank you!
Rebecca is the cool author of..15 Minute Friday #3My Profile

13 Kelly Lester April 7, 2013 at 7:45 am

Well, Wolfatouille sounds totally delish Rebecca. My kind of comfort food actually :) Thank YOU!

14 Alison Moore Smith April 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

What clever ideas — as ususal.

We just put together a great double compositor. We are starting a square foot garden this year, so all our fruit and veggie scraps are making up the “green matter” in our bin. I don’t feel guilty if we don’t eat every last scrap, since we can use it in the garden.
Alison Moore Smith is the cool author of..No Car Seats on Grocery Carts – Please!My Profile

15 Kelly Lester April 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

That is brilliant Alison! That is truly the way we all should be living. I am so not there yet…

16 Maris August 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I just started making bento lunches, so I’m saving up the leftover bread to make some bite sized garlic bread

17 Kelly Lester August 31, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Love that idea Maris! And you can use them for croutons or just an addicting snack ;)

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