Let's talk about a budget stretching strategy: vegetable scrap broth.
You're really going to ask yourself why you haven't been doing this all along! You've been throwing your vegetable scraps in the trash, when you could have been making wonderful broth; much better than any vegetable broth you could buy. Best of all it's free, super easy and takes very little time.
Even though I use bone broth a lot in the winter to make soup, sauces, gravies, stir fry's, curries etc., I use vegetable broth in every season. In the summer, I use it in place of my bone broth in sauces, stir fry's, curries etc. It comes in handy in lots of vegetarian dishes. In the winter, I use it in place of water when cooking grains and legumes and any other time I am low on bone broth. The best part is: it's free! Not to mention, it adds a little extra nutrition and flavor to your life. When I prep my food for the week, the vegetable scraps either go in a bag in the freezer to make broth later, in a pot on the stove, or in a slow cooker. After the broth is done, the scraps get thrown into the compost bin where they quickly decompose into wonderfully rich compost.
Rules for Vegetable Scrap Broth
No moldy vegetables; however, limp carrots, celery and other vegetables are just fine. Vegetables that are past their prime, but not moldy are great candidates for a vegetable broth.
No cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy. While these vegetables are great and nutritious, they tend to give vegetable broth a funky flavor.
Variety is the key to a great broth! Too much of any one thing will throw your flavor off. Onions and carrots are great in broth for example, but too many carrots can make the broth too sweet. Too many onions can make the broth one dimensional in flavor.
Make sure all the scraps are washed well; no one wants a broth that tastes like dirt! At the end of vegetable prep. I like to toss all my straps into my salad spinner, give them a good thorough wash and spin dry.
If you don't prep all your vegetables at one time during the week, or if you have scraps occasionally during the week, just give them a wash and toss them in a gallon size bag, or container in the freezer until the bag is full and you are ready to make scrap broth.
Any of the following work well in a vegetable broth
Onion, onion ends and skins (a few skins are fine, but too many will make broth bitter)
Garlic, sprouting garlic may not be so great to eat, but it works fine in a scrap broth. No need to peel them; throw the whole darn thing in.
Carrots, carrot peelings, carrot ends and tips. I usually trim of the not-always-so-clean end of the carrot and throw it out, but the tips and peelings work well in a scrap broth.
Carrot greens, in moderation, or they can be bitter.
Green bean ends
Bell pepper, stem, ends and seeds
Celery centers and tops; too many leaves can be bitter, but leaves from a whole celery stalk in a batch of broth is fine.
Mushrooms, mushrooms give nice flavor and body to a broth.
Sweet potato peelings, in moderation
Potato peelings, in moderation
Squash peelings, in moderation
Corn cobs, in moderation
Herbs and tender herb stems such as parsley, in moderation
Lemon rind-in moderation
Sea Vegetables such as kombu (edible kelp), nori (edible seaweed), dulse, wakame. Sea Vegetables are rich in minerals, iodine, fiber and add great flavor
A vegetable scrap broth should be just that; scraps and vegetables past their prime, basically a no cost food. However, if desired, you can add an onion, several cloves of garlic and a tomato to ensure a good flavored broth.
Vegetable Scrap Broth
Make sure all the scraps are washed well; no one wants a broth that tastes like dirt! At the end of vegetable preparation, toss your scraps into a salad spinner, or bowl filled with water, give them a good swish and thorough wash, drain well, or spin dry. Then cook right away, or store in the freezer to make later.
Fill pot with water to about 3 inches below where the vegetables come to in pot. Vegetables contain a lot of water, and will cook down, so you need less water than a typical bone broth. You can barely see my water in the photo above, but hopefully it gives you an idea of where your water level should be.
Stovetop: Heat to a gentle boil, turn down to a simmer, uncovered, for 2-3 hours, or until vegetables are very soft, and the broth is flavorful.
Slow Cooker: Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8 hours, or until vegetables are very soft. Truthfully, I usually do it on the stovetop, because I like how the water reduces, making the broth more condensed and flavorful, so use your best judgement on time. Your guideline: the veggies should be very soft and broth should be flavorful.
I don't salt, or season my broth as I prefer to season the broth when I use it, depending on how I'm using it; however, if you'd like a salted broth add about 1/2 tsp. per quart after it has cooked and you have strained out vegetables.
Store in the fridge for about a week, or in the freezer for several months. See ideas for using it below.
Cooking time depends on how full your pot is and the size of your pot. A wider surface area will reduce faster. If you have a large pot full of vegetables, cook for closer to 3 hours, or until vegetables are very soft. A partially full pot, or a smaller pot will be done in closer to 2 hours, or until vegetables are very soft.
Ideas for Using Your Vegetable Broth
Cook grains in vegetable broth for more flavor and nutrition.
Cook legumes in vegetable broth for more flavor and nutrition.
Add to mashed potatoes, or mashed cauliflower in place of some or all of the milk or cream.
Use in soups, stir fry's, curries, gravies, sauces and any other dishes that call for broth or water.
You can even throw it in a smoothie.
Thanks hunterkfowler.com for the great photos (except for the pot of veggies which is obviously mine)