When it comes to sustainability, there is a new buzzword you may be hearing: upcycling. Although it can apply to clothing and household décor as well as other areas, in cooking upcycling means finding creative ways to reuse or repurpose food or materials to prevent waste. It’s a trend that’s just getting started.

Upcycling can significantly reduce food waste. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 45% of US landfills is comprised of food and related packaging. Food waste contributes to 8% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (in comparison, the US dairy industry causes less than 2% of total GHG emissions). All that waste comes at a cost. Americans are throwing away $240 billion worth of food every year, or $1,866 per household.

There are many ways to upcycle dairy to increase its longevity and usefulness in the kitchen, and even cut down on packaging waste.

 

EXTENDING SHELF LIFE

Milk

  • Make the dairy case your last stop in the supermarket.
  • Don’t leave milk on the table during meals and return the milk to refrigerator as soon as you’re done.
  • Store in back and bottom portions of fridge—these are the coldest parts.
  • Don’t store on the door—not only is the temperature warmer there, it also fluctuates.
  • Freeze by separating into smaller containers or ice cube trays. Tends to work best if used for cooking and baking.

Yogurt

  • Keep in the coldest part of the fridge.
  • Wrap open containers in foil or plastic wrap to further extend the life of the product.
  • Freeze to enjoy as a tasty snack, such as these .

Cottage Cheese, Sour Cream, and Ricotta Cheese

  • Store upside down to prevent bacteria from growing.
  • Freeze in small or pre-measured portions for later use in baking or smoothies.

Cheese:

  • Wrap in parchment or wax paper, then seal in an airtight container.
  • If mold forms on hard cheese, cut an inch around the molded area and discard.
  • Both soft and hard cheeses can be stored in the freezer. Place in the fridge to thaw. Note: Depending on the type of cheese, the texture may be slightly different after thawing.

 

UPCYCLING HACKS

If you have extra dairy and want to limit what gets tossed, try these tricks to repurpose and use dairy products before they go bad.

Upcycling Dairy:

  • Make buttermilk by combining 1 tablespoon lemon juice or distilled white vinegar for every 1 cup of milk.
  • Make sour cream with 1/4 cup milk, 3/4 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, and 1 cup heavy cream.
  • Create crème fraiche by mixing 3 cups heavy cream with 3 tablespoons buttermilk.
  • Create a creamy soup using milk, buttermilk, or kefir.
  • Use milk, kefir, or buttermilk instead of water in baking mixes or make a batch of pancakes or waffles to freeze.
  • Freeze milk and yogurt in ice cube trays to add creaminess to smoothies, soups, and sauces.
  • Combine fruits or veggies past their prime with dairy. Try this Green Smoothie recipe to use up veggies, herbs, and fruit.
  • Freeze rinds from hard cheese and add it to soups and sauces while they simmer for flavor.

Upcycling Dairy Containers:

  • Use clean, empty yogurt containers to start seedlings for your garden.
  • Cut off milk carton tops and use the bottoms to create planters or flower vases.
  • Ricotta or sour cream containers are perfect for storing leftovers, sauces, and soups in the fridge or freezer. Label with a strip of freezer tape.
  • Feeling crafty? Check out these uses for plastic milk jugs, such as Halloween decorations.

 

TRY THESE RECIPES

How will you do your part to upcycle dairy in your kitchen? Here are three of our favorite recipes, courtesy of our friends at Savor that can be made by using ingredients that we are often looking to use up.

Greek Yogurt Overnight Oats

Green Smoothie Bowl

Fruity Frozen Yogurt Bites