Zero Waste Cooking: How to Build a Better Sandwich

I whipped up a particularly delicious sandwich the other day. A lunch for one, now that we are back in a school/work routine.

I had used up leftovers, with favourable results, and it got me thinking about food waste and how much of it can be avoided. So I sat down here to share how to build a better sandwich. Of course, I ended up expanding on the subject.

The International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW) is tomorrow, Sept 29. Today feels like a good time to revisit the topic and share some of my best strategies for the home cook.

International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (IDAFLW)

When we cut down on food waste, we conserve natural resources and reduce carbon emissions. Reducing food waste saves the home cook money, and yet it is still a growing global issue.

So what can we do? Solder on. Make conscious choices. For starters, you’re at the right place, here at Simple Bites.

I’m always working to develop recipes designed to minimize food waste and maximize the use of leftovers.

For example, this fall favourite Grains and Greens-Stuffed Squash with Herb Salsa; it’s a very versatile vegetarian main dish of hearty ancient grains and nutritious winter greens.

Combatting Food Waste over the Holidays

We’re heading into the holiday season and it’s important to be reminded of simple, actionable steps you can take in your own kitchen over the next few months.

Written for #IDAFLW 2021 and just as relevant today, these 10 simple kitchen tips for a zero food waste holiday include ideas for mindful prep, conscientious entertaining and leftover usage.

10 Zero Waste Actions for the Home Cook

Here’s the thing: fruits and vegetables account for 45% of food waste (according to Food Waste Statistics in Canada). I know that in my home, this is where I struggle.

My teenage boys make sure no meat is wasted – bacon, sausages, cooked chicken – it all disappears rapidly. It’s the tired lettuce, wilted herbs and wrinkled apples that get a pass.

So here are 10 ways to tackle food scraps to use up fruits and veggies. Why not pick one action and commit to it this week?

1. Build a soup from scratch

It’s soup season, no doubt about it. Soups are a terrific way to use up vegetable scraps. I’ve got the template for you to build a soup from scratch – using what you have. It can be tailored to any season; always with delicious results.

2. Cook a pot of zero waste pasta

In this recipe, a huge tray of roasted vegetables brings a simple bowl of spaghetti to life, and uses up scraps from the crisper drawer.

3. Make a frittata with leftovers

In true zero waste fashion, you can use what you have on hand for this recipe and it will always be delicious. Substitutions are listed in the post.

Simple Apple Crisp with Brown Sugar Rye Streusel | Simple Bites

4. Master my Any Ingredient Fruit Crisp

Bake fruit into a crisp before it goes bad! My handy fruit crisp formula is a master recipe for this beloved dessert. I also give tips to get creative with alternative ingredients for both fillings and toppings.

5. Simmer a kitchen scrap stock

Vegetables, mushrooms, herbs, cheese rinds…all can be transformed into a fragrant stock. It’s so handy to have around for homemade soups, stews and chili later.

6. Brew a pot of tea

Yes, enjoying a relaxing tisane can be a zero waste action! Use tired herbs such as rosemary, oregano and thyme in healing tea infusions. Roast apple or pears and add those too. Save citrus rinds, dried fruits and ginger or lemongrass root to steep in hot water for tea.

7. Build a power bowl

Use a base of rice, noodles or whole grains and then build from there using what vegetables you have. This post outlines my best ideas for building block ingredients and power bowl ‘themes’, with plenty of recipes, too.

8. Blend a smoothie

Perhaps the most simple way to make fruit disappear – and loved by all. Veggies, fruits, nuts and milks..there IS an art to balancing it all, so use my formula below.

9. Assemble a huge salad

Using ingredients you already have, and my handy formula below. Keeping zero waste in mind, it’s designed to help you clean out the fridge and use what you have.

10. Build a better sandwich

Utilize roasted vegetables, avocado, greens and herbs. Read on for the tutorial and recipe below.

How to Build a Better Sandwich

Stuck in a rut? Reaching for the peanut butter or cheese singles? Here’s my ultimate vegetarian sandwich that delivers on flavour, texture and nourishment!

It’s fall inspired, because I’m using seasonal ingredients, but the formula is designed to help you use what you have on hand. It’s the ultimate zero waste method to build a better sandwich.

A Better Sandwich Includes:

  • Crusty Bread: Sturdy, fresh bread, preferably nourishing and hearty. I love a sourdough. Homemade bagels are the bomb. Our Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is a good one.
  • Creamy spread: Tzatziki, Boursin cheese, goats cheese, hummus
  • Crunchy: sweet potato chips, beet chips, crisped bacon or pancetta
  • Meaty: roasted fall vegetables, beets, roasted mushrooms, poached chicken
  • Greens: crisp greens like romaine, endive, radicchio, sprouts, winter greens, etc
  • Condiments of choice: dijon, mayonnaise, chutney, etc
  • Bonus: avocado, tomato, peaches, red onion..

Zero Waste TIP: I slice up a loaf of bread when I bake it/buy it and then freeze it, sometimes in portions of two. I only thaw what I need for a sandwich and the remainder stays fresh in the freezer in an airtight bag.

Here’s the line up for the sandwich I made. It includes the whole range of our five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

Boursin (creamy, salty), beet chips (sweet, crunchy), roasted Portobello mushrooms & grilled zucchini (umami, meaty), radicchio (crisp, bitter) avocado/lemon/hot sauce (sour and heat). So delicious and satisfying!

The Ultimate Veggie Sandwich

A fully-loaded, nourishing sandwich for one, with options to use ingredients you have on hand. This version includes the whole range of our five tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.


Course: Lunches

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Vegetarian

Essential Ingredient: Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Servings: 1 people


  • 2 slices hearty, whole grain bread
  • 2 Tablespoons Boursin cheese
  • 1/4 cup cooked vegetables grilled or roasted
  • 1 small cooked portobello mushroom or other mushroom
  • handful crisp salad greens radicchio, romaine etc
  • 1/2 avocado sliced
  • pinch flaky sea salt
  • wedge fresh lemon
  • handful crunchy veggie chips beet, sweet potato or potato


  • Working on a tray or sturdy cutting board, spread the Boursin on two pieces of bread. This will help anchor our load of fillings.

  • Thinly slice the vegetables and mushrooms; I’ve used zucchini and portobello. On one side of the bread, pack a sold layer of your veggies and mushrooms.

  • On the other side of the sandwich, press your crisp greens into the Boursin. Top with a fan of sliced avocado. Season the avocado generously with flaky salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. My teens would also add hot sauce at this point.

  • Top the mushrooms with a layer of veggie chips – these bring a welcome crunch to the sandwich.

  • Quickly slap both sides of the sandwich together. Press gently to ensure stability.

  • Use a sharp serrated bread knife to cut the sandwich in half. Serve at once and enjoy.

Seek Inspirations Through Cookbooks

One more thing…adding a zero waste themed cookbook to your collection is step in the right direction. It will inspired countless nourishing meals, not to mention help shrink the grocery bill.

Here are some of my tested favourites – with Perfectly Good Food being the newest addition!

Which of these zero waste actions will you complete this week?


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