Next time you open a can of store-bought stock, take a second to think about the fate of all of those onion skins, tomato tops and mushroom stems that you discard without thinking twice.

Instead of tossing these so-called scraps, consider extending their lives (and reducing food waste) by making your own stock. Brandon Fortener—product development chef at Kroger and a serious stock-maker himself—offers these ingenious ideas for forgoing store-bought versions in favor of homemade:


Make the Good Stuff


For stock making novices, the first steps are to figure out what goes into a good stock. “The tops and tails of onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes all make great additions.” And if you don’t go overboard, a few potato peels can add body to a stock. Perishable herbs like parsley and thyme also make great additions, as do earthy items like mushrooms and root vegetables.


Veggie Don’ts


While all the above veggies make for a wonderful base for veggie or meat stocks, there are a few vegetable trimmings that Fortener doesn’t welcome into his pot. “Bell peppers tend to make things bitter, and vegetable like broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage have a tendency to overwhelm. And given its pungent nature, garlic is something of a personal preference,” says Fortener.


Shop Your Freezer


Unless you’re cooking for a small army or a large family gathering, chances are you won’t have enough vegetable trimmings from one meal to make a batch of stock. This is where Fortener’s kitchen ingenuity comes into play. “Take advantage of your freezer—it’s just like a piggy bank,” he says.


Keep a container in your freezer and toss stock-worthy scraps in there until you have time to fire up a batch. Since neutral stocks are more versatile than specifically flavored ones, the only real seasoning necessary is some salt to taste and a couple of black peppercorns.

“As a rule of thumb, stocks are safe in the fridge for up to four days and in your freezer for up to six months,” Says Fortener.

Repurpose Proteins


Stocks are also a great way to repurpose proteins. Roasted chicken bones are one go-to item, but all sorts of meats can lend flavor and depth. Just like his stash of vegetable trimmings, Fortener holds on to bits and pieces of anything raw, cured or smoked. “Ham ends and bits of bacon work wonders, adding a pleasant note of smoke that is ideal for braising greens,” recommends Fortener.


Spice It Up


Fortener is also a big fan of throwing the last little bits of spices into the pot, especially when he has a certain recipe in mind. Those little nubs of whole nutmeg and ends of cinnamon sticks, for example, can add a lovely warmth to a stock that’s customized for a squash or carrot soup.


Don’t Worry About Technique


Since the basics of stock-making are generally not more complicated than saving up tasty kitchen scraps and simmering on the stove top, Fortener believes that there’s no reason to complicate it even further with fancy knife work. “Don’t spend too much time chopping,” he says. “Just cut that onion in half and throw it into the pot.


How to Make Your Own Stock



– Tops & Tails of vegetables

– Repurposed proteins

– Spices

– 2 Gallons of water



1. Place all vegetable tops and tails + any proteins into a stock pot

2. Add spices

3. Top with water

4. Simmer for 2 hours, uncovered

5. Strain the stock through a fine-meshed sieve and discard the vegetables and herbs. Let cool completely and store for later use.