Give your house plants or outdoor garden a boost by repurposing food waste.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where assistant nutrition editor and registered dietitian, Jessica Ball, keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

One of the best ways to stock your fridge with fresh produce is to grow your own food. Starting a garden is affordable, sustainable and a super rewarding hobby. Even if you're not quite into gardening, house plants can help liven up your space and even purify your air. However, store-bought fertilizers can be expensive. Luckily, there are several types of food scraps that can be used to give your plants a boost. Cut down on food waste (and keep your plants healthy and nourished) by using these scraps.

woman picking lettuce in the garden
Credit: Getty Images / AzmanJaka

Food Scraps You Can Give to Plants

Coffee Grounds 

Already had your cup of morning Joe? Don't throw away those coffee grounds just yet. The grounds from coffee are rich in nitrogen, a nutrient that many house plants and vegetables like onions, lettuce and corn love. Sprinkling grounds on top of the soil can help act as a barrier for pests like slugs as well. If fragrant coffee grounds are too much for inside your house, try mixing the grounds with water then watering your plants to help disperse the grounds.


Eggshells are packed with calcium. This nutrient is for more than keeping our bones strong, it can help keep your plants healthy too. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and celery pull calcium from the soil, so adding crushed eggshells to your garden or their pot can help them grow. It can also create a barrier for pests like bugs and slugs from getting into the soil, similar to coffee grounds. 


Though cinnamon is not technically a food scrap, this popular spice can work wonders for humid soils. Sprinkling a bit of ground cinnamon on the surface of soil can help reduce the risk of fungal growth. Cinnamon is a spice that's naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial, so it can help protect your plants from disease. Try using cinnamon when starting seeds or on plants that prefer humidity, like ferns and monsteras. 

Fruit Peels 

We might not be able to eat the peels of fruits like bananas and oranges, but our plants can! Burying banana peels in the soil can help repel bugs like aphids—just make sure to cut them into small pieces first so you don't attract larger pests. Banana peels are also high in potassium, similar to the fruit, so they can also help plants absorb more nutrients.

Citrus peels not only smell amazing, but they can also help keep your pets from ruining your plants. If your cat uses your garden bed or pots as a litter box, it can kill your plants over time. Buying orange or lemon peels in the soil will keep them away and they are biodegradable over time. 

Pepper Residue

Hang on to spicy pepper seeds and tops after you make your Homemade Salsa. These food scraps can be used to make all-natural pest repellent…that's also totally free. Simply blend the pepper scraps with water, strain out any solid and reserve the liquid in a spray bottle. Spritz plants with the pepper water to deter bugs and pests. Just remember not to touch your face after making it! 

The Bottom Line 

There are plenty of ways to reduce your food waste, and several plants can even be repurposed to grow more food. Save money on expensive fertilizers and use these food scraps to give your plants a healthy, all-natural boost. Whether it's in your garden or for your house plants, foods like coffee grounds, eggshells and fruit peels are great to add to your plants' soil.