Over the years our passion for local eating has given us some insight into all the efforts and resources it takes to work the land that makes our food. It is why we have become so passionate about helping educate others on the impact that food waste has, not only on our wallet, but also on the land around us. In Toronto, it is believed that the average household throws away 275 kilos per year. What does that look like? It looks like buying four bags of groceries and throwing one straight in the garbage before leaving the store. The total waste of money that results in should be obvious, but the drain in resources might be less so. With respect to water, that kind of waste looks like turning on the tap and letting 40 trillion litres go down the drain. Energy, fossil fuels, tax dollars, landfill space, greenhouse emissions, are all unnecessarily wasted by simply not employing some useful strategies to make sure our food ends up in our bellies where it belongs.
In our efforts to help reduce food waste, we thought we would share some of our favourite tips that we use everyday to cut down on the amount of food that ends up in the trash.
They say if you fail to plan you plan to fail. Taking the extra step of planning your meals and taking stock of what you already have on hand goes a long way in reducing your amount of food waste. Use a simple meal-planning template to sketch out the week ahead, then build your grocery list based on exactly what you need. Don’t forget to factor in leftovers, and where ever possible (grains, flours, nuts, seeds, spice) buy in bulk so you can tailor the amount to your recipes.
Treat your kitchen like a store
If you have ever worked in a grocery store you know that you don’t restock the shelves from the front. You move older items up and placing newer items in the back ensuring a proper turnover of goods. The same holds true for your kitchen. If it’s out of sight it’s out of mind. When restocking your fridge or pantry bring older items to the front so they aren’t forgotten about.
Store it properly
Putting your groceries away is more than just throwing them in the fridge or cupboard. Fruits, veggies, meat, and grains all need to be stored properly to ensure their maximum shelf life. Not all fruits and veggies belong in the fridge, while meat should be stored on the bottom shelf to prevent any cross-contamination. Nuts and seeds are best kept in the freezer to prevent damage to their precious oils, while spices and flours should be labeled, dated and placed in airtight containers to avoid any mix-ups (especially true if purchased in bulk), and allow you to quickly know what you have on hand.
Even the best plans can go awry sometimes. Many foods like milk, butter, wilting veggies, over-ripe fruit and meat/poultry freeze well and can live to see another day by spending some time in the deep freeze. If you are going to freeze your food ensure you store it properly to prevent freezer burn, and keep a running tab of what’s in your freezer so you don’t purchase something you already have on hand.
Use it up
Just because something is past its prime doesn’t mean it can’t be used. Wilted veggies are great for soups, stocks, stews and casseroles and over-ripe fruit makes wonderful desserts, jams, and smoothies. Challenge yourself to get creative in the kitchen and use everything you have on hand to create your zero food waste culinary masterpiece.
Whether it is scrapes of meals, eggshells, or items you really couldn’t use, if comes from a plant, animal, or is biodegradable you need to compost it. Composting reduces the amount of waste we send to the landfill, and allows organic waste to be broken down properly returning nutrients to the land, naturally fertilizing the soil, and contributing to a healthy watershed. Be sure to read up on composting practices in your area, or install your own composting system to use in your garden.