10 ways to waste less food

Photo: iStockphoto.com/jml5571
Easy tips to save money and keep food out of the landfill

The statistics are staggering: nearly one-third (about 1.3 billion tonnes) of all food produced worldwide is wasted. This is even more disturbing when you consider that hunger kills more people annually than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In addition, discarded food that ends up in landfills is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Canadians are among the worst culprits, according to a recent draft report from the Ontario-based Value Chain Management Centre. We collectively waste up to $27 billion worth of food each year. More than half of that ends up as discarded leftovers in household trash cans—resulting in a lot of wasted time, money and resources used for growing, production and transportation. Fortunately, that’s something we can change! Follow Green Living’s 10 easy tips to stop wasting food and keep more money in your pocket:

1. Plan ahead.

Before you shop, check your refrigerator and pantry. Figure out how much food you realistically need and stock up accordingly. The Love Food Hate Waste organization, which focuses on raising awareness of food waste, provides a handy “Everyday Perfect Portions” planner to calculate meal sizes.

2. Shop frequently.

Shopping often helps ensure you don’t overbuy. Take advantage of local farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture, and purchase small amounts of fresh, seasonal produce to last a few days at a time. Plus, buying local is kinder to the environment, and it supports your local economy.

3. Be wary of buying in bulk.

Though buying in bulk is economical and requires less packaging, be careful not to get more than you need, especially with perishables. You’re not saving money if they end up in the trash.

4. Serve less.

Dish out smaller portions at meals—people are less likely to leave food on their plates. Remember, you can always go back for seconds! Don’t cook too much unless you plan to freeze a batch to enjoy later.

5. Safely store food.

Don’t let food spoil—refrigerate leftovers promptly and use them up quickly. Also, maximize the shelf life of different foods. Certain products, such as apples and broccoli, are best kept chilled, but others, including garlic, peaches and tomatoes, spoil faster in the fridge. Read David Suzuki’s informative tips for food storage.

6. Learn more about expiration dates.

Research what the date label on products really means and don’t be hasty to throw away food. Often, the Canadian expiration date is more of an optimal consumption date; the nutritional content is no longer reliable, but that doesn’tnecessarily mean the food is unsafe to eat. (Once opened, though, a product’s shelf life gets shorter, so use it up soon.)

7. Compost.

The average family’s household garbage is about 40 percent organic waste. By composting, you’re not only keeping food scraps out of a landfill but also providing nutrient-rich food for your plants. Visit the Compost Council of Canada’s website for tips. You can also make use of your town’s or city’s organics collection program. Don’t have one? Tell your city council you want one!

8. Get creative with leftovers.

Use bread crusts for croutons, boil turkey bones for soup stock, or toss watermelon rinds into a stir-fry. Check out Love Food Hate Waste’s creative recipes for ideas on using food scraps. (Bonus: find out what to do with overripe fruit.)

9. Help feed your community.

Ask a food bank, shelter or charity if it welcomes food donations. Or give to an organization like Second Harvest, an innovative food-sharing program that helps people in need while cutting food wastage. If you live in Toronto and have a fruit tree or garden whose bounty you’d like to share, check out Not Far From the Tree.

10. Get a doggie bag.

Restaurant portions are sometimes too large to finish in one sitting. Ask your server to wrap up leftovers for you. Better yet, bring a reusable container.

Do you have tips or ideas to lessen food waste? E-mail editor@green-living.ca.