Food waste isn’t an inevitable conclusion. Read on for what you need to know and simple actions you can take to help the matter.
For all the pride that Canadians take in their environment, we have a real problem when it comes to waste. According to a report by the Toronto Food Policy Council, as a country, we waste $31 billion worth of food each year—approximately 40% of the food we produce. Some of this waste takes place at the production and transportation level, but almost half of it occurs in the household. Canadians waste roughly 873 pounds of food per person per year, approximately 80% of which was once perfectly edible, says Commission for Environmental Cooperation. On average, that amounts to roughly $1456 annually per household straight in the trash. What’s more, in addition to the economic toll of this waste, there is a huge environmental cost—to the tune of 21 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions produced each year, largely from landfills.
The good news? Starting right now, there is something you can do to help. Below, your questions answered.
Isn’t food waste unavoidable?
Actually, on an individual level, food waste is extremely avoidable. Here are just a few things you can do to reduce your impact:
- Plan out your meals for the week to ensure you buy only what you need, and don’t impulse shop for ingredients.
- Do smaller grocery shops throughout the week rather than a single big shop. Plenty of produce and meat products lose their lustre after a couple of days in the fridge, so buying something on Sunday with the intention of consuming it the coming Saturday usually results in food going bad before it gets consumed.
- Support your local producers by subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes. This helps your local economy and (as a bonus) cuts down on shopping time, as most companies deliver the boxes straight to your doorstep.
- Treat "best before" dates as freshness guidelines rather than a strict use-by date. Most food is absolutely fine to consume after the "best before" date—just give it a good inspection and use your best judgement.
What can I do with produce that’s about to go bad but just can’t use?
This is where a high powered blender comes in handy. While these small appliances can range in cost, the investment can make all the difference in time, effort and, most importantly, food waste. A Vitamix, for example, is perfect for root-to-stem cooking, as you can throw in large vegetable chunks (such as potato or beet, or even a whole carrot!), and they will fully blend into a delicious soup, ensuring minimal food waste. Likewise, you can whip up a smoothie to make quick work of any fruit starting to over-ripen on the counter—and frozen fruit blends up easily as well. Anything that can't be consumed should be slipped into the freezer. Freeze any meat or cooked soups/stews/curries/grain dishes that you aren’t able to eat right away in resealable bags or containers. Leftover herbs can be turned into infused olive oil ice cubes, or quickly blitzed into a chimichurri or pesto, which can be frozen until needed. Just about any fruit or vegetable can be turned into a quick pickle for you to enjoy for months afterwards.
Is there something I could do with the leftover tips and roots of produce?
Roots and tips of produce—despite being perfectly edible—don’t get nearly enough love. Plenty of tips and leaves are great in salads (such as celery leaves, carrot tips and beet greens). You can also keep an ongoing bag of stock-friendly foods (onion and garlic skins, leek tips, discards from celery, carrots, mushrooms, and fennel, the stems of fresh herbs) and throw them into the slow cooker whenever you have some chicken bones lying around and you feel like homemade stock. Another great alternative is to incorporate your tips and roots directly into just about any blended dish.