Written by Meghan Telpner and Sondi Bruner
How many of you would take your paycheque and throw 40 per cent of it in the garbage?
Well, that's what Canadians are doing with the food they buy and don't eat -- and it's estimated that $27 billion dollars worth ends up in landfills or composts each year.
In Toronto alone, we blithely toss out a staggering 210 million kilograms of food annually, while people in our city and around the world are starving.
Food waste is an enormous problem that costs us money, drives up food prices, depletes environmental resources like water and land, and is just downright unnecessary.
But there is hope, my friends. There are tons of ways that you can reduce food waste in the kitchen that will save you time, money and your appetite.
- Don't toss food scraps. Save the trimmed ends or peelings of vegetables like celery, carrots, onions, mushrooms and potatoes in your freezer. Once you've got a big pile, throw them all in a pot, cover them with water and make homemade vegetable stock. And for the meat eaters, save the bones of chicken or fish to make stock, too.
- Love your leftovers. We know that variety is the spice of life, but sometimes you just need to make do with what you already have. Find ways to switch up yesterday's meal -- make mashed potatoes into hash brown patties, add leftover grains and beans to a soup or stew, or toss that tempeh into a sandwich. Here's a handy website where you can plug in your leftover ingredients and find great ways to use them. (Try this pate recipe made from juice pulp!)
- Make a shopping list. It's great to be spontaneous and flow with whatever kitchen vibes inspire you. It's also great to plan your meals ahead of time and know what ingredients you need in the right quantities, so cooking will be a breeze. Need some help? Check out our classes for inspiration.
- Buy what you need. Buying five avocados for the price of two is only a bargain if you'll actually use all of them before they go bad. Don't purchase things simply because they are on sale or the bulk price is cheaper, unless the items are ones that will last awhile, for example beans and grains.
- Get your kitchen organized. Take stock before you shop so you don't buy something you already have, move older produce to the front of the fridge so you'll use it first, keep an eye on expiry dates and make sure you have plenty of tupperware in case you need to toss something in the freezer. In other words, keep it together. Here are some quick tips for organizing your fridge.
- Learn how to make food last. We like things that last longer, don't we (wink, wink)? But seriously, folks, if you find that things in your fridge always go bad quickly it could be due to the way you're storing it. Many veggies last longer if you plunk them in a container of water, while herbs stay fresher if you pop them in a mason jar, wrap them with a recycled plastic bag and secure them with a rubber band. Not everything has to go in the fridge, either. Tomatoes, onions, garlic and root veggies can all be stored on your counter. Prep veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store, and keep them in cute nifty glass food containers!
- The freezer is your friend. Leftover soups, stews, salsas, curries and sauces all store well in the freezer. Freeze fruits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then store them in sealed containers. Pulverize stale bread and freeze your new breadcrumbs. Use those ice cube trays for more than just water -- stuff them with pestos or vegetable stock instead so you can pop one into your cooking later for an extra hit of flavour. The nice thing about storing food in the freezer is you'll have instant frozen meals for when you're in a hurry!
- Learn the art of pickling, canning and preserving. You don't need to get all fancy with your preservation methods. Check out Meghan's quick vid on how to make sauerkraut and other fermented foods, or make a huge batch of jam at the end of the summer and stick it in the freezer.
- Don't buy cheap food. Most people will rush out to buy the latest cell phone technology, but balk at paying more than 49 cents a pound for apples. We live in a culture that believes food should be cheap, and when we don't value our food it's easier to toss it. Buying good quality, organic food means you might make more of an effort to use it.
- Compost. When you feel you've exhausted every option, put your food waste in your compost pile. Make an effort for this to be your last resort, not your first.