Did you know that about 30% of food intended for human consumption ends up in the garbage? The average Canadian wastes over 170 kilograms (375 pounds) of food per year. Reducing food waste is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact the UN has set a Sustainable Development Goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030 to fight climate change.
Wasting food means we are wasting the resources used to grow, produce and distribute that food to consumers. Getting food from farm to table, and then managing or disposing of food as waste, also has a significant carbon footprint – contributing to Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Methane from food waste rotting in landfills is 25 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Canada’s 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 and 2.1 million cars on the road!
We all need to do our part to reduce food waste. We often waste good food because we buy too much, cook too much, or don’t store it correctly. Here are some tips to get you on your way to reducing food waste today.
Lynda's Tips for Reducing Food Waste
Plan out your meals. Once a week, take inventory of what you have in the fridge, freezer and pantry and take note of what needs to be used up quickly. Plan your meals early in the week around these items. Once you've planned your meals for the week, make your grocery list. Once at the grocery store, stick to your list. Resist buying more than you need because it's on sale unless you know you'll be able to use it before it's expiration date.
Freeze food before it spoils. Most foods can be frozen: berries, bananas, herbs, vegetables, leftovers... you get the idea. Freeze foods in see through containers and make sure you label it. If you know what it is, you're more likely to use it. I like to freeze leftovers in individual serving sizes. Then you can easily thaw them out in the microwave.
Organize your fridge. Use zones in your fridge to keep like items together. You're less likely to forget things or buy duplicates this way. Use the FIFO (first in first out) method, which means put the newest foods in the back and the older ones in the front to make sure you finish the old one before starting the new. Use clear containers, so you can see what's there. Label leftovers.
Find some recipes that use up any kind of vegetables. Vegetable soups are great for using up leftover produce, but curries, stir-fries, stews and pestos are also very versatile. Plan to make one of these meals at the end of the week and freeze what you don't think you'll finish in individual servings.
Learn to store food properly to extend its life. Store herbs in glass jars with a bit of water in the bottom. Store potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions at room temperature, not in the fridge. Keep produce that produces ethylene when it ripens (i.e. bananas, avocados, cantaloupe, peaches, pears, green onions) away from produce that is sensitive to ethylene like potatoes, apples, leafy greens, berries and peppers to avoid premature over-ripening. Including a paper towel in the container with your greens soaks up excess moisture and keeps them fresh longer.
Don't be a perfectionist. We have a tendency to turn our nose up at produce that doesn't have a perfect appearance, but often these imperfect items are still perfectly edible. Over-ripe bananas are great to freeze for smoothies or baking. Wilted produce is still great to cook with. Wilted greens and herbs are great for pestos. Often you can cut off bruised or browning areas. Get creative with using imperfect produce and remember that someone planted it, watered it, harvested it, packaged it and shipped it sometimes long distances.