I hate wasting food. Nothing makes me more sick to my stomach than when I have to throw out food that’s gone bad. I live with two other people and for a while we really struggled with wasting food. Our problems? First of all, we have an enormous fridge; it’s wonderful for storing our favorite condiments, our variety of produce and our leftovers. It is not so great for trying to find the half-eaten bell pepper that has now somehow gone hiding into the abyss that is our fridge. Another problem we had is not taking the time to check our pantry/fridge before putting something on the grocery list. What three-person home needs two English cucumbers for one week? Not mine! Our last problem that we struggled with was having too many leftovers or not eating the leftovers fast enough. We would eat our leftovers for lunch but by the next day we would start to get tired of eating them. One day passes and then another until that beautiful meal we made is now just a disgusting waste. This is just my story, but I know there are lots of people out there who struggle with managing excess food.
A still life of food. (Photograph by Liam Mogan)
Did you know that nearly half of all food produced worldwide is wasted through processing and transporting the food and then further more in supermarkets and kitchens (DavidSuzuki.org)? That means that almost half of the food produced is lost before you even see the food on the shelves. The high demand for food to not only be affordable, but also to be aesthetically pleasing is one of the main reasons food is wasted during the processing stage. Would we be so nit-picky if our food wasn’t so plentiful and so cheap?
“The Ugly Food” movement is making waves all over the world and has influenced a number of countries and companies to join the movement of selling ugly, but edible, produce. Earlier this year, France passed a law that bans supermarkets from throwing away ugly food and thus forcing them to sell the food at discount, to donate the food to charity or, if the food goes bad, they must give it to farmers to use as animal feed or compost. Earlier this year, Vancouver introduced a food scraps ban which recognizes organic waste as a resource thus converting any un-used produce into green energy using an anaerobic composter. Even, Loblaws Canada has jumped on the bandwagon by carrying no name® Naturally Imperfect™ produce which makes healthy food more accessible to Canadians by selling less “photo ready” produce at a discounted price.
“The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that the cumulative cost of associated wastes (energy, water, land, labour, capital investment, infrastructure, machinery, transport, etc.) is approximately two and a half times greater than the “face value” of wasted food. Using FAO’s formula, the overall cost of annual food waste in Canada exceeds $100 billion”(Cut Waste, Grow Profit 2014 report). I don’t know about you, but I could think of a lot of other things I would like to see that $100 billion used for.
My hope is that the citizens and leaders of our country will recognize the significance of food waste on our economy, our environment and our general attitude towards food standards and take action to help prevent the unnecessary loss of food, especially when there are those who do not have food to eat. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t even have a food waste policy which could be the first step to nationally guiding citizens to be more conscientious about their food related behaviours. If you are finding that you are struggling with wasting food, I have listed ten helpful tips for reducing (hopefully eliminating) the amount of food that goes bad at your home.
Ten Ways To Manage Food Waste
- Always check what food you already have at your home before heading to the store.
- Make a grocery list and stick to it!
- Plan your meals. This may seem like a grueling task but it will help you to know exactly what you need to buy, how much to buy of it and you will know ahead of time what meals to make during the week. Extra benefit: no last minute, fast-food meals because, hey, you’ve planned your meals and are now set for the week.
- Go the grocery store as you need ingredients instead of one weekly trip. This is probably more feasible for those of us who are in close proximity to a grocery store/market, but if you can make every-other-day trips, then you really will only purchase what you need.
- Speak to the farmers at your local market. You may be able to arrange for you to buy ugly produce at a reduced price.
- Freeze your food! Soups, casseroles and baked goods are great for freezing. If possible, try to freeze your leftovers!
- Make smoothies, soups and crock-pot meals to quickly use up produce. This is one of my all-time go-to’s because it allows me to evaluate what is my fridge and when it needs to be used. If I have a bruised apple, I just cut away the bruised part and put the rest of it in a smoothie. If I see I a bunch of veggies that need to be used I puree them and make them into a healthy soup. It’s so fast and easy!
- Google recipes! If I have food (including meat) that needs to be used I just Google a recipe that includes all of those ingredients and voila! I have myself a meal. The benefits? My food gets used up and I get to try a new dish!
- Treat the expiration date on your food as a suggestion rather than a rule. I have had food that has gone bad before the expiration date and I have had food that has lasted longer than the expiration date. Give it a sniff, dab your pinky in it to try it, whatever works for you, just don’t automatically throw it away.
- Get a smaller fridge. Do you really need a fridge that could fit two small children in it?
These are just some suggestions on how manage your food waste at home. If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment on how you combat food waste in your home. For more information on food waste and food waste prevention try the books below available at the Guelph Public Library :