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5 Food Waste Initiatives Every Household Should Adopt

Published on June 10 2019

Did you know that 40% of all food produced in Canada ends up in the trash? 

The majority of that loss happens at the farm, processing, transportation and retail levels. However, approximately 47% of all food waste happens at the consumer level.

That means, of all the food being wasted in our country, nearly half happens in our homes.

This practice has a huge impact on the environment, but also on our wallets. In fact, the average Canadian household throws out nearly $1500 worth of food each year. 

Depending on where you live, $1500 could be a month (or two) of rent, a mortgage payment, several tanks of gas, a chunk out of your student loan or consumer debt… you certainly wouldn’t throw it in the trash! Yet, that’s exactly what many of us are doing.

If you want to help put an end to food waste, so that you can take some of the strain off the planet and your bank account, here are 5 household food waste initiatives you might consider adopting...

Eat Leftovers within 48 hours

Leftovers are one of the biggest sources of household waste, which is unfortunate because not only did you pay for that food, you also put time and effort into preparing it.

Here are some tips for ensuring you eat your leftovers:

  • Commit to never buying or preparing a lunch if there are leftovers in the fridge - take those instead!
  • Designate one or two dinners per week as “leftover night” - Waste Not Wednesday!
  • Find different ways to dress them up so they aren’t boring

- Add cheese! Yum!

- Get creative with tacos, paninis and pitas

- Can you turn it into soup? Casserole? Frittata? Burritos?

  • Reheat in the oven or toaster oven when you can - microwaves can make some leftovers soggy and unappetizing.

Mother & Daughter cooking with leftover food

Practice FIFO - first in, first out

Foods that get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten boxes of cereal or snacks just end up in the trash.

Commit to a FIFO lifestyle. The first thing in is the first thing out. Don’t eat newly purchased foods until older foods have been eaten. 

TIP: When unpacking groceries, place new foods towards the back of the fridge or pantry and push older ones forward.

Keep a food waste log

Every household is different and every household’s food waste situation is different. Understanding how much food you’re losing and why you’re losing it is an important step towards making real changes. 

Keep a notebook by the garbage can and log any food you throw out and why. After a few weeks, you should have a clear picture of what you need to do. Maybe you’re over-purchasing produce, preparing too much at dinnertime or dishing out larger portions than you need to. Once you know the source, it’s so much easier to fix.

Consider frozen and/or canned produce

Frozen and canned produce get a bad rap, but as far as nutrient content goes, these fruits and veggies tend to have similar or even higher nutrient content than fresh. And bonus - they don’t spoil anywhere near as fast!

The two downsides are:

  1. They often don’t have the same texture as fresh, and
  2. They sometimes have a high salt or sugar content (especially canned).

As a starting point, consider buying frozen or canned for things like soup, sauce, casseroles, smoothies, baking or any dish where the fruit or veg will be well cooked or pureed. For these dishes, the texture usually isn’t as much an issue.

If salt or sugar is a concern for you, stick to frozen (which usually doesn’t have added salt or sugar), or look for canned goods with no added salt or sugar.

Meal plan according to lifestyle

Meal planning, when done right, is a huge help in reducing household food waste. However, life gets busy! And plans don’t always go as… well… planned.

Do commit to some level of meal planning, but be realistic about what makes sense for your household. If you know Mondays (or even all weeknights) are crazy and unpredictable, then keep it simple with packaged or frozen meals and raw veggies.

If you do have time to cook, but only occasionally, consider batch cooking and freezing individually portioned meals that can easily be reheated or taken to work for lunch.

However you plan, always start your planning with the foods you already have in the fridge or pantry before adding new items to your grocery list.

Partners planning their meals for the week waste-free

And don’t get hung up on preparing elaborate meals, trying new recipes or going all in and trying to kick start a meal planning habit AND new eating regime at the same time. Plan food around your life, not the other way around.


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