If you’ve read the About Me page, you’ll already know that this blog’s sole purpose isn’t just to share nutrition information – this blog was also started to share my passion for environmental sustainability, and help others become more aware of their impact. The more informed we are as a society, the better off our environment is, am I right?
I wrote a post this summer about eating healthy on a budget, and coincidentally, many of those tips also reduce your food waste: win-win! So if you are looking for more ideas to reduce your food waste after reading this post, definitely go back and check that one out.
Now, why is this topic important? Obviously, wasting less food means you’re wasting less of your dolla-dolla bills; obviously, nobody wants to throw out food they’ve paid for. However, food waste is a very large public health, economic, and environmental concern here and globally. In Canada alone, we waste almost 40% of all food produced in our country, and almost half of that food waste is because of us – the consumers.
Wasting 40% of Canadian-grown food alone is not only a waste of the resources that go into growing and distributing that food (irrigation, fertilization, harvesting machinery, transport trucks, etc.), but it is also costly. With the global population steadily growing, being resourceful with our food is ever-crucial to feed the billions of people on Earth in an economical manner. Additionally, many people overlook the impact of sending food to landfills. Although organic matter, like fruits and vegetables, decompose naturally, it doesn’t in a landfill. Because these organics are layered under other waste (like plastics), they are put into anaerobic conditions (i.e. no oxygen) where they don’t decompose naturally. Instead, this decomposing food produces methane gas, known to be approximately 25x more harmful to our environment than carbon dioxide. Unless you are utilizing a composting service (or composting in your own yard!), food waste isn’t necessarily less harmful than throwing out other non-organic matter.
So, what can you do to decrease your food waste? Try using this 3-step approach when purchasing food:
1. Analyze what you have
In a society where abundance is normalized, most of us have overflowing cupboards, fridges, and freezers of food. Is there any food that has slowly been pushed to the back of the cupboard, or the bottom of the freezer, forgotten and expired? Clutter encourages this to happen, as it’s more difficult to keep track of what you have. Take a Sunday morning to sift through your kitchen, remove anything that has gone bad, and really analyze what you do have that is usable.
Find any items that aren’t expired, but don’t see yourself using? Drop them off for your local food bank or charitable organization next time you’re running errands!
2. Decide what you need
Now that you’ve removed the clutter, take a look in your fridge – is there any fresh fruit, vegetables, or animal products that are about to go bad? These items should be your “priority” foods to use before they go to waste. Although it is challenging, especially if you aren’t confident in your cooking skills, get creative and find ways to use these priority items. For example, last week I had some cooked beans in the fridge and some really soft avocados, both of which needed to be used ASAP. Because these were my priority items, I brainstormed a meal that would utilize both: tacos, obviously (), and therefore I picked up tortillas at the grocery store.
3. Make a plan
Depending on how many people you are feeding, your time constraints, and food skills, make a plan that works for you. A grocery list is a great way to fill the gaps in your kitchen – based on what you have and your priority foods, what items do you need to create complete meals? Meal/menu planning is another great way to organize what you have, what you need, and how it will be used. And no, you don’t need to plan every meal of every day – unless you like that kind of structure – but even planning your dinners for the week is a great approach. There are tons of great menu planning worksheets (here, here, and here), and of course Pinterest is your best friend for meal ideas.
What I find works for me personally, after assessing what I have, is I decide on 2-3 dishes that I can make for the week. This accomplishes a few things for me:
- I use up the “priority” food in my fridge before it goes bad, minimizing my food waste,
- I spend less money at the grocery store, because I only buy food I have a purpose for,
- I avoid the stressful “what do I eat tonight” thoughts after a long day at school and work, because I know what needs to be used and how I’m going to use it, and
- I can still have variety and spontaneity in my diet – I eat my planned meals when I’m busy, and cook from scratch when I have extra time.
An easy way to keep track of those priority foods? Put a small basket or container in your fridge on a central shelf. Not only does this keep all your “use now” foods in one place, but you’ll be reminded to use them every time you open the fridge.
And worst case scenario, FREEZE IT. Almost anything can be frozen and used later, so utilize your freezer space to minimize your food waste. Leftover meals, like casseroles, chili, pasta sauces, and rice dishes can all be frozen and reheated as a quick meal later on. Fruits and vegetables about to go bad can be frozen and used for smoothies, oatmeal, or cooked into other dishes.
I hope this post helps you better manage your food waste (and your wallet!). If you want some help with any of the 3 steps above, don’t hesitate to contact me in the comments below, here, or on Instagram and Twitter! I love to chat, so please share your thoughts and questions!
Talk soon friends!