Avoiding Food Waste At Home
It’s a fact. We don’t eat all of the food that we buy. No matter how good our intentions are, in Canada we are still throwing out about 10% of the fresh produce we buy. While some of that waste does get composted, that’s no better than the lowly third R - Recycling. We want to reduce food waste. Plus, it helps the pocketbook – if you don’t have to pay for something you’re just going to throw out, you’re that much farther ahead.
Enough with the guilt trip already. Surely hotels and restaurants are much worse than everyday consumers! True -- that’s why we’ve tackled the commercial food waste issue on page four. Feel free to skip ahead if you’re feeling righteous. Otherwise, here are some tips on how to reduce food waste right in our own grocery carts and kitchens.
An excellent source of ideas and information – even though it is UK-based – is the website lovefoodhatewaste.com. Here are some of their practical solutions to reducing how much food gets thrown out.
Make a list and check it twice – grocery shopping with a list is a powerful waste reduction tool, believe it or not. Keep a running list on the fridge door or on a smart phone so you can add to it when things run out or get low. Then, on shopping day, have a look in your cupboards and fridge at what you do and don’t have, and add those items to your list.
Even better, have a meal plan, and add any specific ingredients to your shopping list. (To make this work, at the store you need to avoid the impulse buys and stick to your list!)
The right place at the right time – keeping foods stored under proper conditions helps them last longer and stay fresher. Potatoes need a cool dark place to be, but not necessarily the fridge. Some items actually do best without refrigeration, like tomatoes. Local produce, that hasn’t been refrigerated already, can often do well at room temperature too – such as cucumbers.
Proper refrigeration is important. Keep your fridge at 3 degrees Celsius. SaskPower often hands out fridge and freezer thermometers at trade shows, which are useful in setting your appliances at their appropriate temperatures.
Proportionate portions – making too much, especially of something that can’t be frozen afterwards, can easily lead to food waste. Try using a portion planner to help. Cooked leftovers are good for two days in the fridge. If you are not likely to use them by then -- freeze ‘em!
Freeze it or lose it – your freezer is a great way to keep food, ingredients or meals in ‘stasis’ until you are ready for them. Many fresh items that are ripe but not yet needed can be peeled, chopped and frozen – fruits for smoothies, tomatoes for sauces, or vegetables for steaming.
A few hints: label frozen meals and leftovers with a date. You can even buy labeling tape that is designed to stay on in the freezer. Avoid freezer burn by using airtight containers. Freezer burn isn’t dangerous, but it certainly doesn’t improve food’s taste or texture.
(Side note: fridge freezers are the worst freezer-burn offenders because they self-defrost by sucking moisture out of the air – and food. Chest freezers tend to build up frost on the inside, but aren’t as hard on food.)
A few new habits, less wasted food, and saved money ... everyone wins!