39+ Easy Ways To Reduce Food Waste

In Canada, we waste over $30 billion worth of food each year while 1 in 10 Canadians face food insecurity and rely on food banks and drop-in centers like Haven Toronto for their next meal.

If this guide helps you, considering buying a $1.00 meal for an elder man experiencing homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity at http://www.ShopHavenToronto.ca.

1. Shop smart. Plan meals, use grocery lists, and avoid impulse buys. This way, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need and that you’re unlikely to actually consume. Buy items only when you have a plan for using them, and wait until perishables are all used up before buying more.

2. Buy exactly what you need. For example, if a recipe calls for two carrots, don’t buy a whole bag. Instead, buy loose produce so you can purchase the exact number you’ll use. Likewise, try buying grains, nuts, and spices from bulk bins so you can measure out exactly what you need and don’t over-buy (Just note that there's a difference between buying in bulk and buying from bulk bins; the first one can actually create more waste if we buy more than we can realistically use). Bonus: This tip will save some cash, to boot.

3. Be realistic. If you live alone, you won’t need the same number of apples as a family of four (unless you really like apples). If you rarely cook, don’t stock up on goods that have to be cooked in order to be consumed (such as baking supplies or dried grains and beans).

4. Buy funny-looking produce. Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away because their size, shape, or colors don’t quite match what we think these items “should” look like. But for the most part these items are perfectly good to eat, and buying them at a farmer’s market or the grocery store helps use up food that might otherwise be tossed.

5. Have a Plan B. Let’s say you buy Camembert to make a fancy dish for that fancy dinner party — and then the dinner party is canceled. Don’t toss the cheese! Instead, come up with a backup recipe and use it in a different dish (or just eat it plain, because c’mon — it’s cheese).

6. Practice FIFO. It stands for First In, First Out. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge/freezer/pantry and put new products in the back. This way, you’re more likely to use up the older stuff before it expires.

7. Monitor what you throw away. Designate a week in which you write down everything you throw out on a regular basis. Tossing half a loaf of bread each week? Maybe it’s time to start freezing half that loaf the moment you buy it so it doesn’t go stale before you’re able to eat it.

8. Take stock. Note upcoming expiration dates on foods you already have at home, and plan meals around the products that are closest to their expiration. On a similar note, keep a list of what’s in the freezer and when each item was frozen. Place this on the freezer door for easy reference and use items before they pass their prime.

9. Designate one dinner each week as a “use-it-up” meal. Instead of cooking a new meal, look around in the cupboards and fridge for leftovers and other food that might otherwise get overlooked.

10. Eat leftovers! Brown-bag them for work or school for a free packed lunch. If you don’t want to eat leftovers the day after they’re cooked, freeze and save them for later (just remember to note when you froze them so you can use them up in a timely fashion).

11. Use it all. When cooking, use every piece of whatever food you’re cooking with, whenever possible. For example, leave the skin on cucumbers and potatoes, sauté broccoli stems along with the florets (they taste good too; we promise!), and so on. Bonus: Skins and stems often have provide additional nutrients for our bodies.

12. Store better. If you regularly throw away stale chips/cereal/crackers/etc., try storing them in airtight containers — this should help them keep longer (or, of course, just buy fewer of these products).

13. Repurpose leftovers scraps. Use vegetable and meat scraps in homemade stocks, and use citrus fruit rinds and zest to add flavor to other meals.

14. Check the fridge. Make sure it’s functioning at maximum efficiency. Look for tight seals, proper temperature, etc. — this will ensure that the fridge keeps food fresh as long as possible.

15. Preserve produce. Produce doesn’t have to be tossed just because it’s reaching the end of its peak. Soft fruit can be used in smoothies; wilting vegetables can be used in soups, etc. And both wilting fruits and veggies can be turned into delicious, nutritious juice.

16. Donate what you won’t use. Never going to eat that can of beans? Donate it to a drop-in centre or food bank before it expires so it can be consumed by someone who needs it. Check out this resource to locate a food bank near you.

17. Donate the gross stuff, too! Many farmers happily accept food scraps for feeding pigs or adding to a compost heap. To find farms near you, check out one of these resources.

18. Store food properly in the fridge. Learn how and where to store specific products in the fridge, and they’re likely to keep longer (hint: they don’t call it the “produce drawer” for nothin’!).

19. Store things properly in the freezer. Same as above: How and where we store products in the freezer makes a difference in how long they’ll last.

20. Can it. Got more fruit than you know what to do with? Try canning it so it’ll last for months to come. (Plus, who doesn’t love eating “fresh” peaches in winter?)

21. Pickle it. Both fruits and vegetables can be preserved through an easy pickling process.

22. Understand expiration dates. Turns out those expiration dates don’t always have to do with food safety; rather, they’re usually manufacturers’ suggestions for peak quality. If stored properly, most foods (even meat) stay fresh several days past the “use-by” date. If a food looks, smells, and tastes okay, it should be fine. If any of these elements are off, then it’s time to toss it.

23. Compost! Hate potato skins? Don’t feel like turning wilted vegetables into soup stock? No worries; food scraps still don’t need to be tossed. Just start a compost pile in the backyard or even under the sink, and convert food waste into a useful resource.

24. Check in with your belly. Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: The solution to the “clean your plate!” issue. Simply take a moment to ask your body what it wants to eat, and how much — and then serve yourself that. Or simply start with less food on your plate. If you want more, you can always go back for it — but this way you won’t find out that you’re full and still have a heap of food in front of you. In fact, one study found that reducing portion sizes is an easy way to reduce food waste.

25. Split the dish. If eating out, split a dish with a friend so you don’t waste half of the giant portion sizes found at many restaurants.

26. Take home leftovers. Even if you’re not into splitting meals, those portion sizes don’t have to be wasted. Just ask to take leftovers home (bonus eco points if you bring your own reusable container!), and you’ve got yourself a free lunch the next day.

27. Share. Made a quadruple recipe of a casserole you ended up disliking? Gift it to friends, family, or neighbors — they’re likely to be grateful for the saved money and time.

28. Go trayless. When eating in a cafeteria, skip the tray. Doing so is associated with a reduction in food waste, possibly because it’s harder for people to carry more food than they can actually eat.

29. Take inventory. Look in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. What items do you have at home that you can use in your meals for the week? Most importantly, are there any perishable items (produce, meat, dairy, etc.) that need to be used before they spoil? Find ways to incorporate these ingredients into your plan for the week so they don’t go to waste.

30. Map out your healthy meals for the week. (TIP: It helps to write it down!) Ask yourself: What foods do you eat regularly, or what do you want to eat during the upcoming week? Which meals will you prepare, and for how many people? Are there ingredients in your go-to meals and recipes that you can also use in other meals or recipes that week? Will you have leftovers? If so, how and when will you use them?

31. Make a shopping list based on your plan, and include the quantities of each food that you’ll need. Being more specific about the amount of foods you’ll use will prevent needless spending and food waste.

32. Clean out the fridge and freezer regularly. If items are on the verge of spoiling, bring them to the front of the fridge and consider how to make use of them. If items have spoiled, separate them from other fresh foods because they can make those foods spoil faster. Some of those less-fresh or spoiled items may be able to be used in other ways! Other spoiled items that can’t be salvaged or eaten, of course, need to be thrown away. When this does happen, write them down so you can better plan your grocery shopping moving forward!

33. Plan at least one “leftovers day” each week. Maybe everything doesn’t get eaten, maybe we stray from our plan one day, or maybe we overestimated the amount of food we need. This is all okay! We’re human, and we probably won’t be exact in gauging the food that will get eaten. Make room in your week for eating those leftovers, use them in another meal/recipe, or have a plan for how to store your leftovers so the food isn’t wasted.

34. Keep your fridge between 37°F and 40°F (2°C and 4°C), and your freezer between 0°F and 2° (-18°C and -17°C). Proper temperature is key to making food last, since bacteria and microorganisms thrive in warmer and wetter environments.

35. For any produce that you store at room temperature on the counter, remove the items from their packaging. The boxes or bags can lead to faster ripening or spoilage.

36. Store apples, bananas, citrus, and tomatoes away from other produce. These items give off ethylene gas, which makes other produce ripen faster.

37. Store veggies in your fridge’s crisper drawer, where there’s higher humidity to help them last longer. If you can adjust the humidity settings, store leafy greens at high humidity and non-leafy veggies like carrots and cucumbers at low humidity.

38. Store cooked leftovers or fresh meat in the freezer for longer storage. In general, items going into the freezer should be stored in an airtight bag or container with as much air removed as possible. Trapped air is what leads to freezer burn, which can degrade the quality and flavor of your frozen food! Be sure to wrap meats well before freezing. (It’s especially important to prevent wasting meats, because they require so much water to produce.) You can also freeze extra fruit and veggies, or put bread in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

39. Get creative with leftovers, food scraps, and foods that are past their prime. Don’t be afraid to experiment in the kitchen and try something new! Overripe fruit can be used in jams, sauces, smoothies, pancakes, or baked goods. Veggies that are losing their crispness can still be cooked into a delicious omelet, stir-fry, casserole, or even used to make vegetable stock. Stale bread makes for great croutons or bread crumbs. Turn your leftover chili into a burrito, or use leftover meat in a sandwich or on a salad. Save scraps of veggies from your prep, chop them up, and cook them in a frittata. If an item hasn’t spoiled, we can almost always find another way to use it!

If this guide helps you, considering buying a $1.00 meal for an elder man experiencing homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity at http://www.ShopHavenToronto.ca.

Sources: https://greatist.com/health/how-to-ways-reduce-food-waste, https://mindovermunch.com/2017/09/28/reduce-food-waste/

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