By Mairlyn Smith P.H.Ec.
What would you say if I suggested that after the next time you went grocery shopping, when you got home, you just threw half of your groceries away?
Would you be shocked I’d even suggest that? Well, be shocked, a recent study from the National Zero Waste Council found that the average Canadian household wasted about 140 kilograms of food per year – at a cost of more than $1,100 per year!
That’s more than just money out of our pockets, it’s a waste of food in the face of hunger and poverty, a waste of natural resources (the land and water needed to grow our food), a waste of man hours (the farmers, truckers, and handlers of our food) and a waste of fuel. Then add to the equation the environmental impact on shipping the food and it all adds up to be a whole lotta waste.
If you’re like me, you respect your food and the farmers who grew it, and you don’t want to just throw it away.
How do you make sure that you’re shopping smarter and feeding your family healthy, nutrient-dense foods all at the same time?
Professional home economist to the rescue!
I’ve got some tips to help you reduce your food waste, save yourself some money and prepare meals that are healthy.
- First and foremost, plan your weekly meals. The time it takes to figure out what you’ll be eating through the week is a giant step towards diminishing food waste.
- Need some dinner inspiration? Have recipes or cookbooks with go-to meals or pick theme nights like Taco Tuesday, Fish Fry-up Friday or make up one of your own theme nights.
- Get your family involved in meal planning and prep. Those picky eaters usually eat what they helped plan or prepare.
- Check to see what you’ve already got on hand. Shop your pantry, fridge and freezer. Maybe you’ve got a package of frozen chicken lurking in the back of your freezer that you forgot about.
- Do an inventory of what’s in your fruit and veggies drawer. Have a half a cabbage? Plan to make a coleslaw or add it to a soup. Any sad looking peppers? Roast them up and serve as a side dish.
- Check for specials at your grocery store. Plan your weekly meals around them and stock up on staples that are on sale that you eat on a regular basis.
- Plan for leftovers or meals you cook one night and repurpose later. A roast of beef on sale can become dinner one night, beef and barley soup another night and then hot beef sandwiches another night. That’s three dinners planned.
- You can save money on your protein dollar by adding pulses. That’s beans, lentils, dried peas and chickpeas. Plan to make a split pea soup, a lentil curry or a bean salad. Add extra beans to a pot of beef chili, plan on leftovers and make quesadillas or nachos later in the week.
- Use whole grains like barley or wheat berries. Cook a large pot of one or the other once a week. Serve as is the first night and then use them in meals for up to 3 days. You can freeze any leftovers. This saves you time, adds nutrient-dense whole grains plus heart healthy fibre to your plate and both barley and wheat are grown in Canada. It’s a win for health, your wallet and Canadian farmers.
- Plan a dinner using eggs. They are nutrient-dense, economical and versatile. Make an omelette or frittata, add a seasonal salad using greens in the spring and summer, and cabbage or kale in the fall and winter. Add a slice of whole grain bread and you’ve got a wonderful delicious, healthy and economical dinner.
- Write out your grocery list based on what you need, plus the vegetables, fruits and staples you need to round out the meals.
- Armed with your grocery list, head off to shop and never when you’re hungry. Most people overbuy when they shop hungry, even more so when they are hangry – that’s hungry and angry.
- At the grocery store, check out the meat counter for the 50% discounts offered on “Use Tonight” cuts of beef, pork or poultry ~ if you can’t use it tonight, freeze it for another night.
- Buy in season local produce. You are supporting your local farmers and getting the freshest possible produce.
- When local produce isn’t in season, switch to local frozen where applicable to save money. Frozen local blueberries are going to be cheaper than fresh blueberries that were imported in February.
- When you get home, put your food away right away, especially any fresh or frozen foods. This will help the food stay fresher longer.
- Organize your pantry so you add new canned goods to the back. This ensures that you are rotating your canned goods.
- Leftovers need to go into the fridge as soon the food stops steaming, usually within thirty minutes to an hour. Your window of opportunity is two hours at room temperature and that’s not in the summer or warmer months. Place covered in your fridge and depending on how crowded your fridge and depending on the food, it should be good to eat within 2-3 days.
- At the end of the week, if there are any bits and pieces of vegetables make a Vegetable Drawer Soup or Salad, creating a soup or salad with whatever you have. Add a can of beans and you are adding protein and fibre.