Waste not, want not, food for thought

Friends offered these suggestions on how to prevent food waste

The statistics on food waste are staggering. We like to blame transportation, overproduction, processing and packaging but 51 percent of all food waste in Canada is in the home, according to Statistics Canada.

Wasting food also wastes resources, including the water used to produce and transport the food.

Providing better information on food care and storage is one solution, but other causes of food waste include over-purchasing and poor use of leftovers.

Canada requires food with a shelf life of 90 days or less to be labelled with a best before date. The producer or manufacturer assumes a certain level of care by the consumer in selecting this date. Many people discard food when the best before date has passed, but it may not be necessary. Best before dates are not for food safety but for peak quality.

Dairy products may be consumed safely if unspoiled. Trim mould from cheese. The remainder of the block is completely safe for consumption. Eggs are safe to eat even if stale, but do not eat rotten eggs.

Cereals and bread products may be eaten until they are mouldy or rancid or have an unpleasant flavour. Stale bread can be made into croutons.

Trim fruit and vegetables to remove spoiled parts. Many fresh fruits and vegetables may be cooked to prolong their life.

For example, wilted fresh raspberries plump up when cooked in a thin sugar syrup. They then make a nice dessert or may be frozen.

Prolong the freshness of greens by wrapping in damp tea towels and placing in plastic bags. Herbs may be kept in a bag with a damp paper towel to prolong freshness. Most herbs can be chopped and frozen for later use. Soft vegetables can still be used in smoothies.

Check the temperature of the refrigerator. The proper temperature is 4 C. Check the door seals by trying to pass a piece of paper through while it is closed. The freezer should be at -18 C.

Proper storage of root vegetables, including onions, garlic, ginger root, carrots and potatoes, is in a cold room or root cellar rather than the refrigerator. This also applies to winter squashes.

Use it all. Don’t peel cucumbers and potatoes. Steam broccoli stems along with the florets. Save mushroom stems for soup. Keep a bag in the freezer to collect vegetable trimmings for making stock.

Less cooked food will be discarded if proper mealtime portions are cooked. Freeze leftovers in individual servings.

Large bottles of condiments and salad dressings are not a good buy if not used quickly enough. Make a simple vinaigrette dressing from scratch rather than buying it.

Opened meat should be stored in a closed container in the refrigerator. It cannot be frozen again after defrosting until cooked in a recipe.

When you purchase meat, take note if it has been previously frozen. If you buy a large package of meat that won’t be used right away, repackage it into smaller bags and freeze.

Composting is a last resort. Composting returns the nutrients to the soil and keeps waste out of the landfill or garbage dump. Food does not compost in a landfill. Light and air are required for composting, and there are neither in a landfill.

The plan for not wasting food will be different in every household. Do what works for your family. Awareness of the food that is wasted will help plan a strategy.

Don’t forget to teach your children and grandchildren that wasting food is inappropriate. Throwing food away has become more commonplace.

Those of you who remember the Second World War know about the stigma of throwing away food and the scarcity of food in our own country.

We won’t feed all the starving people of the world by not wasting our food, but we will develop a healthy respect for the value of food in our homes and on our planet.

  • If I over-purchase or over-cook, excess food is shared with neighbours.
  • Preserve single jar batches while food is fresh.
  • Buy what you need each day on the way home from work when you know what you feel like eating.
  • Find a farm or pet store that will feed wilted produce to animals.
  • Make “refrigerator” soup once a week.
  • Don’t have an overstocked refrigerator. More food is wasted when the refrigerator is messy.
  • Store food properly.
  • Make a menu plan for the week and shop just for it.
  • Become a leftover master.
  • Practice “first in, first out” in the refrigerator, freezer and cold room.
  • Keep a log of what is thrown out, and stop buying so much of it.
  • Over-buying often happens when packages are too large or there
is a big sale. Buy what you need.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: [email protected]

2 Responses

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  1. A good reminder Sarah, that a lot of food is wasted and Canadians should be
    aware of how this affects their pocketbook as well as the resources that are utilized to produce food.
    And using food grains to manufacture ethanol tops the list as for waste and
    use of our most precious resource….WATER.

    • Sarah Galvin on

      Good point, John. I had forgotten to include the out of pocket cost of food waste in every family. And I couldn’t agree more about the production of ethanol. I’m sure California would do anything to have some of that water right now.

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