Let's Talk Trash - Food Waste

LTT - November 2022 - Food Waste


Dealing with the abundance of food at this time of year is always a challenge for me and without fail there is a lot of waste. Overripe tomatoes head to the compost along with withering lettuce and rotting zucchini because I didn’t quite get to eating, canning or freezing them in time. This is part of the farmer’s life but still it’s galling. Wasting food means I am wasting the resources used to grow and produce food, including my precious time!


According the website https://lovefoodhatewaste.ca, 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten. For the average Canadian household that amounts to 140 kilograms of wasted food per year – at a cost of more than $1,300! For Canada as a whole, that totals almost 2.3 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year, costing Canadians in excess of $20 billion! All types of food are wasted, but in Canada the most prominently wasted foods by weight are: Vegetables 30%, Fruit 15%, Leftovers 13%, Bread & Bakery 9%, and Dairy & Eggs 7%. This is surprising, especially in these times when many people are food insecure, without access to regular meals of healthy food. 


Much of this waste happens because we buy too much, cook too much, or don’t store it correctly (or in my, case because I grow more than I sell or process). However, there are lots of organizations out there trying to educate consumers on how to reduce food waste. 


Here are some tips from LoveFoodHateWaste that I found helpful: 


Plan your meals a week in advance so you buy what you need and use what you buy. When planning, consider what you already have on hand and incorporate the highly perishable products into meals early in the week. 

Portioning is important. Use this handy guide to know how much to cook: Protein in the form of meat should be no more than the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Carbohydrates (potatoes, pasta, rice etc) should be equivalent to the size of your clenched fist. Vegetables should equal two cupped hands. Fats (cheese, dressing etc) should be the size of your thumb.

Best Before or Use By labeling  apply to unopened products and refer to the quality and peak freshness, taste and nutritional value of a product, not the safety. Once opened, however, the shelf life may change and freshness, taste or texture may be different than the manufacturer intended. In Canada, the Best Before date is written in the Year/Month/Day format. 

Expires By labeling refer to nutritional specifications: you must not eat food past its expiry date. You’ll only find expiry dates on certain foods like meal replacements, infant formula, and nutritional supplements. They should be discarded (composted if possible) if the expiration date has passed.

There are many ways to revive food. A quick soak in ice water can reinvigorate wilted veggies and if you don’t want to eat them raw, they are still good for soups and sauces. Toast stale chips and crackers for a couple of minutes to crisp them up again, and use toasted crumbs from the bottom of bread bags to throw onto a salad.

Where you keep your food in your fridge (if you have one!) is important. The door is the warmest place and is best for less temperature sensitive items like condiments, jam and pickles. The top shelf is good for the food you need to eat first, like leftovers and half eaten veggies, so they don’t spoil. The middle shelf is the coldest and is best for milk and dairy. Meat, poultry and seafood (if not frozen) should be stored on trays on the bottom shelf to prevent drips and contamination onto any food below. Veggies should go in the high humidity drawer and fruit in one set to low humidity. 

If you organize your refrigerator and pantry so that new foods are behind the old foods, that way those food items are the first to be seen and the first to be used (and not destined to be a science experiment)


Of course, some food waste is unavoidable (bones, vegetable peels, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds) and that’s where your trusty compost bin comes in to relieve guilt and make black gold. While diverting food waste to composting is better than sending it to a landfill, preventing food from being wasted is the best way to lessen our impact on the environment. Every tonne of household food waste that is avoided is the equivalent of taking one car off the road each year. Chew on that, my friends, when you are making your next meal!






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