This post for Ways to Reduce Food Waste is a sponsored post with Half Your Plate but, as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that make Girl Heart Food possible and for helping me continue to do what I love!
Want to reduce food waste? Of course you do! We all would love that, wouldn’t we? It helps us and the environment. Read on for more than 15 easy (and practical) tips that will help you reduce food wastage on a daily basis (and keep more money in your pocket while doing so).
Hi friends! If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed a lot of produce pics in my stories as of late. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) conference in Montreal. I met some wonderful people and learned a lot about what’s on trend, new technologies in the industry and the vast variety of fabulous produce we have available here in Canada.
It was also an eye opening experience and made me realize that we could be doing a whole lot better, especially with reducing food wastage.
Did you know that more than half of all our food produced in Canada goes to waste?!
That’s insane, isn’t it?
Our local farmers work so so hard to bring us quality products and then to think that half is just garbage? That’s not right.
Besides that, think of all your hard earned bucks. When you waste food, it’s like you are basically saying ‘bye bye money’. Ain’t nobody got time for that, certainly not me.
On that note, like many people, I’m definitely guilty of food waste. Being a food blogger and general lover of food, I often tend to get, let’s say, over excited in the grocery store or when I visit a local farmer’s market. I want it all. I know that it’s just hubby and me, but when I see all that beautiful produce I tend to go a little crazy. You too? Reducing food waste is definitely something I’ve been working diligently on and attending the conference this month gave me the kick in the pants I need.
So, you may be asking, ‘Dawn, how exactly do I stop food waste (or, at least, reduce it)?’ Honestly, it’s not complicated at all. It just requires you to be mindful when you are purchasing and mindful of what you are doing with your food at home. Read ahead, my friends!
15 + Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Plan Ahead & Meal Prep
If you sit down on, say, Sunday and plan meals for the week ahead, you can cleverly choose your groceries or use what you have on hand already knowing that you’re going to make certain things.
So, what does that mean for you? Less overbuying and less wastage. If you know that you’re making chicken and mashed potatoes, for example, then that’s what you’ll get and use.
And before you ever go to the grocery, double check what you have so you don’t buy something that’s not necessary.
Keep Your Fridge, Freezer and Pantry Tidy
Tied to meal planning, if you don’t know what you have on hand, then you are probably inclined to buy more stuff than you actually need. Keeping things tidy allows you to actually see what you have which, of course, leads to less overbuying and ultimately reduced food wastage.
Once a month or so, revisit your food supply and keep in check what you have. Keep like items together which not only helps in keeping stock, but looks visually appealing.
Buy Only What You Need
We all tend to overbuy (especially when shopping at bulk food stores or when we get a deal). A deal is not a deal if we end up throwing away a portion of it because it goes bad. If you’d rather get the ‘bigger’ package perhaps consider partnering up with a friend or family member to share the cost and food so it all gets used.
Smart tip: if you know you only have to pick up a few things, carry in your hands or grab a small basket. I don’t know about you, but if I have a larger cart, I’m always apt to pick up more than I need.
Related to this, is never ever go to the market with a hungry tummy. Why? Everything will look good. You’ll want it all. Been there, my friends.
Make Substitutions to Use What You Have
If making a recipe, don’t be afraid to use what you have. Obviously, you can’t sub out everything, but you can with some. Take, for example, a soup with spinach. Maybe you don’t have spinach, but you have kale. Use that! The taste will be quite similar and you aren’t buying something for just one recipe when you already have a perfectly good substitute. Don’t know what would be a good substitute? Use trusty ol’ Google.
And if you only use greens like spinach or kale occasionally, consider getting frozen. Often, frozen produce are packaged at the peak of freshness. You just pull out what you need and keep the rest for another time. Basically, do what works for you and your family.
Use More of What You Can
This is one of my personal faves. For instance:
- Save a ham bone by freezing. When you are whipping up a pot of beans or soup, throw in there for extra oomph.
- Many people throw away stalks of broccoli and cauliflower. They’re edible! Slice thinly or grate to enjoy in a salad or stir fry.
- Celery leaves. Chop those up for extra flavour to your soup.
- Other veggies parts (ends of carrots and onion skins, for instance) could also be saved by freezing for use later in homemade veggie or chicken stock. Talk about flavour!
- Stems from fresh herbs, like parsley and cilantro? Don’t toss ’em! Many people use just the leaves and discard the rest. The stems of parsley are awesome to infuse homemade stock or to use in pesto. Cilantro stems are great in homemade curry pastes.
- Chicken (or turkey) carcass. Save that! It makes the best homemade chicken stock when combined with some veggies and herbs.
- Not all produce needs to be peeled. Wash well and use. Take, for example, potatoes. By not peeling, you’re getting extra bang for your buck.
- Using a can of chickpeas? Save the liquid! It’s called aquafaba and can be used as an egg white substitute or egg binder in vegan recipes.
- Only need the yolk of an egg? Save the whites for an omelette. Or, if you are only using the whites, save the yolks to make homemade mayonnaise or lemon curd.
- Zest on citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons and limes? Those are flavour bombs! The zest is excellent in baked goods or even in water and cocktails.
- The possibilities are endless here, so before you toss something, think twice! How do you use things in unexpected ways?
It blows my mind to think of how many people don’t eat leftovers! The food is there, just warm and enjoy!
Some people think that by reheating food, it becomes sub-par, especially when a microwave is used. As of last year, we don’t have a microwave in our home and warm everything on the stovetop or in the oven. Take pasta, for instance; add it to a pan with a touch of water or stock/broth and it comes to life again and oh so good.
Leftovers make the best lunch the next day!
Rather not eat the same meal twice? How about using those leftovers to create something new? For example:
- Leftover chicken or turkey? Make a sandwich, salad or soup.
- Leftover mashed potatoes? Combine with fish and some seasoning for fish cakes.
- Pulled pork from the day before? How about weekend nachos or serving with eggs and black beans for a hearty breakfast.
- Make creamy polenta and didn’t enjoy it all? Grease a dish to fit the leftovers, refrigerate and the next day pan fry until golden and crispy to have with breakfast or as an easy side.
- Didn’t use a full can of black beans? Whip them up in a food processor with some spices and a little yogurt. Spread on a tortilla with cheese for quesadillas.
- As you can tell, you can pretty much make anything with what you have left. Be creative!
Ok, so maybe you’re thinking: ‘Dawn, nope. Can’t do leftovers.’ Perhaps you have a friend or neighbour who would love. Just don’t waste perfectly good food.
Prepare Only What You Need
We have all been guilty of making too much food. In our home it’s just hubby and me, so sometimes it can be a challenge preparing meals for two. Of course, like above, you can eat leftovers. However, if you are extra smart about it, prepare just enough food so that when the meal is finished, the food is enjoyed and there’s nothing left to save, i.e. no food wastage.
Keep Track of What You Don’t Use & What You Really Enjoy
Do you find it a challenge to eat certain things before it goes bad? Start making a list and after a little while you’ll begin to understand your family’s likes and dislikes, what works and what doesn’t. Maybe instead of buying 2 bunches of bananas per week, for example, you only need one.
Can It Be Saved?
Often times, fruits or veggies may not be at their prime for enjoying in certain recipes, but others are okay.
- Spinach or other greens starting to wilt? Cook ’em down, squeeze extra moisture from and freeze for use later in soup or curries.
- Bananas. How many times do we buy bananas and watch them turn brown on our countertop? I’m guilty of that. But, guess what? Super ripe bananas make the BEST banana bread. Not in the mood to bake? Peel those bananas, throw on a wax paper lined baking sheet and freeze. Bananas are so awesome in smoothies or even for banana ice cream (talk about creamy).
- Same goes for other fruit and berries. When I can’t enjoy before they spoil, I always opt to freeze.
- Bread is a big one! If it’s on the staler side, it would make for a great bread pudding or homemade croutons (those are addictive).
- Did you make too much soup, stew or chili and tired of eating it? Been there! Don’t toss it! Most times those things can be easily frozen. Place into freezer-safe bags or containers and then you’ll have a ready to go meal for busy days.
- Speaking of freezing, investing in a decent vacuum sealer would be a good bet. We use ours on the regular and it totally prolongs the life of food. Be sure to label the packaging of what the item is and the date so you aren’t pulling out a ‘surprise’ meal later. It’s also a good idea to keep rotating what you have. For instance, keep the newer stuff on the back of the freezer and the older stuff at the front so you will use that first.
- Same goes for a dehydrator (or even your oven). It’s a great way to keep produce for longer. Dried apple slices anyone?
Purchase ‘Ugly’ Produce
We live in a ‘pretty’ world where everything has to be picture perfect or it’s thought to be less superior. Just because a bell pepper is not perfectly shaped, doesn’t mean it tastes sub par. Major grocery stores are now starting to sell ‘less perfect’ produce at a discount. How awesome is that?
Check out That Discount Bin
If you check out your grocery’s produce section, they probably have a discount bin every single day. This is where you’ll find all sorts of veggies and fruit that are going off, not quite at their prime. What does this mean for you? SAVINGS! Most times, those items are marked down by at least 50%. So, if you know, for example, that you are using spinach in tonight’s dinner and it’s there, buy it on the cheap and use. Boom! Saving you money and less food waste.
Be Mindful of Dates
Most people, including myself, are guilty of grabbing the latest date carton of milk or juice in the grocery. We often reach to the back. If you know that you are going to enjoy the product within a reasonable time, opt for the closer date. That way, stores won’t be left with product they basically have to discard
Have kids? We all know that most kids eat with their eyes. They won’t often eat something for a simple reason, like it’s ‘green’. Want to use that produce and get your kiddos to eat healthy? Make it fun! Make those smiley faces on pancakes with cut up fruit, cut bread into fun shapes for sandwiches, you get the picture. They’ll be sure to eat it!
Store Produce Properly
Certain veggies/fruits should be stored in the fridge, while others on the countertop. Plus, certain produce gives off emissions (ethylene) which can further deteriorate others. Bananas are known for this, for instance. When bananas are stored next to other types of produce, they tend to cause the deterioration process to speed up and make things turn brown prematurely. Know your produce so you get the longest possible shelf life from them.
Same goes for leftovers. Store them property in the fridge or freezer so that they can be enjoyed the next day and still have their integrity.
Buy In Season & Shop Local (When You Can)
Not only are you using what farmers are producing at the moment, in season produce is the BEST. It’s ‘in season’ for a reason. It’s fresh, tasty (and usually the cheapest). Plus, you’re doing your part to help those producers move their fruit and veggies from the garden to your belly.
Have veggie scraps from cooking? Of course you do! Learn how to compost and start doing it! Usually, local municipalities offer classes on composting so check those out. The City of St. John’s here in Newfoundland partners with a couple of groups and offers information sessions to residents at a minimal charge.
Those scraps can be turned into nutrient dense compost for your garden!
Speaking of gardening, do you? If you’re like me you may garden in the warmer months and have excess of certain produce. What a great way to hold onto that summer freshness by canning or pickling. Beets are super popular here in Newfoundland and grow well. Often times, people pickle them to preserve and enjoy throughout the year. This is a great guide to canning.
Get Out There with Mother Nature
If you live in an area where wild berries grow, for example, take advantage of that! Here in Newfoundland we have some of the best blueberries in the world (I may be a little biased here, but you get the picture). On top of that we have partridgeberries, raspberries and more. If you don’t pick it, it’ll just go back to mother nature. It’s there, free and super tasty. Plus, it’s fun to grab a friend or two and get out there. Maybe have a picnic while you’re at it. Before you pick anything, educate yourself so you know what you are doing (or bring a friend who does).
See, you can easily reduce food waste; it doesn’t have to be difficult! It’s not one big thing, it’s simply a bunch of little things that make a whole lot of difference.
Hope you find these practical tips on how to reduce food waste helpful. I’d love to hear how you reduce food waste in your home! Let’s get the conversation going, my friends!