Many of us use this time of year to make resolutions or set goals for the new year. I like to use this time to take stock of what is sitting hidden in my pantry, fridge and freezer and use it up. I also try to make a concerted effort, from this time forward, to be organized in the kitchen and minimize our food waste.
According to Toronto Food Policy Council, Canadians waste about $31 billion on food each year with 47% being wasted in our own homes. The remaining 53% is wasted through production, processing and transportation of food, as well as in commercial and institutional settings. On average, households in Canada waste $28/week on food or $1,456 annually. Now that is a lot of food and a considerable amount of money. So, what can be done? Well, here are a few tips for you to consider.
Before you head out to shop for ingredients, have a look through the fridge and pantry and take stock of what you have. You may realize that what you need is right there waiting to be used. Or at the very least, a suitable replacement can be found in your own home before heading out to buy more.
Make a Plan
Creating a meal plan for the week helps you stay organized and saves you both time and money. In doing so, you will be less likely to buy random items you may not need (and likely will not use).
Shop with a List
Once you’ve created a plan for the week, it’s time to make a shopping list and stick with it. Start by going through your fridge and pantry to determine what ingredients you have and what you need to add to your list. Shop only for those ingredients that you need to prevent you from buying too much food that potentially could spoil before you have a chance to use it. Also, eat before you shop. We all know what happens when we shop on an empty stomach!
Where possible, try to shop locally or for local products, especially during the summer months. Also along these lines, eat seasonally, not only does it taste fresher, it costs less too.
Yes, buying two items for the price of one does sound like a deal, but not always. It’s only a deal if you need those two items and will actually consume them. Unless it is something with a long shelf life, it may not be worth falling for that deal or buying larger bulk items. Think about what you will use up for the week and only shop for what you need.
Store Food Correctly
Food often spoilers sooner than later because it is stored incorrectly. Here is a simple graphic I found, created by the American Heart Association- Simple Cooking with Heart, to help you store food correctly and extend the shelf-life of your fruits and vegetables.
Also helpful is to follow the first in first out rule. Essentially, after you shop, move older produce to the front of the fridge for greater visibility and to let you know what needs to be consumed first. Place all newer or fresher produce at the back of the fridge and continue rotating food in this manner.
Love your Leftovers
Cook and serve meals with leftovers in mind, provided of course you enjoy leftovers. I plan 1 night per week that is dedicated to clearing the fridge of leftovers. I also try to reinvent some of those leftovers. Leftover chicken, beans or rice become all the ingredients for making tacos or enchiladas. Leftover grains or beans can be added to soups or made into a salad. Anything we cannot use up, such as soup, beans or cooked meat, ends up in the freezer for use another time.
In general, I like to make a vegetable stock on a weekly basis. I take a large pot of water and throw in all sorts of vegetables that have been sitting unnoticed in the fridge. I also save the tops and stems from many vegetables and herbs and add them to the pot. Anything from fennel stocks, kale, mushroom and parsley or cilantro stems and the leafy parts of celery gets used up to make stock. The stock is then used to make soup, stews, rice or one of our favourite dishes, risotto.
Consider freezing anything that cannot be used up quickly. For example, berries that are sitting in the fridge and not being consumed, or fresh berries from a summer market freeze well. Soups are great to freeze, especially if you make a large batch and plan to serve it again within the next week or so. And leftovers too can be frozen and turned into a meal for another day.
Well there you have it, some quick tips to help you reduce waste and save money and time while doing so. Simply be organized, shop for what you need, make shock, love your leftovers and use your freezer. Sounds like a lot, but once you get started, it will feel like you’ve been doing it all the while.
Enjoy, Linda @ The Wholesome Kitchen
Holistic Nutritionist & Cooking Coach
HHW Trailblazer ~ Etobicoke Branch