Food waste is one of those tragic things that happens along every stage of the food production process. Food is wasted by farmers as they’re harvesting and either damage or can’t collect all of the produce. Food is wasted when it’s jostled and bruised during transportation. Food is wasted at the grocery store when it starts to go bad and isn’t picked by shoppers. Food is wasted at restaurants during the cooking process and by patrons that don’t finish everything on their plate. Food is wasted at home when veggies go bad after being buried in the dark forgotten crevices of the fridge. But if you were to guess that restaurants produce the most food waste (as many people do), you’d be surprisingly wrong. Households are actually the second largest food wasters, contributing nearly a quarter of the food that is sent to the landfill.
What qualifies as food waste? Everything that can be eaten that isn’t. That pizza crust. The poor brown banana. Those forgotten leftovers. The strawberries that don’t look as juicy anymore. Even the food scraps that we usually think of as garbage like potato peels, carrot tops, orange rinds, even egg shells and banana peels. It can and should all be used as frequently as possible. But now onto the tips.
Buy ugly/near-expiry food. If you see a misshapen pepper, or a wonky apple, or a very bruised peach, rescue it! How often have you, like me, carefully picked through all of the fruit or vegetables to find the best looking ones, not thinking about what will happen to the uglier, slightly bruised, or misshapen ones? Well, it’s more than likely that they will end up being passed over and eventually thrown away once they start going bad. Which is a terrible waste and one that we have the power to stop. Try the Flashfood app to buy discounted food at Superstore!
Plan your meals. This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above, especially if you’ve got food that’s a bit bruised and has the potential to go bad very quickly. My process for this is to 1) see what I have 2) check what’s going bad and needs to be eaten ASAP, 3) google recipes, and 4) write out the weekly meal plan. I’ll improvise as much as possible and purchase ingredients only as needed. You can use a piece of paper, a google document, or an app like Mealtime to organize your meal schedule 🙂
Freeze your food. We’ve all done this so many times. Bought lots of food, eaten as much as possible, but then there’s still too much or we get bored of it and it goes bad. Freeze it instead. Especially fruit! Put it all in one of those huge zip bags that frozen berries come in and voila, you’ve got your ingredients for the next smoothie. Just make sure to peel and cut them into small pieces before freezing them. Same goes for meats, leftovers, sauces. Don’t forget to label it with what’s inside and when you put it in. That way you can keep track and use it up before it starts tasting too much like a freezer.
Try new recipes. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it could be the start of a new love for different ingredients. Try using food scraps in your next meal. Rather than tossing out the potato peels or onion scraps, try googling a new recipe and giving it a go! You may discover that you love carrot top pesto, or candied orange peel, or apple core jelly. If you want to try these or get some ideas for other uses for food scraps, check out these recipes!
Share food. So you’ve made way too much chili but you’ve been eating it for a week straight and just can’t stomach another mouthful. Plus the freezer is stuffed. What to do? Why not share it with friends? Have some friends over for dinner or offer your leftover chilli to them and see if there’s something that they’re struggling to finish. If you feel a little awkward doing that, then post it on Olio. It’s a sharing app that allows people to post extra food, ingredients, even non-food items like clothing or cleaning supplies.
Revamp leftovers. If the sharing idea doesn’t work out then try turning your leftovers into something different. Turn chili into sloppy joes, or dry bread into a breakfast casserole, or use day old rice in yummy burritos. Just frying or baking the leftovers can give it a different flavor and make it interesting again. This page has lots of unique leftover recipe ideas that will get you reimagining your last meal.
Save your scraps. The next time you cook with veggies, make sure to save all of the peels, the tops, the stems, and the roots to use in your next broth. Rather than buying a carton of veggie broth, save up all of your scraps and toss them into a big container in the freezer. When the container is full to the brim, toss everything into a big pot of water and boil it for 30 minutes. You’ll be left with a delicious, nutritious, and absolutely free base for your next soup. You can do the same thing for bones left over from a big meal of chicken or turkey.
Compost. The next best thing to eating all of your food is to make sure that it doesn’t end up in the landfill by composting it. Unfortunately, Lethbridge doesn’t have a composting program yet, but there are a few other options instead. You could keep a compost pile in your backyard or use a compost tumbler. If you don’t have a backyard or much room, you could try using a kitchen sink composter.
But if you’re not quite ready to commit to making your own bin then check out ShareWaste. It’s an initiative where those who are looking for compost, looking to offload scraps, or have one available for drop off, can connect in one easy place. In Lethbridge there are only a few registered homes but with more public awareness we can get it off the ground!
Other options for finding a home for your compost is by asking around your neighbourhood! Perhaps a neighbour has a bin you can swing by and offload your organics? Join local gardening groups; Lethbridge Seed Swap, Lethbridge Community Garden Network, Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association, and Southern Alberta Zero Waste, are all facebook groups that are focused on creating less waste and have passionate and knowledgeable composters participating regularly in conversations! Lethbridge also has 7 community gardens you could get in touch with to see if you can drop off your compost there as many of them have their own bins.
Why is food waste so tragic? Because planting, growing, harvesting, and transporting food uses a massive amount of water, labour, fuel and other resources. So wasting food isn’t just throwing away an apple, it’s also throwing away all of the resources that were used to make that apple. Food, when thrown into the landfill, is also a significant contributor to greenhouse gases since, when it gets trapped in the landfill it can’t break down properly and instead emits methane which is 30 times more potent than carbon at trapping heat. So let’s finish those leftovers and not forget those wilting lettuce leaves, and keep our planet a little healthier!