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I have a problem with food waste. Every Sunday I come home with a fresh batch of groceries, and I have to tackle the remnants from the week before. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? You open the fridge to deposit all the new goodies, and you’re faced with some sad looking produce that is bound for the trash.

I hate throwing out food. It’s terrible for the environment, a waste of money, and makes me feel like a bad planner. But eliminating it has been an ongoing struggle in my house. I know we can be better, and sometimes we are, but it’s too easy to slip back into bad habits and rely too much on the garbage system.

The Stats

I know I’m not alone in this battle. It’s estimated that Canadians waste $31 billion in food every year, and 47% of that comes from us consumers. That’s a hell of a lot of money we’re literally throwing in the trash. And that’s just the money part. A significant portion of what makes up our garbage is also food waste.

Source Credit: City of Edmonton

One of my goals for this year is to make greener choices, and reducing my food waste is part of that. Since the beginning of the year we’ve been making some changes and trying new tactics to reign in the garbage, and today I wanted to share what’s working for us.

Composting

Last year we started composting to help reduce our food waste. I can’t take any credit for this as it’s 100% the bf’s domain, but it has made a difference in what we throw in the trash. Now, if some fruits and veggies are past their best, we can feed them to the worms. It’s not perfect, because we’re still wasting money on food we don’t eat, but at least we get some compost for the yard.

Because we live in the frigid north, it’s a challenge to compost outside. We keep ours in the basement year round in a giant Rubbermaid container with worms to break down the food waste. The set-up was simple and cheap, the bin doesn’t take up much room, and most importantly,  it doesn’t smell (I was worried about that.) If you’re interested in composting, you can check out this tutorial for setting up a system like ours.

Meal Planning

I am an avid meal planner (see here, here, and here.) Every Sunday morning I browse through my Pinterest Recipes Board and choose meals for the week and make a shopping list. I hate grocery shopping (who doesn’t!), so my goal is always only to go once a week. Post-work grocery runs for that one ingredient you forgot are the absolute worst.

Choosing recipes is the part I’m good at, but I finally realize that’s not all there is to meal planning. We are only two people, which means we often don’t use up full portions of an ingredient with one meal. If we buy a bunch of celery to use in a soup, we’re going to have 80% of that bunch of celery left. The smart thing would be to choose more than one recipe that calls for celery. I’m learning that I’m rarely that smart.

I also need to be better about checking the fridge before meal planning. Basing your meals on what is already in the fridge, freezer, or pantry can significantly lower your grocery budget and reduce food waste.

Track Waste

I am the kind of person who needs to see results to stay motivated. To stick to a workout plan I need to have a schedule of what workouts I’m doing each day. If I’m trying to eat healthily, I’ll have way more success when I keep a food diary. I’m a rule follower, so having a way to make myself accountable is critical.

After seeing the idea of tracking waste on my friend Angela’s blog, I knew it was the kind of exercise that would motivate me to be better. Now, I have not been tracking every piece of garbage we throw out, but I have been tracking our food waste. Baby steps.

I knew throwing away food was an issue for us, but I didn’t realize the extent until I saw it all written out in front of me. It’s eye-opening for sure, and if you are on a mission to reduce the amount of garbage you produce, then it’s really valuable.

Use Up Dinner

The change I made that has made the most significant impact on how much food waste we produce is incorporating a ‘use up’ dinner. One night a week I skip the meal planning, and instead, we rummage through the fridge and create something with all the perishables that don’t have much life left.

Our go-to meal for this is a frittata. You can throw just about anything (veggies, meat, cheese, etc.) in a skillet with a bunch of eggs and call it dinner. Other options are stir-fries, chili, fried rice or minestrone.

Make Your Freezer Your BFF

No matter how well you plan, there are always going to be times where you have leftovers you just can’t get to in time. Maybe you had plans come up unexpectedly and had to skip dinner, or you just could not bring yourself to cook and ordered takeout. We all have those kinda days.

When that happens, and your fruit, and veggies are taking a hard turn to the mushy side then take advantage of your freezer.

  • Pack up individual portions of fruit and greens in containers for smoothies
  • Freeze brown bananas as is to use for baking
  • Chop herbs and freeze with oil in ice cube trays for use in soups and sauces
  • Keep a bag of carrots, celery, onions in the freezer to make stock with next time you have bones
  • Save broccoli and cauliflower stems in the freezer to use in soup

Just don’t be like me and forget to check your freezer every once in a while and actually use what you’re putting in there.

Do you guys struggle with food waste? Or maybe you’re an all-star and can share some of your tips and tricks with the rest of us? Share in the comments! 

Save the environment and your money by using these 5 simple tips for reducing food waste.

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Image Credit: Jilbert Ebrahimi

12 Comments

  1. Who doesn’t hate grocery shopping? ME! I actually love it, which is part of what got me in such trouble with our gigantic food bills in the past. I would go every day for fun if not for the financial part of it 😉

  2. We adore grocery shopping too, self-proclaimed freaks here 😀 😀

    But we also have had to make a dedicated effort to eliminate food waste this year. A lot of your items here have helped. Composting really made it obvious whether we were doing our best to only compost real waste or if we were wasting food because we keep a compost waste bin on the counter where we can easily see it, day to day, and wrap up at the end of the day.

    One other thing that has helped us is making a list on Sunday of all the food in the fridge left from the last week and how we can combine those items with the new stuff we bought to use it all up. I’m proud to say that a few weeks of that got us in a really good mental position to keep going so far.

    • Sarah Reply

      I thought grocery shopping was universally hated but apparently not! Taking an inventory of the fridge prior to going shopping for the week has really helped us as well. Plus it’s good for the budget because we buy less.

  3. I’ve another fan of grocery shopping, but I’m with you on the pain of choosing what to cook. I’ve been actively tackling my food waste for the last few years. What I love about it is that it’s some thing I can easily do to help lessen my impact on the environment and it saves me money at the same time.

    The steps you’ve taken so far will set you well on your way. The new routines and habits will soon become second nature.

    One thing that worked really well for me, if designating one of the shelves in my fridge my “Use It Up Shelf”. I can then see at a glance the stuff that needs to be eaten first. Great for stopping leftovers getting pushed to the back and lost.

    Also accountability has really helped me. This one isn’t for everyone, but each Friday I confess to my food waste on Instagram and Facebook. I’m @moretimethanmoneyblog on Instagram. Through doing this I’ve realised that so many other people trying to reduce their food waste too and they have heaps of good ideas and encouragement.

    • Sarah Reply

      I love your ‘use it up’ shelf idea! That would help solve the issue of older stuff always ending up hidden in the back of the fridge.

  4. I’ve been trying to get Mr. TA on board with composting for ages – especially since we bought our own house. I like your idea of keeping it in the basement year-round! I’m definitely going to be looking at that tutorial.

    • Sarah Reply

      Do it! I’ll admit, I was the one that was not so on board with the idea when the bf suggested it but he handles most of it and I honestly wouldn’t even know it existed.

  5. Another Grocery-shopping lover here! There’s something exciting about buying food and finding deals.

    You’ve got some great ideas here!

    I would also store food in see-through containers. (If I can’t see it, I forget it’s there.)

    • Sarah Reply

      Thanks Kristyna 🙂 The clear containers is a great tip as well. I’ve wanted to do that in our pantry as right now we’ve got a bunch of mismatched tupperware but I’m waiting for those to kick the bucket first.

  6. Interesting to hear about composting in Alberta! Here in Vancouver it is mandatory. In our condo we have a composting bin that is taken away weekly. In houses, people put their food scraps in a food scrap bin and it’s taken away weekly too. I always find it weird when I am visiting somewhere else and there’s no recycling or composting.

    • Sarah Reply

      The composting system here is all over the place. Edmonton doesn’t offer it but many of the surrounding areas do have a pick-up program in place. We do however have a way better recycling system than a lot of places which makes it even stranger that there’s no composting.

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