There’s nothing more frustrating than watching fresh, delicious food go to waste – especially produce!
Cooking at home leads to eating healthier meals and saves you money, but expired food can be a real source of anxiety, according to UBC Registered Dietitians Julie Stachiw (Okanagan campus) and Melissa Baker. Next time you buy fresh produce, take a little time to prepare it properly and prevent spoilage.
Ready to save money and eat more sustainably? Here are 6 tips to reduce your food waste:
1. Plan Your Meals
Start a routine: Once a week, sit down and plan your meals. Which evenings will you be out of the house? How many meals do you need that week? How much time will you have to prepare meals? Sticking with simple, quick recipes is key, as is planning ahead.
- Make a grocery list from your planned recipes and stick to it. Do not go to the grocery store hungry or you will end up impulse-buying snack foods. Make sure to account for leftovers.
- On busy days, consider using a slow cooker to make sure dinner is ready when you get home.
- Here is a great meal planning resource by UnlockFood.ca. Or use this form to make a plan that is 100% personalized.
2. Eat your Leftovers
Make sure your meal plan incorporates eating your leftovers. Do you normally buy lunch out? Why not save money and eat leftovers?
- If you don’t enjoy eating the same thing a couple nights in a row, reinvent your leftovers or use your freezer! Having pre-made meals in the freezer is awesome for nights when you get home late or when you want a night off from cooking.
- Store leftovers in a clear container at eye-level if they go into the fridge. They will be less likely to disappear into the back of the fridge this way.
3. Store Produce Properly
How long produce lasts depends on how you store it. Do you know which foods go in the pantry, on the counter, and in the fridge? Or tricks for prolonging the life of produce in the fridge?
- For vegetables like carrots, peppers or celery, wash and cut them up and store wrapped in paper towels in an airtight container.
- If you buy delicate greens like spinach, spring mix, arugula, or lettuce, open the container as soon as you get home and move the greens into a paper towel-lined airtight container. This will help prevent build-up of moisture and keep your salad leaves fresh and crisp!
- Learn more about the best ways to keep various produce fresh here, and download the FoodKeeper App by the USDA.
- We also love these food storage tips for the fridge, pantry, and freezer.
4. Your Freezer is Your Friend
Don't be afraid of putting produce in the freezer if you don't think you will use it up in time. For example, did you know you can freeze avocados? Frozen bananas can be repurposed in smoothies. And frozen herbs are a great way to save them for use later in home-cooked meals!
- To save herbs, place them in an empty ice cube tray, cover them in a neutral cooking oil and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cubes to a freezer bag and use them as needed to add great flavour to many recipes – like a quick veggie stir fry.
5. Think Beyond "Fresh"
Fruits and veggies are an essential ingredient to a balanced diet, but sometimes we don't manage to eat them before they start to turn. Buying frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can be a great alternative as they last longer, and because it is usually picked at peak ripeness, it can sometimes be even more nutrient dense (especially in the winter months) than fresh.
- Cook with your fresh vegetables near the start of your week and use the frozen vegetables later in the week to make soups, stews, stir-fries, or slow cooker recipes.
- Buying produce at varying stages of ripeness can allow you to have perfectly ripe ones all week. If you shop once a week or less, thinking about shelf life can be key to reducing food waste. Select fruits and vegetables like cabbage, apples, pears, beets, squash, radishes, carrots, and onions to eat later in the week.
6. Understand best before dates
Best before dates are mandated on foods that are fresh for fewer than 90 days. They can be an indicator of the taste, quality and nutrient content of a food but is not related to safety. Expiration dates, found mainly on baby formula and nutrition supplements, are different than best before dates. You should not consume a food after the expiration date. However, just because a food, like eggs or milk for example, is a few days past its best before date, doesn’t meal you can’t eat it.
- Canadians waste so much perfectly good food that is just a day or two past the best before date. Of course, use your food safety skills and “if in doubt throw it out” — but don’t discard food solely based on this date.
There you have it — tips that will help you save money, eat better, and be more sustainable!