Tomorrow (April 28) is National Stop Food Waste Day. That's why we're dedicating this week's blog entry to food waste reduction in the home! Waste Reduction in Canada is a year long program formed by recycling councils in each province. By their compiled data, it's estimated that 58% of the food produced here in Canada is lost or wasted each year. That means 35.5 million tonnes of food goes to waste! Can you even imagine what that would look like if you piled it together?? Financially, this means that the average Canadian annually spends $1,766 just to throw out food. 

With more people becoming aware of this issue, more people are sharing their advice on how to reduce food waste. Today, we're going to share our 8 tips that you can use everyday to reduce the food waste happening in your home! It's easy to make these changes, and you'll start to notice a healthy change in your eating habits! It's a win-win!

An image of a young boy pouring grains into a food storage container while the father supervises. 

1) Stick To Your Grocery List

Having a physical list in your hands (or a digital list on your physical phone) while at the grocery store can help keep your mind on track, ignoring impulse buys. You are less likely to stray from the necessities, and/or less likely to buy something you don't need. Buying more food than you can eat is a large contributor to food waste at home. Your wallet will also thank you for staying within budget!

An image of a person holding a paper grocery list.

2) Know the Difference Between "Best Before" and "Use By"

These two labels on food are quite different from each other. "Best Before" means that a product is at its peak before the date specified. After that date, that food item may not taste its best or perform at its finest, but it is still SAFE to eat. A best before date is NOT an expiry date. Think of crackers, for example. Crackers don't really go bad, they just taste stale after a while. Lots of non-perishable foods are like that. In the case of some dairy products, use your discretion. As an example, think of yogurt. Yogurt doesn't actually go bad after the best before date. Yogurt is a food produced by the bacterial fermentation of milk! The best before date on yogurt lets you know that the peak amount of active bacterial cultures (you know, the good bacteria for your GI tract) exist until the specified date. After that date, your yogurt starts to lose those cultures. The farther past that date you are, the more discretion you need to use regarding consumption. Note that Best Before dates are often also called expiry dates.

"Use By" is a label reserved for highly perishable items. These are the foods you need to eat prior to that specified date, or throw away if that date has passed. This is because highly perishable items break down and decay, attracting all sorts of bacteria in the process, too. These types of foods include: most dairy products, fish, meat and pre-prepared meals. You can extend the life of these foods by freezing them for a while. 

Here's an easy way to remember all of this. "Best Before" relates to food quality. "Use By" relates to food safety.

An image of a finger pointing to a best before date on a pop can.

3) Eat According To Your Region As Much As Possible

You are a product of your environment. It would make sense to utilize the food in your immediate area. Of course, being in Saskatchewan doesn't allow us the opportunity to naturally grow most fruits. Additionally, certain produce can only be grown in certain seasons. Now, you don't have to give up everything to live in a cottage and grow all of your food. It's simply a matter of making mindful decisions to eat produce and other foods as locally as possible. Farmer's markets are EXCELLENT for a number of different reasons. In regards to food waste, farmer's markets provide food for their region - not the globe. No mass production, no waste. They also spend less time in transport - meaning more time for optimal freshness. Factor in that you're supporting local people and your local economy and you've got one fantastic environment relationship. In Yorkton, we also have community gardens. These are great places to grow your own food, and get tips from neighbours on gardening techniques.  

If you have a hard time, remember that you don't have to drastically change your diet. If you need to have strawberries in your house year-round for example, consider not always buying them from the store. If you have no time or can't grow your own, you can buy them from a farmer's market when they're in season. This is a step in the right direction! 

An image of various vegetables and fruits. A sign in the center reads, "LOCALLY GROWN".  

4) Buy "Ugly" Foods

Money is actually spent by commercial producers specifically to sell aesthetically pleasing food to consumers. Food that doesn't match the ideal image is immediately thrown away. As such, we've come to expect the ideal image every time we shop. We're less likely to buy a tomato if it doesn't have that perfectly circular shape, or if it features an odd line/mark. This, in turn, tells producers to continue (via our dollars). However, the truth is this: ugly or misshapen food is still delicious and nutritious! You can always cut away a mark or light bruise, and the produce will still be fine. Nature really does produce everything in all shapes and sizes.

And, bonus tip here, if you buy "ugly" produce at the store, it usually will cost you less because there's no demand for it. Stores don't expect to sell it. 

An image of imperfect tomatoes

5) Proper Food Storage

Once you bring your food home, it's important to know how to properly store it so that you can maximize its shelf life. This Food Storage List details how and where to properly store the food that you buy. For an easy reference on the go, this infographic can help too:

An infographic outlining the proper way to store produce , meat and grains.

An image of the inside of a refrigerator, showing various foods stored in containers.

6) Wash Your Produce ASAP

If you can get into the habit of washing your produce right after you get home from the store, you will be amazed at how much longer it all lasts. This is because food is handled at every stage by different people in different environments. Once you get home, be sure to wash your hands and then wash your produce under warm, running water. Give them a final rinse under cold, running water, and wipe away excess droplets before storing it away. The Kitchn website has a great wash for fruits and veggies, as well as a wash for leafy greens if you prefer using vinegar as a gentle cleaner. You may being to notice that it's easier to snack on healthier things throughout the day, simply because your fruits and veggies are 100% ready to eat. Instead of picking out a packaged treat, you can pluck an apple from your crisper and begin munching! 

An image of a woman washing strawberries under a running tap. 

7) Keep a Catch All Bowl

Instead of throwing your scraps and peels away, why not make use of them? Some people may prefer to compost, which is great, but if you like soup you'll love this tip! After each meal or snack, throw your veggie scraps, peels, etc into a bowl to store in the fridge. This is your catch-all bowl. Once your bowl is full, put all of your scraps into a slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker to the top with water and add a bay leaf, some onion powder, some garlic powder and your preferred amount of salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir. Put the lid on and cook on low for 6-8 hours (this low setting and length of time will draw out the most flavour). Once it's finished, strain your broth to remove the scraps. You can now compost those scraps, or throw them away. Your broth can be put in the fridge, ready to be used within the week, or you can freeze it in multiple, small containers to use later. Freezing it will extend its life for up to 6 months. Make sure you leave some space in the containers since liquid expands as it freezes.

Veggies you can use for broth: carrots, celery, radishes, onion, garlic, broccoli stems, cauliflower stems and potato peels.

An image of fruit and veggie scraps in a bowl.  

8) Get Creative With Your Leftovers

In a rut with what to do with leftovers? Sick of eating the same meal for a few days? This list from Delishably outlines the different ways you can use leftover ingredients and "tired" produce to create different and easy meals for the rest of your week. Also, maybe it's time to have a sit down with mom or grandma - canning, pickling and other old ways of storing food are time tested, surefire ways to get the most out of your food.

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