How many times have you made a list for the grocery store, brought it home and by the end of the week some has spoiled, wasn't eaten or had to be thrown out. Maybe, too much was bought, time got away and the planned meal wasn't made, too much food was made and no one wanted the left overs. Did you know that according to the National Zero Waste Council's research on household food waste in Canada, almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food is wasted each year? It is estimated that it costs the average Canadian household over $1,100 per year on foods wasted that could have been avoided.
Why is wasted food a big concern? It is a concern because it wastes resources used to grow produce, distribute foods to consumers and produce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. We may be putting it in the green bin but if we are not doing it correctly it will end up in the landfill affecting the environment. We need to start paying attention to what we are throwing out especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
The following are some tips on how you can make a difference and help the environment by reducing produce waste:
Store Fruits and Vegetables Appropriately:
Storing your fruits and vegetables properly will help maintain flavour and nutritients and keep them fresher longer. Not all produce enjoys the same environment once you bring it home, so it is important to keep it at the right temperatures.
Tomatoes, onions, garlic and tomatoes do better at room temperature. While potatoes, beets, squashes, and bananas prefer cooler dry areas but not the fridge. Mushrooms will do well stored in a brown paper bag. If you store items in the fridge it is best not to wash them until you need them to avoid unnecessary spoiling. Fragile greens and herbs will do well wrapped in a towel or paper towel to maintain freshness. If you get an over abundance of produce that you can't use, find ways to preserve it through canning or freezing.
Tops and Bottoms are Edible:
There are many tops of vegetables as well as bottoms can be used in cooking, some of which we may not be aware. Carrots are one of the ones that the orange part most definitely can be used but the carrot tops can also be used in salads and smoothies and to add flavour to dishes.
What about other green tops that can be used in stir frys, in salads and sautéed for a side dish. These include beet greens, radish tops, turnips and rutabaga. Also the strawberry greens that we cut off are full of nutrients and can be added to smoothies.
Scraps for Soup:
No need to go buy vegetable stock, save your vegetable ends in a bag in the freezer and when you have a bunch you can boil them with some water to make your own vegetable stock. You can also use the scraps to flavour bone broths. The longer you let the vegetables simmer in the water the better it will be. This broth will be be full of nutrients and much better tasting than the stop bought.
If some of your green leaf vegetables have wilted or other vegetables have gone soft, use them in soups or stews. Most dishes you make the vegetables wilt and soften anyway so it won't matter if they start out crunchy or not.
Do you ever buy a bunch of herbs and only need a little bit and throw the rest out. Why not freeze the rest so that you can use them the next time you need to favour a dish. Put the herbs in a food processor or high speed blender until minced. Scoop them into an ice cube tray in desired amounts, cover with olive oil or water and freeze until needed.
Drying herbs is another option. The easiest way is wash and dry them well, Take the leaves off and try on a cookie sheet in a cool place. After a few days they will be dry and ready to crumble and put into jars. Parsley, cilantro, dill, cilantro and many other herbs can be done this way.
Some herbs like lavender, chamomile, mint can be dried and used for herbal teas.
Do we really need to buy shiny, round, blemish free produce for our meals? Just because a vegetable may have a bump, bruise, or are just physically imperfect doesn't mean we should leave them behind. What difference will it make when you peel and chop and use in your smoothie, stew, soup or other dishes? Check out reduced vegetable racks at grocery stores, why wait for ripe bananas when you can find some already ripe at a reduced price.
Shop in your fridge before you head out:
Take an inventory of what you still have in the fridge and cupboards to use before you grocery shop. I know myself I have my list and then see an item for example lemons, can't remember if I have any so I pick some up, get home and I have enough to make lemonade. Buy what you need and stick to the list that you have made, most likely if it isn't on the list you didn't need it. If you have to, buy your produce twice a week, which will allow you to use what you have before it spoils. If you have too much of something call a friend or neighbour and see if they can use what you have instead of throwing it out.
This is a great idea for anyone in the food industry from restaurants & bars to bakeries and grocery stores. Second Harvest has created a Food Rescue program that rescues unwanted or surplus items from local businesses. The organization itself can pick up items, items can be dropped off or other not for profit organizations will rescue food to be used in their kitchens. Reducing waste in landfills, recycling foods to feed those in need while protecting the environment and helping the community it is a win win!!
We need to be more mindful of the way we consume and waste food. It is having great impacts on the environment as wasting millions of dollars of resources. Our not for profit The Nourish Well Community Project is proud to be part of the Food Rescue Program. We use whatever produce is available to incorporate into the workshops we do for low income communities. Not knowing what we will receive until the day of keeps us on our toes, and gets the creative wheels turning to bring healthy food options to youth and their families. To support our programs please visit the Nourish Well Community Project