Did you know that home food waste shot up by 13.5% in the first months of the pandemic?1 Here are some tips and tricks for cutting down on the amount of food you throw out and making the most out of the groceries you’ve got!
(1) According to a survey of 8,272 Canadians, including 1,242 from Quebec, by the AgriFood Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.
1. Do an inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer. This way you won’t double-buy something you’ve already got on hand!
2. Plan your meals. The best way is to choose recipes based on what you need to use up at home, then just shop for those last few ingredients.
3. Make a detailed shopping list. This is a great way to get what you need without loading up on impulse purchases. Another tip for sticking to your list: don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.
4. Put groceries away the right way. Put your groceries away as soon as you get home, making sure that everything is easily visible and clearly labelled. This will help you use up everything before it goes bad. Plus, you can rotate items to draw attention to the things that need to be used up first.
5. Make some changes to the packaging. Sometimes store packaging traps moisture, making the food inside spoil faster. Prevent that by transferring foods into better containers as needed. For example, mushrooms do best in a brown paper bag.
6. Store each food in the right place. Another trick is to copy how food is kept in the grocery store. For example, something that’s kept cool at the store is probably best kept in the fridge at your house. Here’s a quick guide to the best way to store many of the foods people commonly aren’t sure about:
- Room temperature: Tomatoes, avocadoes, cucumbers, mango, melons, nectarines, oranges, grapefruit, papaya, peaches, plums, lemons, limes
- Fridge: Opened condiments (capers, sauces, marinated artichokes, mustard, mayonnaise, etc.), nuts and seeds, whole wheat flour, nut oils, maple syrup, natural peanut butter, etc. Nuts, seeds and products made from nuts and seeds are more delicate (and thus prone to faster spoilage) at room temperature, and the same is true of wholegrain flours. Keep them in the fridge, and they’ll stay tastier for longer without going rancid.
- Pantry: Potatoes, root vegetables, garlic, onion, spices, honey, vegetable oils
7. Put away your leftovers quickly. Leaving your leftovers out can lead to bacteria multiplying. Putting them away quickly in the fridge or freezer will keep everything fresh and tasty for longer. As soon as a dish stops steaming, it’s ready to go in the fridge.
8. Plan ahead with bags or bins for aging food. Try keeping two bags in your freezer: one for slightly overripe fruit that can go into smoothies, the other for wilted veggies that could go into soup or stock. In the fridge, you might keep a bin reserved for food that needs to be used up fast, so it doesn’t get forgotten until too late.
9. Make leftovers into weekday dinners. If you plan your meals for the week, it’s a good idea to use leftovers from one meal to cook another (or even several). Otherwise, those leftovers might go to waste.
10. Buy some things from the bulk bins. This can be a great way to buy only the amount you need, instead of having extras that’ll end up in the trash.
11. Freeze leftover herbs, tomato paste, pesto, etc. Tip: use ice cube trays, and you’ll have convenient portions ready to cook with.
12. Put an ethyleneabsorbing gadget in the fruit bin. Ethylene is a natural gas that makes fruits ripen faster, which is why we want to slow it down. You can find ethylene absorbers at some grocery stores.
13. Freeze baked goods. Defrost before you use them. With sliced bread, though, you can actually pop a frozen slice straight into the toaster.
14. Freeze things in airtight bags and containers. Avoid losing your food to freezer burn by putting it in highquality hermetically sealed containers or in freezer bags (use a straw to get rid of the air inside). Don’t freeze meat, poultry or fish in its original packaging, and don’t use soft plastic containers like yogurt or margarine tubs—they don’t handle freezing well.
15. Think about other ways to preserve food. If you have a lot of food on hand (a harvest from your vegetable garden, market goods, good deals at the supermarket, etc.), vacuum packaging and home canning are good ways to stock it away for the future instead of wasting any.
Are you concerned about food waste? There are lots of organizations and resources that can give you a hand with using your groceries more effectively, as the website Sauve ta bouffe (in French). You can also try donating excess food to food banks like the Banques alimentaires du Québec.