Economical Eating: How to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money
Which foods have become more expensive on our grocery bill?
With the rising costs of food you may have noticed your grocery bill has gone up significantly over the last few years. Couple that with the expense of food waste, given that we are all guilty of failing to use all the food in our fridge and pantry , and you’re spending money twice on food.
We have some tips for you on how to eat healthy foods, grocery shop more economically and reduce food waste at home.
According to the University of Guelph Food Institute‘s 2020 Food Price Report the average Canadian household will have spent $12,667 on food in 2020 – an increase of $487 over 2019.
In general, overall food costs are going up, in particular for meat, produce and seafood. Since the vast majority of produce is imported into Canada, these foods are very sensitive to currency fluctuations. Current travel restrictions and the politicization of cross-border trade between the US, Mexico and Canada has also caused the price of fresh produce to rise. Extreme weather and food recalls decrease the availability, and increase the cost, of fresh fruits and vegetables.
For a review of the cost and percentage change of a range of foods over time visit: Statistics Canada: Monthly Average Retail Prices for Food and Other Selected Products and Statistics Canada: Consumer price index.
Watch this previous TV Segment related to this topic here:
Is food waste a big problem in Canada?
According to recent food waste research:
- 11 Million tonnes of food (or 20% of total production in Canada) becomes avoidable food loss or waste
- An estimated 13% of fruits and vegetables grown in Canada go unharvested
or are discarded following harvest.
- An estimated 12% of Canada’s avoidable food loss
and waste occurs during the retail phase
- Organic and kitchen waste makes up about 30% of the waste disposed by
Canadian households, and most of this is avoidable
- Households in Canada waste approximately $28 of food per week
Taking a few simple steps to reduce food waste has the potential to save your household money and also plays a significant and often under-reported role in environmental sustainability. Since food waste creates higher carbon and methane emissions there are economic and environmental benefits to wasting less food!
What can I do to reduce food waste and save money in my household?
1. Buy seasonal, use flyers and apps
Seasonal produce tastes better and will be more cost effective.
Plan your meals based on sales for the week and consider downloading an app such as Flipp or RedFlagDeals to help you easily review flyers and sales.
Swap recipe ingredients and try:
- Canned tomatoes rather than fresh tomatoes for cooking
- Frozen veggies rather than fresh are nutritious options
- Canned legumes such as lentils can stretch the amount of ground meat used in recipes
- Plan more “meatless Monday” or vegetarian meals using legumes
- Use strong cheese (such as Asiago, blue, Parmesan) over mild cheese to allow for more flavor with less cheese
2. Assess the pros and cons of buying in bulk
Just because it is on sale or in a volume discount package doesn’t mean it is a good deal if you are not using the product in its entirety. Think big but buy small is a good mantra when it comes to managing food waste.
Have a “mid-point” plan for items purchased in bulk that you may struggle to use up:
- Large bag of apples – peel, slice or freeze for applesauce, adding to oatmeal or making an apple crisp
- Large container of grapes – place on skewers and freeze as “grapesicles”
- Berries – freeze for smoothies, pancake topping or parfaits
- Discount bag of red peppers – grill and freeze strips for pizzas or pasta
- Spinach – sauté and add to a frittata or spinach dip
3. Let the vegetable drive dinner
Throwing out rotten produce in your fridge drawer? Often when I ask people what they are having for supper later today they don’t have an answer and if they do, they often don’t mention the veggie. Usually the response is that they are having “steak, chicken or pasta.”
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before your go to bed is what is for supper tomorrow? As you begin thinking of this idea be sure to check your fridge inventory to determine what produce needs used first. Then pair a protein and a grain or starch to balance the meal.
For example if your red peppers need to be used then you might decide to do black bean quesadillas, grilled peppers and chicken on a bun with a side salad, or alternatively, make a veggie frittata.
4. Understand proper storage of fruits and veggies
- Tomatoes – store on the counter (not in the fridge since cold temperatures reduce flavor and stops ripening).
- Asparagus – store in the fridge standing up in a mug or measuring cup with some water.
- Corn – keep in the husks for 2-3 days since once husked it needs to be consumed quicker. The sooner you eat corn once picked the better since natural sugars turn to starch.
- Apples – store refrigerated as they soften 10 times faster when at room temperature. Apples can last 2 or more weeks and sometimes for months in perforated plastic bags in crispers.
- Avocados – to maximize flavor store avocados on the counter until ripe and then they can be stored in the refrigerator 2-5 days.
- Herbs – place stems in water and cover with a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. Fresh basil is cold sensitive so keep at the front of the fridge.
- Garlic – store at room temperature in a cool, dry and dark place (refrigeration causes sprouting).
- Onions – store in a dark, dry and cool place or refrigerate and keep away from other fruits and veggies (especially carrots, apples, grapes) since they can impart their flavor easily, especially once cut.
- Potatoes – only new potatoes should be stored in the fridge. For mature potatoes store in a paper bag in a dark, dry and cool place (refrigeration causes dark spots and an unpleasant sweet flavor when cooked). For all potatoes keep away from heat since this can cause sprouting and keep away from light, which can cause green spots to occur that must be cut away before consuming.
Also, look for ways to make your fruits and vegetables last longer.
5. Learn what the best before / expiry dates really mean
Learn more about how long certain foods last to improve your confidence around food safety. Check out the website and app stilltasty.com for some insight into the shelf life of thousands of foods. Contact the professional home economists at the Atco Blue Flame Kitchen for free advice on questions about food safety.
Need more support for how to shop smart, reduce food waste and save money on groceries?
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About Andrea Holwegner
CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker
Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more