This week, we’re focusing on two of our favourite topics: cooking at home and moving towards a zero waste lifestyle. At My Green Space, we believe in deepening our connection to the food we eat, primarily by growing it, but also by ensuring that we are fair to all of the produce and ingredients we purchase at the grocery store or local markets.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption each year - approximately 1.3 billion tonnes - gets lost or wasted.”
1.3 billion tonnes - equivalent to the weight of 480 million elephants. The report behind this astounding figure makes the important distinction between food loss, which occur mainly in developing countries during production, and food waste, which is most prevalent in industrialized countries. In dollar terms, the average North American family throws away $600 in food annually.
So, what can we do to reduce the amount of food that’s thrown away? Below, we’ve compiled a list of ideas. You can start out small or dive right into zero-waste cooking, but either way, change is completely doable!
1. Understand how food labels work.
In this Global News Consumer Matters segment, food scientist Dr. Gary Sandberg and the Queen of Green Lindsay Coulter explain that “best before” dates have nothing to do with food safety, but rather, the quality of the food. This common misconception leads to consumers throwing away perfectly edible food. For example, milk can last 7 days after the best before date. This article from The Daily Mail explains how to increase the life span of your groceries and how to read the labels on your food.
2. Plan meals, grocery shop with a list and on a full stomach.
This study by two Cornell researchers confirmed the myth that doing groceries while hungry results in high calorie purchases, like chips and cookies. An easy fix to avoiding these impulse purchases (especially if they’re foods that you wouldn’t actually eat otherwise) is to do groceries immediately after a meal, and bring a snack with you in case. Similarly, plan meals in advance, write grocery lists accordingly, and make a pact with yourself to stick to it!
3. Always have the basics.
If you’re about to start preparing a meal and you suddenly realize that you don’t have a key ingredient that you thought you did, your plans may be derailed and those ingredients can go to waste. Stock up on foods that you’ll always need, like spices, flour, and cooking oil, to ensure that this never happens. Looking for a place to get awesome, local ingredients? Look no further than Vancouver's first Zero Waste Market.
4. Leave produce unwashed until it’s ready to be eaten.
Washing your produce as soon as you return from the grocery store can lead to it spoiling faster than it would otherwise. As well, bacteria can continue to grow on your fruits and veggies while in your home, so it’s safest to wash right before eating.
5. Take produce out of plastic bags before storing.
In this list from Lindsey Coulter, the Queen of Green, she writes that “airtight wrappings suffocate fresh produce and speed up the decay process.” Another tip though: avoid having to use plastic bags for your produce at all by carrying reusable cloth bags! You can either sew your own or find them at places like The Soap Dispensary or Life Without Plastic.
6. Use parts of the plant you haven’t before.
Strawberry top pesto? Apricot pit ice cream? How about risotto with celery hearts and leaves? Food52, one of our favourite food and recipe sites, has quite the compilation of innovative recipes that utilize many parts of produce that we wouldn’t even think about previously. Not only that, here’s an entire week’s worth of waste-free meal ideas from Kate Weiner and a collection of ways to use food scraps and leftovers from Lindsay-Jean Hard.
7. Regrow veggies.
Lettuce, green onions, and beet greens are just a few of the vegetables that can be propagated. Check out these guides from GardenBuildingsDirect and The Food Revolution Network to learn how grow from scraps.
8. Compost compost compost!
If you can’t find a use for your food (the outer, outer skin of an onion, for example), be sure to have a compost bin set up! Your compost will be so beneficial for the plants in your garden. For more information on composting, have a look at our Pinterest board.
Title and above image from Food52.