March 12, 2024

Save money on food: 6 unique ways to cut food waste

It's common to leave the grocery store feeling shock or panic. Here are 6 ways to take the edge off the price of food.

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Save money on food: 6 unique ways to cut food waste

Man puts food into tupperware container to reduce food waste

It's common to leave the grocery store these days with a receipt that leaves you feeling either shock or panic.  

According to Canada's Food Price Report a family of four should expect to pay $701.79 more for groceries this year than they did last year. That’s on top of the $1,065.60 increase over the year before that.

All told, we’re paying over $1,700 a year more for food than we were 800 days ago. It’s unprecedented. And it’s forcing us all to rethink our relationships with food.

Do we have to eat less food? No. But we can cut our food waste. 

The average Canadian home wastes 79 kg of food every year. It mounts up easily: your kid didn’t like what you made them; you cooked for eight but only six showed up; a brick of cheese got lost in the fridge behind the value jar of grape jelly, etc.

But cutting just over half the food waste you produce now could save you +/– $1,300/year.

What would you do with an extra $1,300 in your pocket?

Maybe you’ll reduce the balance on your credit card, save for an emergency fund, or pay off student loans.

Any of these options would be better than throwing away $1,300 a year. That’s exactly what food waste is.

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Limiting food waste as a parent

This summary from Love Food Hate Waste is a fantastic resource for parents with kids at every age. Some of the more thoughtful and/or interesting recommendations included:

  • Serving your kids smaller portions — they can always get more if they’re hungry 
  • Extend the five-second rule to 20 unless you live on a dirt floor 
  • Inspect lunch boxes to note what gets eaten and what doesn’t 

But maybe the best way to keep your kids from wasting food is to maintain consistent variety with meals you know your kids will like. The +4 Rule, mentioned below, will help with this. 

Limiting food waste as someone living alone

Living alone gives you the benefit to shop for food when you see fit, and you should take advantage of that fact. Go every day or every other day for fresh fruits and meats, buying only what you need so you don’t waste anything. And to save even more money, buy your fresh fruit at independent grocers.

The key here is to have a stocked pantry of staples so you can do many things with the same produce and/or meats. You’ll keep yourself from getting bored, and from defaulting to ordering in. 

To this end, invest in a full spice rack, a few different oils, sea salt for flavouring, and honey for sweetening sauces.

Woman with family in grocery store checking grocery list

3 Food storage rules

  • The date on the packaging of eggs, cheese, yogurt and salad dressing is an indicator of freshness, not safety.
  • Are there mold spots on your cheese? Remove the 2.5 cm around and it poses no risk. 
  • While stale fruits and vegetables are edible and good for cooking, those that are soft and moldy should be discarded.

Source: Naître et grandir

6 ways to improve your life that also cuts food waste

We already covered the basics in another article. So, to avoid piling on, we took this list in a different direction, because we’re all much more likely to stick to waste reduction if there’s something else in it for us.

1. Follow the +4 rule for leftovers

Have you ever taken dinner leftovers to work the next day only to not feel like eating the same thing again? The problem isn’t the food; it’s the time between eating the same thing twice.

A popular approach is the +4 approach, which is to wait at least five meals before eating leftovers. So, Monday dinner plus four meals (Tuesday breakfast, Tuesday lunch, Tuesday dinner, Wednesday Breakfast) would get you to Wednesday lunch.  

Stick to that schedule and you’ll always look forward to leftovers. 

2. Learn to make soup

Do you get that poke of guilt when you throw out produce that sat in the fridge for too long? Do you promise yourself to be better with this, only to have it happen again?

You’re not alone. Fruits and vegetables make up 45 percent of food waste in Canada. But we could all cut that by warming our bellies with hearty soups.

Soup doesn’t require vegetables and/or fruits to be perfect for eating raw. So instead of passing over produce at the tail end of their edibility until it inevitably spoils, get a steady soup schedule to cut that 45 percent down. 

And a hearty soup from the freezer come in handy on bitter cold days when the last thing you want to do is trek to the grocery store.

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3. Track your food waste

If you find yourself wasting the same thing over and over, you can target your food waste reduction effort to specific items.

For example, staple items like onions or tomatoes tend to get over-purchased or purchased twice by two members of the family. This is also common with bread, which represents 9% of total Canadian food waste, probably because of all the different kinds of bread that get bought and not used, like hotdog buns.

The primary benefit here is removing (or, at least, limiting) the gnarly task of washing the slime out of a vegetable crisper.

4. Make a place for staples

Every home will have its staple items beyond traditional staples like salt, pepper, oil, garlic, eggs, etc. More popular optional staples include items like hot sauce, breadcrumbs, avocadoes and cilantro. If, for example, the cilantro stayed in the crisper with the other veggies and greens, it runs the risk of getting buried and going bad.

Giving them their own area in the cupboard or fridge helps you monitor quantities, so your favourite tastes don’t spoil, and you don’t buy more than you need. And enjoy the primary benefit of not scrambling around for ingredients when you’re on a recipe-imposed clock.

5. Take up gardening as a hobby?

Gardening is often recommended to save money, but is it worth it? 

Yes, but let's be realistic about these actual benefits. 

Psychology Today has published a feature article on the many mental and emotional benefits of gardening. Among the most interesting observations is that of Sigmund Freud: “Plants and flowers are relaxing to look at. They have no emotions or conflicts.” They are a pleasant distraction. 

If you have time and space, savings can be realized in addition to the psychological benefits. If not, you can at least settle for the fact that gardening is a great way to cultivate a better, more direct and intentional relationship with your food.

6. Limiting food waste with meal kits

Meal kits lead to less food waste and contribute 33% less greenhouse gas than meals made with food stuffs purchased at the grocery store.

The downsides are packaging waste and cost. Technology is addressing the former, with new ideas in eco-friendly packaging hitting the market every day. The latter is a cost of doing business and it’s not for everyone. But you don’t have to sign up for meal kits to do your part if you stick to the tips above.

A final point about food waste

An age-old response by parents to their kids who waste food is to think about the starvation happening in <insert country here>. But these days, no one need go nearly as far.

StatCan counts 5.8 million Canadians, including 1.4 million children, living in households with food insecurity. So, every morsel of food you save improves the planet, your bottom line, and possibly the lives of people in your community.

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March 12, 2024

Save money on food: 6 unique ways to cut food waste

It's common to leave the grocery store feeling shock or panic. Here are 6 ways to take the edge off the price of food.

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