Sylvia Meo, R.D.
How to Reduce Food Waste At Home
Updated: Apr 27, 2022
Today, the last Wednesday of April, which is also Earth Month, marks Stop Food Waste Day, an International Day of action in the global fight against food waste, a topic I am deeply passionate about. Maybe it’s ingrained in my DNA, being from Italian descent, the no-waste, “cucina povera” tradition has always inspired our way of cooking and eating. In fact, that’s where some of the most popular Italian dishes and products come from, like biscotti, panzanella, prosciutto, pesto, and even trippa (tripe)!
Did you know that one third of food produced globally and 45% of all root crops, fruits and vegetables go to waste? And that’s just the tip of our planet’s food waste crisis! When we make a commitment to waste less food in our own kitchen, the impact of each small action we take is not only reflected on our wallets (an extra 1100$ annually per Canadian household*), but in the fight against food insecurity and climate change. All that extra food wasted could have helped and fed Canadians, and others globally, suffering from food insecurity instead of ending up in landfills, where it transforms into methane, the third largest source of human-generated greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Here are my Foodful Tips to inspire you to maximize your food and minimize the part you play in our planet’s food waste crisis, today and every day!
Tip #1 - Shop Wisely
Don’t overbuy - Plan your menu ahead of time to ensure your groceries are all strategically used.
Buy seasonally and local as much as possible. Fresh food lasts longer and reduces food waste.
.Always verify expiry dates, both at the grocery store and of the foods you are stocking in your kitchen. Always buy foods with the furthest expiry date, and make sure to plan you next snacks and meals around foods you have on hand whose expiry date is approaching.
Tip #2 - Store Food Properly to Help Maximize Its Lifespan
Lower shelves and the back of the refrigerator is where the temperature tends to be colder. This is where we want to store dairy, eggs, raw meat, poultry and fish. Keeping raw meats, poultry and fish on the lowest shelf also help prevent cross-contamination in case of a leak due to a break or tear in their packaging.
You got to keep them separated! You have heard this before, there’s a reason why we have separate crisper drawers for our fruits and vegetables, it’s called ethylene gas, which some fruits (apples, bananas) release a lot of and can prematurely ripen and spoil ethylene-sensitive produce.
Produce keeper/crisper tools or adding paper towels in your containers actually works to minimize moisture levels and keep produce fresher longer. Foodful trick: Did you know that wilted veggies are just dehydrated? A quick 5–10 minute soak in cold water will revive them, if not, they will definitely shine in a cooked dish or morning smoothie!
Glass containers and stasher bags help you see what you have at all times both in the fridge and freeze.
Tip #3 - Use and Cook Everything! (or almost)
Just like nose to tail cooking let’s embrace "root to stem" eating!
Ditch the peeler, and eat the peels and skins of all fruits and veggies! Step aside kale chips, with a simple drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, pepper or other favorite herbs, spices and seasonings, then baked at 450F for 15-20 minutes, even pumpkin peels can make super tasty and nutritious chips everyone will love!
Not ready to start making peel chips? Just place them in your freezer bag with other vegetables scraps for your next batch of broth.
Still tossing out broccoli stalks? Instead, slice them into long sticks and eat as a snack, Trinity absolutely loves them this way, or add a dipping sauce if you prefer. You can also season them and bake them until they start to brown and crisp up into "fries".
Most peels or food pulp, from juicing for instance, can also be dehydrated and turned into a powder (like citrus zest or pumpkin peel or beet pulp powder) which can then be used a teaspoon at a time in various dishes to add a boost of flavor or color, and extra deliciousness.
Did you know that those strawberry tails we automatically cut off and toss make a great fruit flavored tea? Fill up a Mason jar and pour boiling water over them, keep refrigerated for 24 hours then filter out the infusion and drink it as is or add mineral water or fresh tea or lemonade to it for a fresh, thirst quenching drink. You can even use this infusion to add flavor to cocktails or a summery sangria!
Kiwi and banana peels are incredibly nutritious and also edible. As long as you are buying them organic (no pesticides) and the peels are thoroughly rinsed, these can be blended up into a smoothie, so make sure to store them in your smoothie freezer bag stash.
If you always buy organic bananas and a baking recipe calls for bananas, keep the peel on (just remove the ends and rinse them thoroughly) and use them whole for your recipe. If you are a big banana eater like me, start saving those peels in the freezer and use 3 banana peels per every banana a recipe calls for!
Banana peels are also a great, on-hand and eco-friendly alternative to leather shoe polish, the potassium (key ingredient in commercial shoe polish) and natural oils in the peels nourish and shine the leather while helping shoes last longer!
Watermelon rinds can also be blended into a smoothie, or pickled or turned into a slaw.
Orange peels are great to make a quick orange marmalade, or one of my favorite treats, candied orange peel.
When you buy carrots, beets, turnips, etc. with their tops, make sure to turn the greens into a sautéed veggie side dish with some garlic and olive or a super easy, waste-free pesto for your next pasta meal.
Tip #4 - Freeze, Repurpose, Reuse: Leftovers, Food Scraps & More!
A sure way to never waste leftovers, other than by making sure you eat them for lunch the next day, is to freeze them. Running late one night, or don't feel like cooking, take one container out of the freezer, pop it in the oven or microwave, and voilà, you have a homecooked meal ready in minutes! I actually always have a little container lying around in the freezer perfect for those nights when I am out of ideas for Trinity's lunchbox!
Ice cube trays: for all small leftovers (lemon zest, garlic, herbs, yogurt, wine, egg whites, sauces or tomato paste, juices, broths, etc.) to be used for a future meal prep.
Stasher type bags are great to safely store and preserve food until we are ready to use or repurpose it. Think overripe fruits and veggies for smoothies, homemade healthy frozen yogurt, sorbet or nice cream. They are also perfect to keep your carcasses and bones for broth or veggie food scraps for you next batch of broth or potage.
Tonight’s leftovers can be tomorrow’s lunch, but can also transform them into a new dish for a weekday supper. Get creative here, truly anything is possible!
Meatloaf or meatballs
Ragu or Bolognese meat sauce
Roast (beef, chicken , pork)
Shepherd's pie, tacos, chicken soup, club sandwich
Plant-based burger patties, "empty the fridge" soup, blended up and added to cake or muffin mix for extra protein and fiber
Fish croquettes, fish burgers
Pasta or Rice
Pasta croquette, baked pasta dish, pasta frittata
Arancini balls, rice pudding, chicken and rice soup
Stale bread (focaccia works great for this too)
Croutons, breadcrumbs, onion soup, panzanella salad, bread pudding, meatloaf
Don't throw away any leftovers. Too many raw onions in the Greek salad you ordered for take out, don't toss them out, they can be added to tomorrow's salad, soup, sautéed vegetables, etc.
Little bits of veggies leftover from the week's suppers lying around in your refrigerator when Friday night rolls around, reuse them for a "clean out the fridge" meal, like a soup, omelet, fried rice, primavera pasta sauce, etc.
Squeezed lemon halves can be used to scrub and disinfect your cutting boards or the stovetop to make it sparkle.
Do you have milk that expired and is sour? Don't throw it out just yet, a quick recipe search on Google and you are sure to find the one for you as sour milk is a frequently used ingredient in various dishes and baked goods.
Did you know that brewed coffee grind and egg shells can be reused as fertilizer?
That liquid and brine from finished pickle or olive jars can be used to pickle older looking carrots, cucumbers, celery, cabbage, etc. lying around in the crisper, kale or Swiss chard stems you usually toss in the compost, or to make a dirty martini or other fun cocktails!
And that deliciously seasoned oil from you marinated sundried tomatoes or mushrooms is a perfect starting flavor to sauté your vegetables with or marinate meat or poultry for your next grill session! Barbecue season is right around the corner so make sure to save these!
Tip #5 - When All Else Fails...COMPOST!
I would love to hear your food saving tips and tricks and encourage you to share these in the comments below or post them on your social media with hashtag #NoWasteFoodfulTips and don't forget to tag me also @thefoodfullife
Read these articles for more tips and tricks on how to reduce waste everyday:
Reducing Our Waste Part 1: Packing An Eco-Friendly, Low Waste Lunch
Reducing Our Waste Part 2: Making Changes at Home and on the Go
Better Understanding Date Labels and How to Store Food to Reduce Food Waste