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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Food for Thought

Waste Not, Want Less
Food Security and Food Waste

The figures are shocking. 

From the farm to the kitchen, Canadians waste 40% of the food we grow and buy. Put another way, it's about $31 billion worth of food thrown out every year. Or think of it this way: it’s as if you bought groceries and threw almost half away before you got home. 

The average Canadian household wastes more than $1,100 of food a year. And food waste doesn't just cost you money. It also has a big impact on the environment. The food we grow and don't eat: 

  • takes up land and water,
  • reduces biodiversity by destroying habitat,
  • adds to landfills, and
  • puts tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
So, if you waste less food, you're not just helping your wallet, you're helping the environment.

Why do we waste so much of the food we buy?

You can't help wasting some food.  There aren't recipes for avocado pits and egg shells. But most household food that's wasted could have been eaten.

Here are 3 possible reasons you're wasting food.

1. Buying the right amount of food takes meal planning, but you're too busy to plan meals for the week.
        -  Whether you live alone or are in a household with two working adults, there's no one at home with the time to plan and organize. 
      - You may be working long hours or more than one job because your wages are not keeping up with living costs.

2. You can't always have regular, sit-down meals.
        - The Vanier Institute of the Family fact sheet, Time to Eat, tells us that eating patterns have changed. Busy schedules and responsibilities with family and friends mean more meals are 'on-the-go.' It's hard to plan meals when you don't know who will be home.

3. Our society encourages everyone to buy, buy, buy with little thought to the resources we are using.  That's a mindset that encourages you to overbuy instead of being careful to select only what you need.
        -  According to research, stores encourage us to buy more than we need with bulk buying, two-for-one deals, and family-pack sale prices.  These only save you money if you meal plan, store carefully, or make meals ahead and freeze them.  Again, time and planning are needed.

Waste Less = Save Money + Help the Environment

If you'd rather have money in your pocket than in the compost bucket, here are some suggestions.

Don’t shop when you are hungry. Grocery stores are designed with certain items at eye level and sales that encourage shoppers to buy more than they need. Don’t fall for it!  Shop with a list and stick to it. 

Learn how to store food. Did you know that you can just pop a whole tomato into the freezer? And eggs can be frozen too (see below).

Use your nose. Dates on grocery items are confusing and can mislead. If milk doesn’t smell or taste sour, it’s still good to drink. This website might be helpful: www.stilltasty.com

Plan your meals. Short-term pain for long-term gain. Hint: make a list of the meals you cook often, and then make a grocery list for each meal. If there are 14 meals you frequently make, you can shop and cook them on a rotating schedule. Meal planning made simple! 

Use Leftovers. A chicken dinner one night can be chicken salad for lunch or a dinner burrito the next day.  There are lots of ideas on the internet. Here’s one site with suggestions www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Find out how to use parts of food we often throw out. Again, there are lots of ideas on the internet, like carrot top pesto. Using as much as possible of the food you buy means you have to buy less.

And finally, compost your food scraps. Whether you live in a house or an apartment, you can compost. The Municipality of Burnaby collects food scraps, and it's turned into compost for gardens. This keeps landfill costs down, saves money on property taxes, and saves the environment at the same time.

How to Test for Freshness past the date on the carton.
1    1. Fill a large bowl with water.
2    2. Put several eggs in the water.
      3. If they lay on the bottom, they’re fresh.
      4. If just their tips are on the bottom, they’re ok for baking.
      5. If they float off the bottom, it’s time to compost them.

 How to Freeze Eggs – good for baking
      1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them to combine the yolks and whites.
      2. Pour them into a freezer-safe container. Make sure to write how many eggs on the outside of the container. Freeze them in amounts that your recipes will call for. If you just want one egg at a time, try freezing each egg in an ice-cube tray.
      3. When you want to use them, thaw them in the fridge, not on the counter.
      4. Eggs can last in the freezer for at least 6 months.


Food waste is a problem that can be solved. 

Doing our best to avoid food waste in our homes will make an important contribution to our wallets and to the environment.

But because more than half of food waste occurs before it reaches kitchens, the problem needs to be addressed on many levels.  Tackling food waste involves roles for governments, food growers, processors, distributors and grocery stores.

There are many ways that all sources of food waste can be addressed. For example, growing, storing and distributing food could be more local, so food reaches you sooner and doesn’t spoil. Labels on food packages could give information about how to best freeze food if you can’t use it all. Dates on packaging could be clear about what stamps like “best before” really mean. 

More grocery stores and restaurants could donate food to groups that make it available to people with low incomes. Quest, SFU Embark and the Greater Vancouver Food Bank are three organizations in Burnaby that make grocery store donations available to households. 

And part of the big picture is to see food waste in the context of larger social issues, like creating working conditions and wages that give people more time, and changing the way we think, so we buy what we need and our planet can bear.

There are many ways that all sources of food waste can be addressed.  Good thing we can start today.

          written by Joyce Cameron a Burnaby Food First member


  1. Thank you. Never can hear about this enough. I need reminding. I didn't know about freezing whole tomatoes or eggs. I'm overwhelmed by the amount of food wasted when people go hungry...in our own country, city, neighbourhood.

  2. Thank you for the information. I can never be reminded enough it seems. I just learned about freezing eggs and tomatoes, some things I never knew before. How much wiser it would be to redistribute all the food to people who go without. It sadness me to think we still are not sufficiently organized for that. I know progress is being made slowly.