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Tips for reducing food waste

You can save a lot of money by preventing food waste. It is estimated that Canadian households throw away an average of $28 worth of food each week. That adds up to $1,456 a year!

Below, you will find simple tricks to ensure that no food goes to waste in your home.

Reducing food waste - tips and resources

Meal planning

Map out your meals a week in advance and account for leftovers. This is a great way to prevent food waste and will help you save money as well. Check out the meal planner from The Regional Municipality of York to help you build your weekly meal plan and grocery list.

Proper food storage

Do a bit of research to understand how to store different types of food to keep it as fresh as possible. Check out the Refrigerator Makeover from The Regional Municipality of York to learn how to organize your fridge for optimal food storage.

Build a fridge triage
Set aside a section of your fridge for food that is the most perishable or most likely to spoil first. Always check this section of your fridge first, especially when cooking a meal or planning a grocery list.

Shop in your fridge or pantry first

Rethink the way you approach cooking by "shopping" in your kitchen first. Get creative making meals with food that is already in your fridge or cupboards, instead of going to the grocery store to buy new ingredients. Check out this resource from Dietitians of Canada about healthy foods to keep on hand at home.

Shop for less, more frequently
When possible, try to buy fresh food as needed, and shop for non-perishables (such as canned food) less often. Check the A to Z Produce Shelf-Life guide from The Regional Municipality of York to learn how to store your fresh fruits and vegetables.

Understand best before dates 
Many people believe that 'best before' dates indicate whether or not food is safe to eat, which can lead to 
perfectly edible food being thrown away. However, ‘best before’ dates refer to food freshness, taste and nutritional value. Check out this e-bulletin from The Regional Municipality of York about how to interpret 'best before' labels, to ensure you're not throwing away edible food.

Why prevent food waste?

Food waste makes up a significant amount of the waste that’s filling up our landfills, and most of it comes from residential homes.

When food is buried in the landfill, it doesn’t turn into soil, compost or anything useful because there’s no oxygen. Instead, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. It also creates leachate, a toxic liquid from garbage, which has to be collected and treated to protect the environment.

While some food waste isn’t suitable for eating – like banana peels and bones – a lot of our food waste is perfectly edible. In 2016, The City of Calgary completed a study to better understand the causes of preventable food waste in Calgary homes.

For two weeks, approximately 400 citizens completed household kitchen diaries. They recorded the amount of food that was thrown out at home and reported on the reasons why it was discarded.

The results showed that over 52 per cent of participants' food waste was edible, and could have been prevented in the first place.

When we throw away edible food, all the resources to grow, ship and produce it are wasted too - including about 25 per cent of the water used by agriculture each year.

By preventing food waste, we will save valuable resources, reduce our dependence on landfills, and minimize the harmful environmental effects of food waste in landfills.