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7 tips to reduce food waste and save money

June 23, 2022

Did you know that on average, families throw away or waste the equivalent of $1,300 a year in food that could have been consumed?1 Here are 7 ways to save money by reducing food waste, some of which you’ll be surprised to hear.

Around the world, one third of the food produced is lost or thrown away1 —in the field, during transportation or processing, at the grocery store and even at home. By reducing what gets tossed, you can do a good deed for your budget and the planet, thanks to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

If you want to start changing your habits at home to try to throw out less food, start by tracking your habits.

1. Take out a pencil and paper and write down what you throw out

Guillaume Cantin is the managing director and co-initiator of La Transformerie, a non-profit organization launched in 2017 that is a leader in food waste reduction. “If there’s no miracle solution to avoid wasting food, the first thing I recommend is to do a self-assessment of your habits.”

Observe, notice and record: This is the basic recipe for listing what you end up throwing away

“Often, after a month, people will notice recurring patterns. The first step is to eliminate them.”

From then on, the magic happens: By wasting less, you spend less!

According to RECYC-QUÉBEC, the 3 main reasons for wasting food are:

  1. It’s no longer appetizing because it was left in the fridge or cupboard for too long
  2. The expiry date has passed
  3. Leftovers weren’t eaten

2. Make organization your mission

Make lists of purchases and meals, write names and dates on clear, airtight containers stored in the freezer, and go grocery shopping when your belly is full rather than empty to avoid overbuying.

Taking photos or a video of the inside of your fridge before leaving for the supermarket will save you from asking yourself, “Is there any left in the fridge?”

Choose imperfect fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables that are irregularly shaped or damaged are often thrown out because fewer people buy them, but in reality, they taste just as good. So when shopping, remember to think about what your fruit and vegetables will be used for, and choose less appealing ones for desserts or soups.

3. Cultivate your food self-sufficiency

Whether it’s on a balcony, in a vegetable garden or in a community garden, harvesting your own food is very rewarding. Think of the savings generated by growing herbs, which you can easily dry or freeze and use all winter long.

By realizing how much time and effort it takes to grow a tomato, you’ll develop a greater respect for food. You’ll probably want to eat every last one or share them with your friends and family.

Canning is also a good way to preserve your food for the winter. You’ll have access to fruit and vegetables without having to buy them again. Make it an annual tradition with your friends and family! Tomato sauce, pickled vegetables, jams and compotes are all easily accessible and easy to share!

In season, weekly baskets are a fun, eco-friendly way of saving and encouraging local food producers. “Making or buying local increases product respect. So we’re less inclined to throw it out,” observes Guillaume Cantin.

4. Cook strategically

Trying a new recipe that calls for a condiment you don’t think you’ll reuse? Consider replacing it with one you already have or make plans to incorporate it into your next recipes.

Also, it’s great to always have basic, ready-to-cook ingredients on hand, like vegetables to make a soup or yogurt to turn overripe fruit into smoothies. The challenge is developing new reflexes.

Economical ideas

Guillaume Cantin suggests not planning too many meals in advance.

“Leave room for the unexpected, for example, so you don’t waste food if friends invite you to dinner.”

He also recommends reusing parts of fruit and vegetables that people tend to throw out without thinking. Simple examples: Turning potato peels into tasty chips, infusing strawberry stems into teas or mastering the art of combining leftovers from your fridge!

Also consider meal sharing between friends and family to help each other out. Everyone just needs to make a double batch of their recipe, which you then exchange. Besides not having to eat the same meal several times, you can discover new dishes!

5. Reorganize your fridge

Write down this collection of tips, including several provided by Guillaume Cantin:

  • Use clear dishes so you don’t forget what’s in them.
  • Reserve a section of the fridge for items “to be eaten soon.” This is an excellent method, including for roommates, and it comes in handy when you have cravings.
  • Check the fridge temperature. The perfect temperature for storing food is between 0 and 4 degrees Celsius. “The fridge door is where food keeps the least amount of time.” So avoid storing your milk carton there.

Good to know

Cooling hot foods in sealed containers in the fridge creates condensation that will degrade food faster. So, it’s better to cool your food on the counter before putting it in the fridge.

6. Judge for yourself

Guillaume Cantin reminds us that “some products are still good, even after the expiry date, which acts primarily as an indicator and not as an absolute truth.” Read the article BEST BEFORE DATES: Everything You Need to Know - External link. written by Second Harvest to help you sort properly.

7. Encourage mutual support!

If despite these tips you’re still having trouble using all your leftovers, try passing them on to your neighbours, family, friends or coworkers.

Supporting mutual aid and solidarity, food cooperatives, present in all regions, offer another way of sharing, saving and contributing to our collective and economic well-being through individual actions.

In Quebec, the Fédération des coopératives d’alimentation du Québec - External link. (site in French only) and Quebec Collective Kitchens Association - External link. are good gateways to a thrifty, committed and inspiring community. La Transformerie - External link. and its Les Rescapés food line are also an excellent source of inspiration and civic engagement.

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