Long before I had to begin worrying about money, budgeting, and bills I had the message "waste is bad" firmly engrained in my head. With my mom growing up with European parents who lived through the war, the 'waste not, want not' mentality was passed down through to my immediate family, meaning always finishing the food on your plate; spending an extra couple seconds getting every last drop out of the orange juice container or milk bag; and even such wild penny-pinching-practices like machine-washing J-cloths after being used. It always seemed like a bit of a nuisance for my very fortunate sister and I growing up, not being able to look at the big picture and see how all these little savings can actually add up to be quite significant in the end.
Now, being in my late twenties, I have become painfully aware of each and every fruit or vegetable that goes mouldy in my fridge, leftovers that go uneaten, and dry goods that go rancid. Sure, having to pay for my own things absolutely brought my attention to food waste, but more than that, it was about those values that my parents had instilled in me growing up, finally making sense to me. As I grew up I started to place more value on the things that I had previously taken for granted in my life. I started to understand that not everyone has the privilege to eat healthy and fresh meals everyday, and how quickly my life could very well go in the same direction.
Instead of looking at food waste as an irritant, forcing me to eat things before they go bad, whether I liked them or not, I started looking at potential food waste as an opportunity. I decided to be inspired by potential waste, rather than feel hindered by it. I started consciously making the effort to go through my kitchen regularly and come up with interesting and delicious dishes that would allow me to incorporate all of those almost-ready-for-the-trash ingredients that could have contributed to my weekly food waste. I now take pride in throwing out as little food as I do, knowing that the things that I have spent my hard-earned money on are helping to nourish me, and is not getting thrown in the trash.
With my waste not, want not values seeping into just about every blog post I write, I jumped at the chance to get to take part in the GLAD Fresh Food Challenge! From October 1st to October 15th myself as well as a slew of other Canadians have committed to having zero food waste! Not a single leaf of lettuce, not a single slice of apple pie (but really, who would waste apple pie?!) could go to waste in that two week period. With such an emphasis on reducing food waste in my everyday life, I had figured that I would be a pro at the challenge, and would succeed with flying colours, but I gotta say it was certainly tougher than I had thought. This challenge made me very aware of everything I purchase each day, portion sizes, tricking myself into eating the same thing in different ways in order to use it up, and also taking the care and time to wrap and package any leftover food properly. After two weeks of next to zero food waste (I regretfully admit that a few strawberries and cherry tomatoes went bad) I have come up with a number of tips to share for you to help you to cut down on the food waste in your own home.
- Wrap leftovers immediately - Wrap any leftover ingredients or meals as soon as possible, and in the most effective way possible. For instance, wrap blocks of cheese in a tightly-wrapped layer of GLAD Cling Wrap and then place in a small GLAD zipper bag and place in your cheese drawer. Wrap any leftover chicken, meat, or fish in GLAD Press 'n Seal to lock in all that freshness. Wrap any leftover candy and nuts in a GLAD zipper bag.
- Label all leftovers - Right after you have wrapped up or packaged your leftovers, write directly on the bag or container, or on a piece of masking tape what the contents are as well as the date they were made/packaged.
- Organize your fridge - Organize your fridge regularly to make sure you know exactly what is in there and what needs to be used up. Try and designate a specific area of your fridge solely for things that need to be eaten, so that family members and roommates are made aware of what they should be eating.
- Leave notes - Leave cute notes in your kitchen for family members and roommates to make them aware of what they should eat before it goes bad. For instance, my boyfriend got a note saying "Yum! There's delicious cherry tomatoes, basil, and Buffalo Mozzarella in the fridge! Maybe someone should have some caprese salad with dinner!"
- Get creative with leftovers - Look for ways to reinvent your leftovers into something else so that you don't get sick of eating the same thing. For example, last week I made a delicious chilli with pork belly and brisket, and there were a ton of leftovers! With a great combination like pork belly and brisket, I knew that some of the leftover chilli would make a fantastic base for a Shepherds pie! Other examples could be making bread pudding or a Panzanella salad with leftover bread, or tossing almost-ready-for-the-trash berries into a cake or smoothie.
- Make smoothie bags - Toss any leftover pre-washed fruits and vegetables into GLAD zipper bags to freeze individual portion sizes for smoothies! Cut down on waste, and cut down on the time it takes to make your morning smoothie!
How do you cut down on food waste?