Prevent food waste in the kitchen

In Canada, it’s
estimated that
40 percent of
our food goes
to waste; some
during production and
distribution, but most
from the kitchen. That
wasted food translates
to about $27 billion
annually, never mind the
environmental impact of
growing or producing,
transporting and storing
all that unconsumed food.

Why do we
toss so much?

The biggest factors are
aesthetics (we like our
fruit unblemished),
best-before dates (many
of us are too quick to toss
those half-eaten yogurt
containers), bulk buying
habits and impulse
shopping. And once we
get our groceries home,
we stash them away in
deep freezers and walkin
pantries, making it
difficult to keep tabs on
what we have in stock. We
also often make mealtime
decisions based on what
we’re in the mood for or
what’s convenient, rather
than what we already
have in our pantries that
needs to be cooked. So
the waste cycle continues.

Here are three recipes that
use up ingredients that
often get tossed, as well
as more ways to prevent
food waste.

Food for thought

Health Canada advises
setting your refrigerator
at 4°C (40°F) or lower, and
your freezer at -18°C (0°F)
or lower. Between 4°C
and 60°C is known as the
temperature danger zone,
where bacteria can grow
quickly. Here are a few
more tips on proper food
storage to help you avoid
tossing your groceries
before they spoil.

Meats and proteins: Store raw meat,
poultry, fish and seafood in separate
containers and on the bottom shelf of
your refrigerator so raw juices won’t
drip onto other food, or in the freezer.
Never leave uncooked meats unrefrigerated
for longer than two hours.

Cream: Freeze and use later in muffin,
quick bread or pancake batter.

Lettuce and greens: Keep them from
going slimy by tucking a paper towel
into the bag or storage bin; moisture
makes lettuce, spinach and other
greens deteriorate quickly. When they
become too limp to use in a salad, leafy
greens can still be added to soup; tear
or chop and treat them like hardier
greens, like spinach and kale, tossing
them in at the end just until they wilt.

Vegetables: Store cut fruit and vegetables
in the refrigerator. Veggies that
are starting to wrinkle and slump are
still fine for cooking; use them in soups
and stews. If you know you’re running
out of time, wash, peel and chop, then
freeze in zip-top bags to use in cooked
dishes down the road.

Bread: Slice and freeze it before it
goes stale, or cube days-old bread,
drizzle with oil and toast in the oven to
make crunchy croutons. Or blitz in the
food processor to make breadcrumbs,
which can be stashed in the freezer to
add to meatloaf and other dishes.

Leftovers: Cool leftovers quickly by
placing them in shallow containers. Refrigerate
as soon as possible or within
two hours in glass or see-through
containers so they’re more likely to be
recognized and used; or divvy the last
of a meal into single-serving containers
to freeze and grab to go for lunch
at work or school. Rather than simply
reheating yesterday’s dinner, think
of creative ways to transform it into
something new. Leftover roasted meat
and rice can become fried rice, or add
stock to a smaller quantity of stew or
curry to turn it into soup. Never leave
leftovers out on the counter for longer
than two hours. After two hours at
room temperature, levels of bacteria in
your food can become dangerous.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2013.

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