December 20, 2021
Avoiding food waste is not a new problem. Ancient solutions to this problem gave us our traditional technique for Freybe’s Dry Cure Salamis and our smoking processes. Yet, despite technological improvements such as tinning, preserving, and freezing our foods, the average household in Canada wastes around one-third of the food we purchase. To think of that another way, for every two people in our households, we throw away enough food to feed a third person.
In the 80s we had the three Rs drilled into us: reduce, re-use, recycle. To help avoid wasting money and resources when it comes to our food (and to make sure that all Canadians are eating well) we like to think of the three Ps: Planning; Preservation, and Permutations.
Most of us will go grocery shopping once a week. We load a cart up with everything we think we’ll need to get us through the week. Unfortunately, Wednesday’s glossy green spinach will look a little less appealing next Tuesday. Here are some of our tips to eat more of the food you buy.
One easy way to help reduce household food waste is to take a leaf out of our European families’ books and shop more often. Buying food a day or two before you use it, as opposed to a week, enables you to eat food at its freshest as well as to make a more accurate estimation of how much you will need (because you don’t need to predict how much food you will have in your fridge in five days’ time). Shopping every other day doesn’t need to be as much of a hassle as you might think. Most supermarkets these days offer some form of online shopping and home delivery service.
SKETCH OUT YOUR MEALS
Planning what you’re going to make before you go shopping makes it much easier to buy the right amounts of the right foods (another advantage to shopping often is that it is much less intimidating to plan a few meals ahead rather than a whole week). It’s also a great way to add new meals to your rotation. Grab a recipe and it will tell you exactly how much you need or take advantage of a company like Hello Fresh! that offers meal kits and recipes with all your ingredients already portioned out.
Even with all the planning and best intentions in the world, sometimes your fridge or pantry can fill with food that you’re racing against the clock to eat. The best two solutions to these problems are to create more time or to feed more people.
CREATE TIME BY FREEZING FRESH FOOD
Some foods are happy to wait in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
- Fruit: ripe fruit like those browning bananas can be cut up into a container in the freezer and pulled out next time you’re making a smoothie (pro tip: peel the bananas and cut up the fruit before you freeze them, it’ll make it much easier at the other end).
- Veggies & Herbs: some aging vegetables and herbs (or just their peelings and off-cuts) can be given a second life as vegetable stock. Make a container of bags in your freezer as “Veggie Scraps,” when you’ve filled up a bag, throw them in a pot/instant pot/slow cooker with some cold water and watch it turn into liquid gold.
- Dairy: If you see that the ‘best by’ dates on your dairy products are fast approaching, keep out as much as you think you’ll get through in that time and wrap the rest up and pop it in the freezer. Milk, butter, and hard cheeses store well in the freezer. (Avoid freezing milk in glass bottles. Make sure you seal butters and cheeses well because they may take on other flavours in the freezer. Some cheeses may become crumbly after freezing.)
FEED MORE PEOPLE WITH YOUR FOOD
If you’re keeping an eye on your supplies and realize that you can’t eat them all in time by yourself, see if you can find a good home for them before you go to the bin.
- Fresh Foods: If you have more fresh food than you can eat, see if your neighbours, friends, or family could make use of it. As well as making better use of your resources, sharing food makes for a fantastic community and the sharing often goes both ways.
- Donatable Items: Freybe’s makes a weekly food donation to the Salvation Army every Wednesday. It’s one way to make a positive difference in the lives of our fellow Canadians. So, keep a close eye on the dates on your tinned goods and non-perishables and get them down to your local food bank or Salvation Army with time to spare.
Sometimes when we look in our fridges, there just seems to be a collection of bits and pieces; one lonely potato, half a slice of ham, or the butt of a wedge of cheese. These are some of our go-to meal ideas to make sure all that food ends up in our bellies and not in our trash.
USING UP ODDS & ENDS
When you’re looking to use up an eclectic collection of food, these basics are good at accommodating just about anything you have:
- Stews: These are great for using up a medley of meat cuts, root vegetables, or leftovers from last night’s roast dinner.
- Soups: Like stews, you can throw just about anything in and make a minestrone or mulligatawny style soup. Or pick one or two ingredients that you need to use a lot of and go for it.
- Pizzas: In much the same way that soups and stews are good for the heavier root vegetables, our pizza bases and tomato sauce make great vehicles for using up lighter vegetables, meat cuts and cheese ends. Think Brussels sprout, Tyrolean Beechwood Smoked Ham and blue cheese pizza, or Chorizo, bell pepper, sliced tomato, and a handful of arugula to finish.
- Quiches and Omelettes: Finally, if you don’t feel like pizza, these egg-based meals are a quick and easy way to use up a lot of the same ingredients, like wilting herbs, that onion half, a lonely sausage, or a zucchini.
USING UP SALAMI ENDS AND LONELY SLICES
If we have left-over slices from a charcuterie board, or just a few different sliced meats or salamis we need to use up, we like to get the most out of them by using their smokiness and tang to elevate some simple ground beef or pork dishes. If you have a grinder attachment for your stand mixer, throw all your meat through there, otherwise just chop it finely with a knife and combine it in a bowl with the ground meat. Salamis and sausages are great because they come preloaded with their spice mixture to add some depth. Here are a few meal ideas to try:
- Taco filling
- Meat balls
USING UP OLD BREAD
Fresh bread has a short lifespan where it’s at its very best. So, it’s no surprise that we get left with plenty of slightly stale bread that needs a little rejuvenating. If you have a loaf or baguette that’s a day or so old, preheat your oven to 300℉ and wet the outside of your bread (run the bread quickly under the tap or wet your hands and rub them all over the bread). Bake for about five minutes to resurrect the loaf for one more meal. If your bread is a little past that, try some of these ideas:
- French Toast: in France it is called ‘pain perdu’, literally ‘lost bread’. The egg mixture and frying are like the water and baking trick above.
- Panzanella Salad: This works far better with stale bread than fresh bread. The old bread keeps some of its form when soaked with olive oil, vinegar, and the juice from the tomatoes.
- Crostini: Rather than buying crackers for your charcuterie board, slice your stale bread thinly and bake it for the perfect crostini.
- Bread and Butter Pudding: This cake-like dessert feels a little bit like the British answer to French Toast.