8 Ways to Prevent Food Waste at Home

Aerial view of a burlap bag overflowing with freshly picked local carrots.

Oh, Canada. Although small in populace, you as a nation contribute to one very big issue. Food waste, ladies and gentlemen — an annual $31 billion problem. A staggering 40% of all food produced in Canada is thrown out. You’re mistaken if you think food waste has nothing to do with you, and it’s not just because almost half of it occurs in Canadian homes.

Food that ends up in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 22 times more harmful than CO2. This means that food waste is a significant contributor to climate change and effects us all. In 2015 the World Resources Institute stated that if food waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. That’s a serious amount of garbage!

For the record, Canada is far from alone in this issue. It’s estimated that the US throws out 30-40% of edible food, with 31% of food loss coming from consumers and retail (1). Meanwhile, in the UK 7.1 million tonnes of food was thrown away in 2015 alone. 

As smaller pieces of a greater whole, the choices we make add up. Let’s make sure our actions are positive ones! So here’s where you come in, with 8 ways to prevent food waste at home.


1. Plan It Out 

Food Waste - Prevention Methods - The Joya Life - Sydney Rae
(Photo by Sydney Rae)

Meal planning is a game changer! It not only saves time and money in the end, but it prevents mindless grocery shopping — a key player in food waste. Mapping out your meals for the week will keep you on track when grocery shopping (and lower the chances of randomly buying, say, rutabaga that you thought would be a fun purchase but then never end up using). So plan your meals and only buy what you need. 

And, because it’s 2018, there’s an app for that. Paprika, Food Planner and Plan To Eat are great apps to start your meal planning, but do a little research to find the right one for you. There are dozens of meal planning apps to best suit your needs and lifestyle. 


2. Understand Date Labels 

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Not all Tinder dates are equal, and neither are date labels. Read these labels carefully to know what you’re dealing with and prevent the reckless tossing of perfectly edible food. 

Best Before – This is not an expiry date. I repeat, NOT an expiry date. Best Before refers to food quality and not food safety. Food consumed after this date should still be safe to eat, but the quality will be lower. In other words it may not be as crispy, or it’ll be little bit drier, or less carbonated. If you have any doubt, use your senses. Examine it for mold, see if it smells off, and start with a small taste before simply throwing it out. 

Use By – This label does refer to food safety and should be followed. If the date has passed, do not consume the food even if it looks and smells fine. Use By labels are typically found on animal products. Important to note, if you freeze food before it’s Use By date, you can eat it after the date as long as it’s consumed within 24 hours of defrosting. 

Sell By – These dates are for suppliers and distributors and can be ignored by consumers. As with Best Before, this label is about food quality and not food safety. 


3. Pack and Seal 

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(Photo from Abeego)

Properly sealing and storing your food will help make it last longer and prevent early spoilage. Greatist has an awesome guide on how to organize your fridge . It has important fridge facts to help keep your food fresh — like the fact that the upper shelves of the fridge have the most consistent temperatures, or that dairy shouldn’t be stored in the door. Who knew? Now, you do!

When it comes to wrapping and sealing food, we always prefer to go the plastic-free route with beeswax wraps. Unlike plastic cling wrap, these reusable wraps allow food to breathe which helps to keep it fresh for longer.


4. Get Crafty with Your Ice Cube Trays 

Food Waste - Prevention - The Joya Life - The Kitchn
(Photo from The Kitchn

Ice cube trays may just be the unsung heroes of food waste prevention. Look at how handy they are!

Dairy – Got milk… that’s about to go bad? Freeze it in an ice cube tray and then thaw it before use. Alternatively, frozen milk cubes are great to add to a smoothie or iced coffee, or as a way to cool down hot beverages like coffee or tea. Ice cube trays work with other liquid and semi-solid dairy products like cream and yogurt, and milk alternatives too.

Fresh Herbs – Why do herbs have to come in enormous bunches? Make them last with one of these 4 methods: freezing the herbs bare, in water, in oil, or rolled up in a bag. We’re particularly fond of freezing them in water or oil in an ice cube tray because it makes for quick and easy access to add flavor to your stir-frys and sauces. Just make sure that once your herbs are frozen, you transfer them to an airtight bag or container for long-term storage. 

Sauces – Not sure what to do with the leftovers from those giant cans of tomato sauce? Save them in an ice cube try until next week’s pasta night. Other sauces like pesto or cream sauces can be handled the same. 

Wine – If you do find yourself in the rare situation where you have leftover wine, choose to freeze it. Use the wine ice cubes to keep white wine cool, to add to your sangria, or to make frosé. 


5. From Scraps to Stock  

Food Waste - Prevention - The Joya Life - Minimalist Baker
(Photo from Minimalist Baker)

Got leftover onion tops? Carrot ends? The leafy tops of celery? Don’t throw them out! Save your vegetable scraps, from the roots to the tops, to make a tasty stock. Start by giving them a good scrub in the sink and then chop them into similar sizes. Keep them sealed in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Soup’s on! 


6. Repurpose Coffee Grounds

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(Photo from Hello Glow)

For all you coffee addicts and homestay baristas out there… this one’s for you. There are many places to put your used coffee grounds, and the garbage isn’t one of them.

Your Garden – Apparently plants love coffee just as much as humans. Coffee grounds acidify soil which can be great for certain plants like roses, hydrangeas, carrots and more. 

Homemade Beauty Products – Use coffee grounds to make natural exfoliants for your body. Hey, if you can handle a French press and an immersion blender, you can definitely tackle homemade beauty products.  

Your Fridge – Odours be gone! Allow your coffee grounds to dry out completely before placing them in a bowl and keeping them uncovered in your fridge. They’ll help to neutralize the smell of your fridge. 


7. Canning

Food Waste - Prevention Methods - The Joya Life - Taste of Home
(Photo from Taste of Home)

Conserve the freshest of flavours for the long haul. Canning, which is a method of preserving food in airtight containers, is a fantastic way to save fruits and vegetables when they’re in their prime. It can take a couple of tries to get the hang of canning, but it’s a great way to maintain food, prevent spoilage, and is absolutely worth the effort. If you’ve got ripe fruits or vegetables in your kitchen that you don’t have time to can, store them in the freezer until you’re ready. 


8. Stay Educated! 

Food Waste - Prevention - The Joya Life

The best way to prevent food waste is to educate yourself. Take note of how much food you throw out in a given week and then make an effort to do better. The National Zero Waste Council and Love Food Hate Waste Canada are great resources for staying up to date on food waste facts and figures, food saving tips, and waste prevention initiatives.


(Header image by Thomas Gamstaetter)