Eating & Drinking

URBAN HIPPIE: Sobering stats on food waste — and three quick and easy steps to curtail that waste

Photography by Bill Grimshaw

Urban Hippie by Jen Lahey is published every second Tuesday at Follow Jen on Twitter ‏@Jen_Lahey.

In the wake of some recently released and sobering stats about the amount of food that is wasted each year in the US, The Urban Hippie got to thinking: how are we doing here in Canada?

According to 2007 Canadian government report, “[i]n 2007, an estimated 38% of solid food available for retail sale was wasted, the equivalent of 183 kilograms per person.”

That report also points out, not at all surprisingly, that “a decrease in food waste would reduce negative environmental impacts associated with food production, processing, distribution and services.” Reducing environmental impact through how we handle our food? Sounds like an Urban Hippie challenge.

Think about it: how many of us haven’t reached in to find the mustard at the back of the fridge and discovered some science-experiment-like specimen that used to be fresh produce? Wasting food can make an Urban Hippie feel as rotten as the slimy lettuce he or she throws away, and while it’s a complex issue that involves addressing how food is grown, stored, transported, and sold, taking action in our own kitchens is a good start, and can be done daily, at each meal. Oh, it will save you some dough, too.

Here are three easy ways to quit wasting so much of your fall fruit and veggie bounty:

REPURPOSE YOUR CRISPER. Get the veggies and fruit out of the crisper and onto your fridge shelves where you can see them every time you open the door. How many times have you forgotten about a nice bag of lettuce because it was out of sight, out of mind? Yes, the crisper is designed for produce, but that doesn’t mean much if the veggies are rotting because you continually forget what’s in there. Use the crisper to store cans of pop or other sundries.

DIVIDE YOUR SHOPPING. Shop once a week for household stuff (laundry soap) and basics (pasta, milk, bread, lunchbox treats), plus the produce you’ll use for the next few days. Then, if you can fit it into your schedule, add a second (or dare we say  third?) quick trip later in the week for more produce. That way, you buy only as much as you can use each time before it starts to go bad, hopefully reducing how much you end up pitching into your composter. This is increasingly convenient to do since farmers’ markets have popped up all over the city.

GET CREATIVE: Now that you’ve got your produce where you can see it, and you’re shopping only for what you can use up in a few days, think about ways to creatively use the last bits of leftover or slightly gone fruit and veg. Slightly overripe bananas and other fruit work well in a morning smoothie, as do the last handfuls of lettuce, spinach, or kale (you won’t even taste the greens when they’re blended up with delicious fruit, such as frozen berries. Add some dairy or non-dairy milk, or juice, and put your blender to work). Mushy tomatoes make a great sauce base, along with those dried up garlic cloves, and some veggies or beans. Leftover dinner veggies can get frozen and then tossed into homemade soup later (or nix freezing them and toss them in a pot with water and spices to make homemade broth, and freeze that). Possibilities: endless.