As many of us experience both a high cost of living and growing effects of climate change, such as unseasonable temperatures or extreme weather events, it might be reassuring to know that some steps that save you money at the grocery store will also cut back on food waste.

With sustainability in mind, here are some core tips to help you buy, store and prepare food in a way that helps you, your community and the environment.

Buying food:

  1. Use your list: The age-old, wallet-friendly tip to make a list before grocery shopping helps you avoid buying more than you need. That can mean less food ends up rotting in the back of your fridge or going stale in your cupboards.
  2. Embrace imperfection: Many grocers sell “imperfect” looking fruits and vegetables, often at a discount. Think apples that don’t have a perfect peel, or carrots that are a little knobby. They are just as healthy, and you prevent them from going to landfill, while saving a few cents.
  3. Go exploring: Try one of the many apps or programs that aim to reduce food waste. They connect users with discounted foods from nearby grocers. You can try new foods without breaking the bank and divert good food from going to waste.

Storing food:

  1. Perishables up front: As a reminder to eat foods that will go bad first, place ones you’ve opened at the front of the fridge or pantry.
  2. Freezer advantage: If you’re not sure you’ll use something before it goes bad, freeze it to use later. Label it with the name of the food and date to remind yourself what it is and when you froze it.
  3. Label wisdom: Know that a best-before date is not an indicator of food safety, but about freshness, nutritional value and quality. You can buy and eat foods after the best-before date has passed. However, foods that are likely to spoil should be stored properly, and they should be eaten as quickly as possible. For example, because of the potential for contamination, once a package of lunchmeat is open, for safety reasons, it should be consumed in three to five days. Use your judgment when deciding if food is still safe to eat. You can’t always tell by its smell or taste.

Preparing food:

  1. Cook fresh first: Try to use the most perishable items in your fridge or pantry, such as berries or spinach, before the hardier foods like apples, potatoes or carrots, which will last longer.
  2. Mix up leftovers: You can make leftovers more appetizing by turning them into something new, like quiche, stir-fries, soups or casseroles – all versatile meals that taste great with a mix of leftover vegetables and proteins.
  3. Make waste work: Some food waste is inevitable, but instead of just throwing it out, make use of the compost program in your community if there is one or start composting at home. You can save on fertilizer for your garden. If you’re already composting, try freezing waste to prevent odours and help the composting process along.

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