The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the way we shop. Many of us are taking fewer trips to the store — and needing each grocery haul to last longer. So chances are, you’re more aware of your food waste than ever.

The National Zero Waste Council reports that the average Canadian household wastes 140 kilograms of food per year, costing an average of $1,100. If you’ve discovered that your household throws out more food than you expected, you’re not alone.

Nearly two-thirds of the food wasted in Canada could have been eaten, so there's plenty of opportunity to turn things around. Make a habit of being mindful about food waste, and you'll both reduce your carbon footprint and save hundreds of dollars a year. Here's how.

1. Make an effective grocery list before you shop

The best time to stop food waste is before you go grocery shopping.

Making a list helps curb the urge to impulse shop. It also reduces the chance that some of your groceries end up rotting in the fridge.

What’s more, shopping from a list will get you in and out of the store faster. This way, you can limit your potential exposure to COVID-19.

To start, make an effective list by mapping out your meals to figure out what you’ll need for the week. Take an inventory of what’s in your kitchen already, and what you’ll need to pick up.

You can also use printable or digital resources to organize your shopping. Browse online for grocery list templates that you like or use an app, like AnyList, for more effective shopping.

2. Learn how to store your food so it lasts longer

Putting away your groceries immediately — and storing them in the right places — also helps curb food waste.

Keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer. Store fresh fruits and vegetables in separate crispers to keep them fresh for longer. Most produce fares best stored in plastic bags, but there are a few exceptions. You can store mushrooms in paper bags in your fridge. Leafy greens must be rinsed, dried and wrapped in paper towel before being stored in a plastic bag.

Store meat in your fridge or freezer. Keep meat on the bottom shelf of your fridge, so any leaks don’t drip down onto your other groceries.

Organize your fridge. Keep dairy or milk near the back of the fridge shelves, where it’s coldest. Save the door shelves for food that doesn’t spoil easily, like ketchup, mustard, and other condiments.

Organize your pantry to prevent spoilage. Stow longer-lasting veggies, like potatoes and winter squash, in a cool, dry place in your pantry. And store rice, quinoa, and other grains in airtight containers that keep moisture out.

3. Rethink the way you use leftovers

Some food waste comes from ingredients that sit unused in your kitchen. Still others come in the form of leftovers you eventually have to throw out. The solution? Make your nightly cooking double as healthy meal prep.

Making a big pot of soup or stew? Store an extra serving or two in the freezer. That will help reduce the risk of food waste. Plus, you’ll have a stockpile of ready-made, nutritious “backup” meals for busy nights.

4. Create your own zero-waste recipes

Even a well-planned list and stellar grocery storage may still leave you with some extra produce from time to time. That’s fine — just come up with a few meal ideas that work with whatever you’ve got on hand.

Soups, chillies, and quiches work well with virtually any combination of vegetables. So why not make them with the leftover produce in your fridge? Or use leftover veggies to make healthy homemade pasta sauce. Simply roast veggies in the oven to caramelize, then blend them together with canned tomatoes, garlic, and your favourite seasonings.

“Anything goes” or zero-waste recipes will help ensure you use up all the groceries in your fridge. And as a bonus, they can introduce you to vegetable combinations you might not have thought to try. You may even find a new family favourite.

By implementing these simple, time-saving strategies, you can reduce your family’s food waste. At the same time, you’ll make fewer trips to the store — a boon for your health and safety, as well as your budget.

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