COLUMN: Planning, storing helps cut food waste

Every year we read about how to eat wisely, diet after, but rarely do we get advice about how to reduce beforehand.

Christmas is looming, the annual lunches and dinners, the gift chocolates, the fancy breads, the family visits, the parties with appetisers, cookies, fancy desserts.

Every year we read about how to eat wisely, diet after, but rarely do we get advice about how to reduce beforehand the colossal waste of food and related energy costs.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture organization roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption – about 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted each year.

About two-thirds of all that food waste could have been eaten if consumers better planned and stored their food purchases.

Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project has provided a list of ten ways to reduce food waste.

One – Plan how much food you will need for special events and don’t cook extra unless you have plans for the leftovers.

Years ago, I challenged my Girl Guide group to plan their weekend camp food to have just enough and bring nothing back. I’ll never forget the look of triumph on the face of one camper who calculated so exactly that she was eating the last piece of bagel and reconstituted hummus as the ferry docked at Newcastle Island. See the portion planner at for instant help.

Two – make your shopping list and stick to it. Plan your route around supermarket walls avoiding the unnecessary temptations in the middle.

Three – go small. Use smaller serving utensils and plates. Guests can always come back for seconds. This was one of our strategies for our children’s portions, so that they would not be faced with piles of food but could always have more.

Four – let guests serve themselves. Most will take frugal portions.

Five – take the time to store leftovers safely. Have the containers on hand for useful-sized amounts to go in the fridge or the freezer. Properly storing our leftovers will preserve them safely for future meals.

Six – composting food scraps has never been easier unless you already use your scraps for your own garden. Use the local composting waste systems and save compostable scraps for the green bin.

Seven – get creative with leftovers. Plan around the leftover bread and turkey and make tasty soups.

Eight – give away extra canned or dry or unserved fresh foods.

Nine – support food-recovery programs if you can. Nanaimo Foodshare is discussing food recovery opportunities with other agencies and could probably use some volunteer help to get rolling.

Second Harvest in Toronto has prevented more than 70 million pounds of food from ending up in landfill since its inception in 1985.

Ten – when giving food as a gift, avoid highly perishable items and make an effort to select foods that you know the recipient will enjoy rather than waste. Buy local treats and fair trade items that keep well and provide little luxuries that will be enjoyed.

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Foodshare Society and president of the multi-stakeholder co-op, Heritage Foodservice. She can be reached at: