Annually, Canadians toss out 2.94 metic tonnes of food. It goes to the landfill, where organic matter breaks down to become methane, a gas that’s far more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide. Not to mention all the packaging we toss out with it.

While we can stand behind the “just one person” rhetoric and take no action to make change, keep in mind, these issues come to be because of the collective action of individuals. On average one Canadian household wastes 79 kilograms of food per year and whether that’s you or me, it doesn’t matter.

The point is, if as individuals we can collectively produce that much food waste, we can also change our habits as individuals to collectively get that number down—whether see others doing it, or not.

In this article, I’ll share some tips on how you can reduce food waste and save some money in your grocery budget.

1. Make a Weekly Menu Plan

While it may sound monotonous, creating a menu plan doesn’t mean you’ll fall into the rhythm of Taco Tuesday and Pasta Thursdays—unless you want to of course. With a menu plan, you’re not assigning meals to a specific day. You’re essentially creating a list of meals you’d like to eat in a week and picking what to cook the day of.

It’s organized, yet random, so you still have spontaneity, but you’re not just cooking whatever willy nilly. You can also decide what to cook based on how you’re feeling instead of going by what day of the week it is, or a meal choice you decided on when you may have been feeling more ambitious.

To create your plan, look at the ingredients already in your kitchen, what’s in the flyer, and what’s in your budget to make a list of seven dinners. If you find you get stuck on this, it’s helpful to keep a master list of your household favourites and go-to meals for inspiration.

2. Make a Grocery List

Hand-written grocery list

I know this may seem obvious to some, but wandering up and down the aisles of the grocery store looking for inspiration isn’t a good tactic. In fact, you’re likely to end up over buying what you don’t need and leaving without things you do. The whole experience is a recipe for having to go right back.

To make the most of your trip, you’ll want to walk in with a thorough list. This means, before you go, keep your list handy throughout the week so you can jot items down as you think of them and as you run out of household staples. You’ll also want to write anything down that you need to make the meals on your menu plan.

It doesn’t matter if you write it on a whiteboard in your kitchen, a piece of scrap paper, or into an app on your phone, keeping it all one place is ideal so you can avoid missing anything.

Once you go on your shopping trip, do your best to stick with it, and avoid needless volume purchasing sales—like buy two and get one free—unless you have a plan.

Also, if you haven’t already, try Bring!, it’s amazing, it’s free, and you can share a list with others in your household. All you need to do is click icons to add food to your list. I’m not affiliated, I just like it and you might too.

3. Prioritize Fresh Ingredients

Tomatoes on a countertopOkay, so I know I said there’s really no specific order in which you need to go through your menu plan. However, prioritizing fresh items like meat and vegetables that spoil quickly is ideal. Pay close attention to best before dates when shopping and deciding what to eat.

4. Freeze Your Ingredients While Fresh

If your menu plan requires a lot of fresh ingredients, or you know you want to save a meal for later in the week, freeze what you can. This is also helpful if you find an excellent sale or bulk deal on meat or another freezable item. Just portion it out and use it when you need it.

If you don’t already, you may want to consider buying frozen ingredients as well.

5. Be Mindful of Your Servings

From a cooking standpoint, consider the size of the helpings you and your household typically eat and do your best to cook exactly that—if you don’t like leftovers. A lot of recipes make more servings than there are people in the average Canadian family, so it’s helpful to do the math and write measurements out ahead of time when dividing ingredients.

6. Get Creative with Leftovers

Soup with chunky ingredientsYou may have griped when your grandparents served chicken one night and pot pie the next, but they were onto something. When planning your menu, you may want to account for meals you can do this with. For example, at my house we barbecue chicken breast one evening and make chicken fried rice or chicken fajitas the next.

While sometimes it’s nice to enjoy leftovers as they are, getting creative with them will help prevent you from getting bored and cooking something else or ordering takeout.

7. Freeze Your Leftovers

It’s surprising what you can put in the freezer. If you have some leftover ingredients or servings and you know you won’t eat them right away, put them in the freezer.

You’ll likely find the answer to what you can freeze and how long it will keep by popping the question into a search engine if you’re uncertain.

Getting Started

With a little planning, you can work to reduce food waste which is not only helpful for the environment, but also your budget—and you’ll save time as well. While some tips may sound intimidating, changing your habits around mealtime will get easier as you go.

If you’re looking to make more efficient meals, why not get started with creating a meal plan? Take a look at the foods you have in your kitchen to see what inspires you, or browse your local flyer.