Could you quit grocery shopping cold turkey?
On World Food Day, Fruitshare Manitoba hosted a screening of the Canadian documentary, Just Eat it: A Food Waste Story. The doc follows the experience of filmmakers Grant and Jen as they spend six months attempting to eat only food that has been discarded or deemed unsalable.
It might sound grueling, but don’t assume the couple was resorting to table scraps and crusts of bread.
What they discovered was treasure troves of fresh and delicious food that was otherwise destined for the landfill – more than they could even make a dent in – exposing the unpleasant reality of our often wasteful and excessive food habits.
Touching on a variety of problems, like less-than-perfect peaches that don’t make it past the production line, and solutions, like redistributing discarded food from big supermarkets to low-income communities, Grant and Jen’s experiment provided an entertaining and sometimes cheeky story while emphasizing a much more serious problem.
After the documentary, a panel of local food experts and advocates, including Daniel Kanu, our Northern and Indigenous Program coordinator, discussed our local food situation. They highlighted some ways we can cut food waste in our homes, send less waste to the landfill and share it with those in need.
“Sharing food is the key to wasting less, whether it’s from your garden, your kitchen, your local farmer or fish from our lakes,” Daniel urged.”The effort and energy needed to grow these foods belong in the bellies of all Manitobans.”
Put less on your plate
Are your eyes bigger than your stomach? Of course, nobody wants to eat the half-nibbled leftovers straight from your plate (including you) but if you take smaller portions to begin with, extra food can be put in the fridge to eat later. Over time, you can start cooking smaller amounts to begin with.
Create an “Eat First” bin
In a full fridge sometimes last night’s leftovers can get pushed around, eventually settling somewhere in the back, forgotten until it’s too late (cue Weird Al’s Livin in the Fridge). Not only is this poor roommate etiquette, it’s a waste of food. Instead of leaving your leftovers out of sight and out of mind, create an “Eat First” bin to visually remind you, or anyone else who’s looking for a snack. This also works for veggies and other products that are about to expire. If you’re positive you aren’t going to want spaghetti again this week, take those leftovers and put them in the freezer. The food will last longer, and you’ll have an easy lunch next time you’re in a rush.
Remember that beauty is only skin deep
A big part of food waste is visual appeal, especially when it comes to fruit and veggies. Not all produce grows the same and there are some very specific guidelines for what makes it to the supermarket – no wonky carrots, bulbous zucchini or small bananas allowed. Once past the beauty test, produce can get bumped around and bruised during transportation. These fruits and veggies are often passed up for their unblemished counterparts and are eventually tossed out by grocers. Next time you’re at the supermarket, don’t discriminate – go for the less-than-perfect but equally-as-tasty produce.
Don’t be embarrassed by having too little
When hosting guests, whether it’s a few close friends, or a crowd of 100, we tend to provide an over-abundance of food. Often, we prepare much more than we really need because it would be super embarrassing to run out of salmon and cucumber canapes midway through the party – or would it? With a bit of a mind shift we can shed our insecurities about not having enough and instead take pride in having just the right amount or even, in running out. As long as everyone leaves satisfied, there’s no reason to have a surplus.
Canning, pickling, freezing – these skills might have been second nature to your grandmother, but many of us have forgotten how or why we do it. Learning to make homemade treats like jam is a great way to use fruits and veggies that you won’t have time to eat.
Don’t be fooled by “best before” dates
“Best before” doesn’t mean “toxic after.” Understand what the different date labels on your food really mean and remember that often they are guidelines. Just because a product is no longer at its prime, doesn’t mean it will make you sick. Use your own judgement with sight and smell to help determine if a product has gone bad. There are also some great online resources for understanding food product date labels, like this infographic.
Composting isn’t as scary as you may think and it has a huge environmental impact. Check this Food Matters Manitoba blog post for some tips on getting started.
How it helps
According to Statistics Canada, around 183 kilograms of food per person ends up in the trash each year. That’s the equivalent of about 300 wasted meals. Conversely, about 1 in 8 Canadians is food insecure, meaning they can’t afford or don’t have access to good food and a balanced diet.
Adjusting habits, like the ones listed above, are sometimes all it takes to create a positive change.
If you missed the screening, but would like to watch Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, it’s available to stream online.
If you think all Manitobans deserve to eat good food, consider joining us in our work by making a donation to Food Matters Manitoba.
Our work wouldn’t be possible without your generous gifts!