Summertime change-up: meal prep tips for less food waste

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      (This story is presented by .)

      The summer is a season for changing things up. With the longer and warmer days comes the opportunity to get outdoors in the sunshine, bring out the sandals and fun outfits, and indulge in alfresco dining at barbeques and picnics. Hearty winter meals make way for far lighter fare, like fresh local vegetables, fruits, and salads.

      In addition to changing what we eat, the summer is also a good time to adjust our food shopping and preparation habits, so that we can make more mindful decisions that save money and are better for the planet.

      The truth is food waste is one of the most monumental challenges facing the world today. In Canada alone, almost 60 percent of the food produced is lost or wasted annually, and 21 percent of that can be attributed to consumers.

      aims to inspire and empower people to waste less and make their food go further. It is a campaign with partners across Canada, organized by the , an initiative of Metro Vancouver.

      Although food waste is a major global issue, as consumers we can contribute to the solution. In Canada 21 percent of total food waste is attributed to households. The main causes of avoidable household food waste come from buying too much, cooking too much, or not storing it properly. All of this can be easily corrected with a few small changes to our mindset and behaviour. And a big part of the solution comes from planning.

      Top tips for easy summer meal planning

      A shopping list is a really good place to start, but don’t feel overwhelmed by the blank page. Look in your fridge and pantry and see what you already have that needs to be consumed. Top your list with ingredients that can be added to what you have available to create a meal.

      It’s also sensible to have a few basics on hand that can fill out or even resurrect a meal. Pasta, rice, and canned goods are good stock items, while spices and sauces last for a long time in your cupboard and can transform the blandest of ingredients into something tasty.

      If you’re unsure of how much to buy, a can be particularly useful, as it makes recommendations based on typical serving sizes and how many people you need to feed.

      Forward thinking doesn’t mean you have to add a whole new selection of recipes to your repertoire. It’s always good to have a few reliable, go-to meals that you can revisit every week or two. They will be a welcome guest at the dinner table on evenings that you don’t want to spend too much time slaving over a cookbook.

      In the same vein, don’t set yourself up for failure. Schedule nights that you won’t cook at all, so that you can order takeout or spend your evening on a patio. It is summer after all.

      Once you’ve completed your list, the key is sticking to it. Chances are, you know your grocery store pretty well, so plan the route in your mind before you walk through the doors. Remember, the goal is to make this quick and painless.

      Buying a little, more often, is better than doing a huge haul to last you for weeks. That’s because the less you buy, the less you waste. Simple as that. It also means that you can enjoy fresh produce, which will need to be consumed more quickly.

      Do not be lured by products on sale. Repeat that as a mantra as you’re walking around the store. It’s only value for money if you’re going to use it—or it was on your list already. Same goes for bulk buying, especially when it’s fresh.

      Cutting down on food waste doesn’t stop once you leave the grocery store. The next step is using what you buy. It can seem like a smart idea to cook big batches of food, but no one wants to eat the same thing for three days in row. And leftovers are one of the worst offenders when it comes to food waste ending up in landfills.

      If you find it more convenient to cook and prepare more food all at once, consider the ways it can be repurposed for different meals. For example, a roast chicken one night can be perfect when incorporated into a sandwich or salad the next day.

      Furthermore, meals like chili or lasagna can be portioned and frozen for a future dinner. When used properly, the freezer is a very useful ally when it comes to avoiding food waste.  

      For those who want to forgo the trip to the grocery store altogether, take advantage of some of farmers markets, where you can purchase fresh, seasonal produce, while also supporting local business.

      Using these tips will help prevent food waste—now that’s a great change!

      For more information, plus tips and advice on how to plan your purchases and use all the food you buy, visit the campaign website at . Follow this series to explore some of the simple actions you can take to prevent food waste.