‘Waste Not Want Not’ was a daily refrain my Mother used to encourage us to eat all of the food on our plate. Wasting food used to be right up there with stealing, as a sin just a few decades ago. These days food waste is an everyday occurrence – AND a real problem. Not only for your wasted money, time and energy, but for the environment and global food security too. Yes, that plate of wasted food does affect the starving children in Africa.


The good news? We can ALL do something about it.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that one third of all of the food produced is lost or wasted. 1 billion people are starving yet enough food is wasted to feed 3 billion people!


Food waste occurs at many levels of our food system – from the ‘farm to fork’. In developed countries most of the waste occurs in homes and restaurants.


A study done at Guelph’s George Morris Center showed that 40% of Canadian food is being thrown out. Of this 40%, 51% is wasted from homes. Most of it is edible and some is still in its original packaging.


But we compost! Isn’t it o.k. to throw away food if we put it in the compost?



When we throw out food we are wasting all of the resources that went into producing it – the land, water, energy and labor used in growing, harvesting, storing, transporting, processing and packaging. Resources are also used in the transport of the food waste to the garbage dump or the municipal compost.


 In 2050 the world population is predicted to be over 9 billion people and food production will need to increase 70%. But, if we develop habits and attitudes to reduce food waste now, it will reduce the need for increased food production in the future.


Food waste has a huge environmental impact. That mushy tomato is not harmlessly rotting at the dump. Food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas, which is 25 times more damaging than CO2 when it comes to climate change. In the United Kingdom it was estimated that If food waste stopped, it would be equal to taking 1 of every 5 cars off of the road, in terms of gas emissions.


Hopefully this news is helping you work up an appetite to decrease food waste in your home! 


Here are some tips to decrease food waste:


  • Start by keeping track of your family’s food waste for a week. Either write it down or keep a container in the freezer to collect it.

  • Plan your meals before going grocery shopping.

  • Include meals that use several of the same ingredients for that week

  • Include a meal in your weekly meal plan that can use up an assortment of wilted veggies, such as a soup, stew or frittata.

  • Turn tired veggies into soups or stews, mushy fruit into smoothies, muffins, crisps or sauces, and stale bread into croutons, bread pudding or French toast.

  • Plan to use leftovers in lunches or other meals.

  • Be realistic about your time to prepare foods.

  • Stick to your grocery list and avoid impulse purchases.

  • Store food properly.

  • Know that ‘best before ‘ is not an expiry date but refers to freshness of an unopened product. Many foods can be eaten several days after this date (but once a product is opened it should be eaten within days.)

  • Cook smaller amounts if you often throw out leftovers

  • Serve smaller amounts if food is often left on a plate

  • Plan to eat more perishable foods such as leafy greens soon after a shopping trip and less perishable foods such as carrots later.

  • Don’t overstuff your fridge so that you can’t see what is in there.

  • Rotate foods so that the oldest are in front and the newest are in back.

  • Compost food scraps

  • Visit Farmer’s markets and keep a garden to feel more connected to your food.

  • Talk about food waste with your family, friends and neighbours


It is a win-win situation!


You save money….AND the world! Way to go Mom and Dad!


Two great websites on food waste:



Waste Not, Want Not

by Edie Shaw-Ewald, RD

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© 2018 by The Dietitians Network of Nova Scotia.