Stop Wasting Food – 7 Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home

written by Jane Grueber
Canada has hit a new record high in food waste. Canadians waste approximately $31 billion on food every year, 47 percent is wasted in the home. In North America, over 30 percent of fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets because they aren’t attractive enough to consumers. This is unfortunate because in Canada, limited access to nutritious and affordable food is linked to poor health outcomes.

What is the primary contributor to so much food waste?

According to Cut Waste, Grow Profit 2014 report, high expectations and demand for high-quality, aesthetically pleasing food are key factors behind the volume of food waste occurring among consumers. Other factors contributing to food waste included low food literacy as well as limited awareness of the economic and environmental impact.

Picture by Ryan McGuire

Food and the Senses, an e-Magazine for Food & Beverage Manufacturers recently published an article on “The Role of Sensory Properties in Food Development: All of the senses influence what people choose to eat, so how do you stimulate them in new products?”  It reveals some interesting and important information about all the elements food companies consider when developing new ‘products’.

In fact, they have it down to a science:

“Foods must smell fresh or ripe, and have what we recognize as the proper color, size, shape, consistency and opacity. Sound is important, as consumers know foods must maintain a certain level of crunch, bubble, sizzle, pop, snap and crackle, without negatively affecting shelf life or nutritional profile.” 

Industry research studies are carefully designed to pin point what exactly consumers like and at what point they like it more than another similar product. Before a product sees the light of day, food scientists conduct a variety of tests to maximize ‘product acceptance’.

It is our keen senses with high-standards that drive much of our food buying behaviour and food waste. So what happens to the food that doesn’t have just the right snap, pop, crunch, fizz that we are accustomed to having? It goes in the dumpster.

Think outside of the box

Researchers at the University of Guelph’s Food Institute are looking beyond the economic and environmental impact of food waste. They are looking for ways to motivate and equip consumers with strategies so they feel they can reduce food waste in their homes.

Interestingly, preliminary research showed that people with high levels of food literacy or food awareness (people who are on special diets, who have food allergies, etc.) produced less waste in the home. They believe that all consumers can make a huge difference in the amount of food waste by changing some simple things on a daily basis. They recommend the following:

  • Make a list before you go shopping
  • Do smaller, more frequent shopping trips and buy what you need
  • Don’t go shopping when you are hungry (research shows that you buy more than you need)
  • Be an inventory manager at home – check your cupboards & refrigerator – what do you already have and what do you need
  • Be creative and re-purpose left overs
  • Learn more about food storage/get some food storage containers
  • If you have too much food and you know you won’t use it – donate it or cook a meal for a neighbour or friend in need.

This is an informative 4 minute video that summarizes food waste and its global impact.

Law of the Land

France used to waste approximately 7 metric tons of food per year. In early 2016, the French Senate unanimously passed a law that forbids Supermarkets from trashing food approaching its best-before date. Instead, Supermarkets now give that food to charities and food banks. Various charities have estimated that they will be able to give out millions of free meals to people in need.

Consumers, charities and anti-poverty activists lobbied for this law and now hope to influence the EU into adopting similar legislation in EU member states.

How do you reduce food waste in your home? Share your tips and tricks in the comment section below.

More reading on the topic of food waste:

  1. The Food Institute, Univeristy of Guelph, Hunger & Undernutrition Blog: Fighting Food Waste: How to Really Inspire Individuals to Reduce
  2. The Food Institute, University of Guelph, Podcast: The shocking stuff that shows up in our garbage
  3. Second Harvest Food Rescue Second Harvest’s mission is to rescue and deliver fresh, surplus food to feed people experiencing hunger.



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