Inspect your garbage frequently and shop reasonably

A yellow, blue, red and green garage bin against a wall on a sidewalk. Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash.

Before you go grocery shopping, take a look inside your garbage bin. Is there anything you commonly buy but never eat and throw away? Roughly 100,000 tonnes of food is wasted per year in Toronto. By taking note of the food you’re constantly throwing in the garbage, you can reduce unnecessary purchases and food waste. Looking at what we throw away can also help us decide if we are possibly buying too much.

It’s important to shop reasonably and try only to buy what will be eaten before it goes bad. While food that can be purchased in bundles or food on sale is something we can all benefit from, it defeats the purpose if that food then goes to waste. Overall, it’s important to reevaluate our shopping list once in a while and decide what you truly need and will eat to reduce food waste.

Shop in season and local

A sign outside of a store window says, “thank you for shopping local.” Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.

While most of us probably love eating strawberries, mangos, or zucchini pasta all year-round, the constant need for out-of-season produce has an unnecessary environmental impact that can be reduced by shopping seasonally and locally. Food sold in grocery stores that are out-of-season have a higher ecological footprint, as transporting products across the world to our grocery stores requires more energy than if we were to buy food from local farmers. Refrigeration and storage are also needed to keep food fresh when travelling and therefore require even more energy.

A great way to shop in season is to shop locally! Where we spend our dollars impacts the businesses around us. We must support local farmers as we know where and who our dollar is going to. If you’re not sure what’s in season, Foodland Ontario has a helpful Availability Guide for fruits and vegetables.

Reduce plastic by buying in bulk and using reusable produce and shopping bags

A burlap bag of apples. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

As convenient as it is to buy prepackaged items, the extra packaging has an impact on our ecological footprint and can be minimized by shopping in bulk. Bulk products don’t usually come prepackaged, allowing you to buy as much as you need. Many stores that sell in bulk also allow the use of reusable containers, but considering pandemic restrictions, we recommended calling your local stores to see what their protocols are.

Along with prepackaged items, plastic produce bags and plastic shopping bags are conveniently placed in stores. While this may be an easy way to shop, about 15 billion plastic bags are used per year in Canada. This can be easily avoided by investing in a few reusable shopping bags as well as some mesh produce bags. Reusable shopping and produce bags are commonly sold in grocery stores but can also be found online. If you are buying these products online, we recommend buying second-hand or purchasing them from small businesses.

Buy produce that doesn’t look “pretty”

A bruised banana peel. Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash.

You’re standing in the fruit aisle and you’re faced with the decision to buy the beautiful, red sparkling apple or the bruised spotted one. The majority of people won’t hesitate to pick the nicest looking produce available, but it’s worth buying produce that doesn’t look as “pretty.” All the produce that doesn’t get chosen because it isn’t the ideal shape or colour ends up going in the garbage—but it’s just as good as the produce being picked!

Many grocery stores have carts where they sell produce on sale because it’s about to go bad or it doesn’t look good enough to be on the shelves.

Learn how to store food properly

Food in reusable containers. Photo by Ello on Unsplash.

Now that you’ve finished grocery shopping and are back at home, the last step is putting the food away. This is a key step in reducing food waste as proper storage can be the reason your food lasts you weeks OR expires the next day. While most people know perishables should be stored in the refrigerator, many people don’t know the temperature setting of their fridge.

To keep food fresh, keep your refrigerator at a temperature of 4°C (39°F) or colder, and keep your freezer at −18°C or lower. Pay attention to which products should be washed before put away or right before eating. Another recommendation is to use the FIFO system, which stands for First-In First-Out. By rotating older food to the front of the fridge, it encourages your household to consume that first before opening new food. More specifics on proper food storage can be found on the Government of Canada’s website.

Overall, there are many things you can do to reduce food waste and shop sustainably. While we might not be able to do it all, it’s worth taking a few small steps in the right direction. If everyone were to follow just one of these tips, an abundance of food would be saved from landfills, less plastic would be used, and we’d be able to shift our ecological footprint in a better direction.

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