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Let’s waste less food in 2015

food waste

Food bloggers and various groups love talking about what’s ‘in’ on the food scene as a new year begins. For 2015, we’re told to expect sustained interest in local food and how food production impacts the environment, eating healthier, a fondness for ‘mini’ food, more meatless Mondays, demand for more intense flavours and so on.

There’s some gab about lessening the amount of food we waste too.

I was thinking about that as I chopped up a crown of broccoli the other day.

We’ve been reminded again recently how utterly wasteful we are with our food. Just before Christmas, the Canadian consulting firm Value Chain Management International, published an updated report on the amount we throw away; it’s an enormous and expensive heap worth $31 billion a year. That doesn’t even account for all the energy, water and other resources to produce it.

Why does so much food end up trashed? Waste happens at all levels, including about 10 per cent on farms, and plenty more at stores, hotels and restaurants. As one unnamed food industry expert quoted in VCM’s report puts it: “Consumers are busy picking off deals, while retailers and suppliers are busy picking off each other. This produces enormous amounts of food waste and is unsustainable.”

That might make you want to blame The Big Bad Food System, of course, yet you and I are the biggest culprits of all. Consumer food waste accounts for a full 47 per cent of that total volume of food thrown out. We buy too much and we don’t use it. We throw it away.

Early January is when we often make food and resolutions for a new year. One of mine for 2015 is to waste less food. I started with that broccoli. I save the stems and make soup. Here’s the recipe for that soup as well as some other ideas for reducing waste.

Broccoli Soup

a bowl of broccoli soup
Broccoli Soup photo: Thinkstock

Use any other leftover leafy vegetable you like in this soup such as brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or that kale that always seems to wilt before you get around to using it. No one could taste the handful of shrivelled cilantro I threw in.

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • A handful of pearl barley or red lentils
  • Leftover broccoli stalks (about two cups)
  • Salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Sour cream
  • A few tarragon leaves (optional)

Put the potatoes, onion, carrots, pearl barley or lentils in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli stalks and continue to cook until all the vegetables are just tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before blending to a smooth pure purée. Add a dab of sour cream and a few sprigs of herb if you wish.

Barley and Lentil Salad with Kale, Apples, Almonds and Feta

Kale photo: Thinkstock

After overeating at Christmas, lighter healthy foods are in order for January. This is a beautiful side dish or winter salad, brimming with good taste and nutrition and just 180 calories per serving. Enjoy.

  • 2-1/2 – 3 c. water
  • 1/2 c. green lentils
  • 1/2 c. pearl or pot barley
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or crushed
  • 2 – 3 c. finely chopped kale or spinach
  • 1 tart apple, cored and diced
  • 1/2 c. crumbled feta
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped purple onion


  • 1/3 c. canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. white wine or rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey or granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 c. chopped toasted almonds

In a large saucepan, combine water, lentils, barley and garlic. Boil for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, discarding the garlic, and set aside to cool completely. In a bowl, combine lentils and barley with kale, apple, feta and purple onion. To prepare vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together canola oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. Top with almonds just before serving.

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

Above recipes provided by: Canadian Lentils

Five simple things consumers can do to prevent food waste

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that an estimated one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is wasted annually. To make the world more food secure consumers need to make better use of the food that is produced by wasting less.

  1. Compost: Rotting food that ends up in landfills releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is a major contributor to global climate change and can negatively affect crop yields. Composting is a process that allows food waste to be converted into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for gardening.
  2. Donate to food banks: Donating food that you don’t plan to use is a great way to save food while helping to feed the needy in your community.
  3. Improve food storage: Food is often wasted because it isn’t stored properly which allows it to mould, rot, or get freezer burn. By storing food properly, consumers can reduce the amount of food they waste. The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) is a great resource for consumers to learn a range of techniques to increase the shelf life of food such as learning to blanch and freeze vegetables.
  4. Buy less food: People often buy more food than they need and allow the excess food to go to waste. Reducing food waste requires that consumers take responsibility for their food consumption. Instead of buying more food, consumers should buy food more responsibly.
  5. Shop for groceries responsibly: Consumers should make sure that they shop at places that practise responsible waste management. Many grocery stores are hesitant to donate leftovers to food banks because they are worried about possible liabilities if someone gets sick. But consumers can encourage grocery chains to reduce food waste by supporting local food banks in a responsible manner.


About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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