Canadians buying more food in fewer trips to grocery store, still tossing out good food in pandemic

The pandemic has changed just about everything in life, including the amount of food the majority of Canadians bring home from each trip to the grocery store.

We’re shopping less often, but hauling more home. A recent Love Food, Hate Waste survey shows 61 percent of us buy more food each time we shop. And cooking more of our meals at home, too.

What hasn’t changed in the pandemic is that vegetables, fruits and leftovers still wind up in the landfill.

There’s an environmental cost for the habit. Landfilled food produces methane—a greenhouse gas that is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

There’s a financial ding, too.

The survey found that 63 percent of food thrown away or composted could have been eaten. For the average Canadian household, that costs $1,100 a year.

Poor planning is the main reason food is wasted. Food is unappealing when left in the fridge or freezer too long.

Here are some other takeaways from the survey worth posting on your fridge:

Some good news to throw in

“Canadians throw away or compost a lot of food that could have been eaten,” said Sarah Wilmot, City of Edmonton Waste Reduction Programs Supervisor. “But the good news is we’re also seeing signs of reducing our food waste from people who are planning out their meals, using leftovers more creatively and freezing items for later.”

Reducing food waste and using leftovers creatively is in everyone’s hands.

Three tips

The pandemic has had some positive effects on wasting food habits. A national survey from Dalhousie University found that 34.5 percent of respondents are “eating leftovers more often” and 22.5 percent are preserving, freezing and canning food more often.

Now is a good time to refresh our working knowledge of food waste reduction tips. Spoiler: your grandparents were, basically, right.

1. Know before you go. Check what’s in your fridge, freezer and pantry before shopping. Keep a shopping list on your fridge for easy access, or use a grocery list app.

2. Know before you stow and throw. Store food properly and safely. Understand ‘best before’ dates. They tell us about the shelf life, freshness, taste and nutritional content of unopened food items. They’re not indicators of food safety.

3. FIFO! First in, first out. Put older food items and leftovers at the front of the fridge or pantry where you can see them. Use clear containers for leftovers so you can easily see what’s inside.

Is your fridge FIFO-organized? First in, first out saves food, money and helps protect the environment.

Quiz, calculator, pledge and more

Learn more about your food habits and how you can save money and help the environment. 

Here’s a Food Waste Quiz to find how much wasted food you could be saving.

Take this food scrap conversion calculator to find out how your wasted food impacts the environment.

Check out ShareWaste, a free directory that connects people who have food scraps and garden materials to donate with those who have composters accepting materials.

Take the pledge to reduce food waste on October 23, 2020 during Waste Reduction Week.

On the way in

Some food scrap waste is going to happen so you’ll be glad to hear the City is introducing two programs to help you better manage it. Food scraps bins are being set up in City recreation centres, arenas and even in City Hall (which is still temporarily closed to the public).

The first bins were delivered last month, and the program will continue to roll out over the coming year to over 240 City-owned facilities. Also, single-family residential homes will be converting to a cart-based waste collection system next year, which includes a cart specifically for food scraps and yard waste.

The new recycling-food scraps-garbage bin at City Hall (which remains temporarily closed to the public). Similar bins will debut at 240 City-owned facilities.