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Here's how many billions of dollars of food Canadians waste

Joanne Richard
Special to The Weather Network

Sunday, December 17, 2017, 2:15 PM - Now here’s something that may give you indigestion: $31 billion of food is trashed in Canada every year, and tons of that food waste happens over the holiday season.

We overbuy, over bake and over cook and what we don’t eat goes into the garbage. It’s shameful but lots of us also trash our eco-friendly habits over the holidays in the rush to clean up, generating problems long after the festivities die down.

“About 40 per cent of household waste is organics: that’s food scraps, both edible and inedible, and leaf and yard waste. That turns into methane gas in the landfill, contributing to global warming,” says Teresa Looy, compost program coordinator at Winnipeg-based greenactioncentre.ca.

Making sure food doesn’t go bad and gets eaten instead being served to landfills is the first and most important step to reducing waste, says Looy. Do not fear leftovers! 

“It’s a good idea to make at least one meal over the holidays a low-key buffet style where people can have leftovers of their favourite holiday dishes that were too plenteous to consume when it was made fresh," she says.

Never, ever feel bad about sending home care-package containers with friends and relatives, but do feel bad about serving up food with single-use items, like disposable cups and plates and plastic utensils. Many recycling programs won’t take greasy paper plates, or plastic ones, so be sure to check with your region or municipality before buying them, or you risk feeding the earth toxic ingredients.

“You may find yourself getting overwhelmed during the holiday season and resorting to disposables. Try not to fall into this trap,” she stresses. Mix, match and borrow instead. Reach into your cupboard full of reusable plates, ask people to bring their own if you’re short and make it part of the event to wash up together. “Throw on some tunes and pull out those towel-whipping skills on your cousins, just be sure to stop before somebody calls for mom.”

Make merry and the planet happy by always focusing on the first R of the 4Rs: Reduce. Sadly, households waste an entire bag of groceries worth of food for every five bags bought, reports Zerowastecanada.ca.

“While waste is a year-round issue, the holiday season, with its focus on giving and altruism, is a great time to take a second look at our habits and see if we can make some changes – a New Year’s resolution, perhaps?”

Embed from Getty Images

Waste not, want not:

· Make a meal plan with a grocery list.

· Take stock of items you already have before grocery shopping. Incorporate the food items that you already have, and that need to be used, into your holiday menu. Find recipes online that use ingredients that you have in your pantry.

· Stick to your shopping list. Don’t buy extra food.

· Be realistic about portion sizes. Figure about 1 pound of turkey or less per person and approximately ha half cup per person for each side dish like mashed potatoes, stuffing, peas, turnip, etc.

· Savethefood.com is a great resource to help you figure out how much food you need based on how many people are coming for dinner or your party.

· Have storage containers ready for leftovers or make it a BYOC – ask guests to bring their own containers for their unfinished meal and to take leftovers home.

· Share leftovers with an elderly neighbour or someone who did not have a Christmas dinner.

· Don’t be afraid of leftovers. Generally, turkey can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days, and frozen for 4-6 months.

· Meat can be shredded, frozen and later thrown into casseroles, quesadillas, wraps, soups or on top of salads.

· Use leftover cranberry sauce as a topping for pancakes, waffles or ice cream.

· Leftover bread can be made into croutons, French toast, bruschetta or make a bread pudding.

· Stuffing leftovers make a great addition to a meatloaf instead of breadcrumbs.

· Leftover mashed potatoes can be used in Shepherd’s pie.

· If you produce food waste – who wants to eat banana peels or turkey bones? – compost it.

WATCH BELOW: How La Nina is set to impact food prices

Bonus Recipe: Turkey and Stars Soup

This delicious recipe from Grow What You Eat, Eat What You Grow, written by Randy Shore, a food, science and sustainability writer for the Vancouver Sun. His cookbook is published by Arsenal Press.

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups (500ml) diced onions

2 cups (500ml) diced carrots

2 cups (500ml) diced celery

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

½ cup (125ml) pinot grigio

12 cups (3L) turkey stock

1¼ cups (250g) stelline pasta

1 cup (250ml) diced green beans

3 cups (750ml) cubed leftover turkey

Parsley for garnish

In a large soup pot on medium low heat, add olive oil, carrots, celery, salt, pepper and thyme. Stir occasionally until softened, about five minutes. Add wine and reduce for 3 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil and add the pasta stirring continuously for about one minute to prevent sticking, then simmer 10 minutes. Taste stock and adjust seasoning. Add green beans and turkey, simmer another 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve with a turkey sandwich. Make 8 servings

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