Save. Spend. Splurge.

We waste about half of our food each year

For Canadians, about 51% of food gets wasted (thrown in the garbage) and Americans waste about 40%, and worldwide we waste about 1/3 of our food collectively.

As Canadians, we toss about $27 billion worth of of edible food into the garbage each year.


Reasons why consumers waste food:

  • Confusion about food safety: sell-by, best-by dates
  • Buying in bulk and not being able to finish it (massive buckets of peanut butter for instance)
  • Restaurants expected to serve huge portion sizes but consumers don’t eat it all or take it home
  • We buy once a week rather than small batches during the week, and food gets thrown out
  • Don’t anticipate eating out, so the food stays uneaten in the fridge

Sickening, isn’t it?

I can tell you that my sister-in-law does this (even she admits it).

She goes out on a HUGE shopping spree of $200 each time, buys a ton of food, but has no idea how to cook it in meals, and/or just orders takeaway because she doesn’t want to cook each night (understandable).


She buys something specific for a meal, and is not being able to finish it because all she needed was a bit. Then it all goes in the garbage.

Also, thank goodness for pop companies making HALF-sized cans now, because she used to crack open a can, drink half, and later, throw the other half away because the bubbles had disappeared.


How to avoid wasting food:

  • Meal plan — think about what you want to make, and buy enough for those meals
  • Double-up on ingredients — only need half of a special ingredient? Find another recipe to use it in
  • Cook once for the week — Do all the vegetable washing and prepping on Sundays
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry — It’s too easy to over purchase if you’re hungry as well

I do most of this. I buy what I think I’ll need for the week. One steak is enough for 4 meals for me, with some rice and vegetables, and I also take stock of whether I have a dinner/lunch out or not.

When I work, I cook on Sundays for all my lunches and dinners during the week.

How do you manage food waste?


  • SarahN

    I try to shop a meal at a time, which is efficient as I live so close to a supermarket and green grocer. It really keeps waste down, as I try to buy things in the right quantities. Occasionally I get bored of a bulk meal I might trash the last half of the meal that I can’t stomach – but usually that’ll ne at work for lunch, and if I don’t eat it I pretty much will go hungry, which is a good motivator!

  • CorianneM

    I do a little meal planning and I always strive to finish all my non-stock ingredients such as veggies and meat/fish and cheese before I take another trip to the supermarket. Sometimes you get weird combinations, but sometimes they turn out good. I always have lots of rice or noodles on hand, so most of the times it turns out to be something Asian-inspired.

    Having only a few ingredients is also a good creativity exercise and you can pretend you are in Masterchef in one of the invention challenges 😉 (though I’m not that skilled at cooking [yet])

  • Leslie Beslie

    Meal planning is still difficult for me but what I have been doing is thinking about my week before going grocery shopping. For example, I was going to buy groceries today after work but then I remembered that I’m going out to dinner tonight, eating at a bbq tomorrow, and will be gone most of the day Sunday. Any produce I buy today has potential of going bad by the time I get around to eating it on Monday. So, thinking about my actual schedule ahead of time has really helped decrease my food waste.

  • Sense

    This is one of my major flaws. It REALLY bothers me about myself! I grew up with my Dad throwing everything away that had been in the fridge longer than three days, and he trained me to do the same and would yell at me if I didn’t do it. A whole family died from food poisoning when he was young and impressionable, and he is adamant about this rule. The waste is insane, but he refuses to change. I always feel sort of gross and like I’m taking a risk if I eat stuff that has been in my fridge longer, but I’m working on this psychological bugaboo…one time I even ate a cooked chicken that had been in the fridge for a whole week and a half! Didn’t die, though I kind of thought I would get sick at least! 🙂

    Really, I just need to meal plan. I hate cooking and HAVING to eat (note that doesn’t say that I hate eating) so food is always the least of my priorities!

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      You know, there’s a small chance that people COULD die, but it’s best to be safe rather than sorry. I can understand your dad’s concern, but in that case.. purchase less? 🙂

      I like to eat, and I can eat the same thing all the time so it becomes easier if I just cook once for the whole week. Maybe you could try that?

  • Amanda

    I am HORRIBLE at wasting food for all the reasons you listed. I’ve been trying really hard to break this habit, but it’s been a slow process. I’ve also been much more conscious about the food packaging waste. I eat a lot of take-out, or “meals to go” which include so much packaging that most of the time isn’t even recyclable.

  • Cindy

    I make part of a household of two. I like to prepare dinners where I have leftovers for lunch. When I cook, I usually cook for about four to five people. Since I live in a small household, I put the leftovers in individual serving containers that are then put into my freezer for future lunches. That way, I always have an inventory of meals that I can take out and defrost for lunch at work.
    This works really well for me because when I buy fresh protein and vegetables, they usually come in quantities that are much larger than a two-person household can realistically consume in one sitting. So I circumvent the waste issue by preparing the food all at once and consuming it over the course of a week or two. Saves money, prevents waste :).

  • Krista

    Thank you for this post – straightforward and effective. It’s a personal obsession of mine to not waste food. I think an important thing regarding use-by dates is how we’ve stopped trusting our own senses. Something will show no signs of having gone bad and we’ll toss it on the day it says use by ‘just in case.’ I understand being safe but we also have to understand that stores are SUPER safe to avoid any conflict/law suits etc. so we should always include a little grace period and trust our senses when it comes to what we’ve purchased.

    • saverspender @ save. spend. splurge.

      @Krista: I’d agree with this. Your senses can tell you whether something has gone bad or not. Sometimes when I opened a milk bag, the sourness would waft up and even though it said it was still good, I knew it had gone bad by the smell.

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