The 8 most wasted foods & how to save them

The 8 most wasted foods & how to save them

Here’s some food for thought: 60% of the food produced in Canada (around 35.5 million tonnes) is wasted every year. The kicker? 32% of that waste is actually edible food. That means we’re throwing out 11.2 million tonnes of perfectly good food that could have been avoided.

While Canadians throw out all kinds of foods—most of which could have been avoided—there are some we tend to waste more than others (RIP bread). In this post, we uncover the 8 foods we waste the most and how to save them from the bin.

1. Potatoes

Canadians waste a staggering 2,400,000 potatoes every single day, which is baffling since potatoes are some of the most versatile (and delicious) vegetables with an incredibly long shelf life—3-5 weeks in the pantry and 3-4 months in the fridge. Just make sure to store them in a cool dark place away from onions so they don’t grow sprouts (this will help prolongate their shelf life).

Quick fixes for leftover potatoes

  • Oversalted a soup or stew? If you have half a raw potato sitting in your fridge, throw it in to help absorb some of the salinity and balance out your dish.
  • Bake and grate your potatoes, store them in an airtight container, and freeze them for ready-to-go hash browns. 
  • Transform your leftover mashed potatoes into loaded fried mashed potatoes with this finger-licking recipe from Delish.
  • Add them as an ingredient in your minestrone soup for a hardier meal!

2. Bread

Did you know almost 900,000 tonnes of bread are wasted globally every year? That’s the equivalent of 7.5 CN Towers! Some of the biggest culprits of bread waste include buying too much and poor storage. And to this we say: only buy what you need and never keep bread in the fridge since low temperatures extract moisture and speed up staleness. The best would be to store it in a muslin bread bag at room temp. Though despite proper storing, sometimes getting stuck with a few dry leftover slices is inevitable. So here’s what to do about it.

Quick fixes for leftover bread

  • Freeze it! Whether it’s a baguette or an entire loaf, bread can be frozen to avoid it from going stale.
  • Already stuck with dry crusty bread? Make DIY breadcrumbs by blitzing them in a food processor with dried herbs and spices.
  • Use leftover slices to make French toast. We love this recipe from Ricardo.
  • Turn that day-old bread into homemade croutons you can use on salads and soups.

3. Rice

It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve cooked rice, somehow we always wind up with leftovers. A quick fix is to always measure your rice for the correct portions to avoid leftovers in the first place. But if you’re currently stuck with uneaten cooked rice, the struggle then becomes what to make of the extras. 

Lucky for you, plain steamed leftover rice (brown or white) is one of the easiest ingredients to use up because its bland flavour can be paired with virtually any other savoury ingredient for a fabulous new meal.

Quick fixes for leftover rice

  • Make fried rice by tossing it in a hot wok with garlic, onions, vegetables (a great time to use up more leftovers), soy sauce and sesame oil.
  • Add to soup for a meal that’s filling and comforting.
  • Use it as a base for your rice bowl and get creative! Rice bowls serve as a great opportunity to use up all the leftovers hiding in your fridge—from leafy greens like spinach to peas, cucumber and proteins like eggs, chicken or fish.

4. Bananas

A new study from Karlstad University in Sweden reports that bananas are one of the most wasted foods and contribute to the most food waste in terms of weight and environmental impact. We get it—bananas go from yellow to overripe in a flash. But that doesn’t mean they’re destined for the garbage. The next time you’re at the supermarket, buy a few single bananas with varying degrees of ripeness instead of choosing a bunch. That way they’ll ripen at different speeds giving you more time to eat them. If ever you’re stuck with overripe bananas, try these quick fixes.

Quick fixes for overripe bananas

  • Chop and freeze so you can add them to your morning smoothie.
  • Freeze then use them to make these frosty banana nice cream recipes from Minimalist Baker.
  • Bake banana bread. Got a leftover zucchini? You can chuck it in there too.
  • Blend them into your pancake batter to make fluffy banana pancakes (don’t forget the chocolate chips!)

5. Apples

Despite the saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” Canadians still manage to waste 1,225,000 apples per day. To make them last longer, store them in a cool, dark place like the crisper drawer in your fridge—that is, unless you’re planning on eating them in the next 3 days, in which case you can keep them on your counter. 

If you’ve got too many apples than you can handle or have a small bunch that have grown bruised and mushy, you can still make the most of them with these food-waste kitchen hacks.

Quick fixes for leftover apples

  • Turn bruised or mushy apples into applesauce or chop ‘em up to make apple crisp.
  • Instead of throwing away those apple peels, infuse them in boiling water with a cinnamon stick for a comforting cup of apple tea, which has been said to help cleanse the kidneys.
  • Slice them up into thin discs, dust a bit of cinnamon on top and dehydrate in the oven for crunchy apple chips.

6. Leafy greens

Leafy greens like spinach and kale are vegetables that contain high humidity, which contributes to them wilting faster. To prevent your leafy greens from wilting prematurely, wrap them in a moist tea towel or cloth. This will help the leaves keep their moisture, so they stay crisp and last longer in the fridge. But if you’re past that stage and already have a few sad-looking greens on your hands, there are a few things you can do.

Quick fixes for leftover leafy greens

  • When in doubt, add them to your smoothie for a nutritious boost.
  • Got a handful of spinach or Swiss chard sitting in the fridge? Add them to soup for an extra healthy meal.
  • Wilted greens like cabbage are excellent for making Kimchi, a fermented Korean condiment and natural probiotic.
  • Blitz them into homemade pesto with garlic, walnuts, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan. 
  • Make herb oil by infusing leftover basil leaves in olive oil. Perfect to drizzle over salad, pasta, or pizza!

7. Milk

Milk can be tricky sometimes. You want to buy enough for all your recipes, but you don’t want to buy too much so that it doesn’t go bad in the fridge. So when you wind up with the latter, you need to find ways to quickly use it up or else risk pouring it down the drain along with your money. Here are a few tips and ticks on how to use up that extra milk quickly.

Quick fixes to avoid milk waste

  • Freeze into ice cube trays then whip them up into a milkshake with frozen fruits and ice cream.
  • If you’re stuck with a lot of milk (we’re talking at least a gallon), this homemade ricotta cheese recipe is a godsend. 
  • Add to soup with leftover root vegetables and blend into a creamy velouté.
  • Treat yourself to hot chocolate. You deserve it!
  • Make a bechamel with flour, butter, milk and a pinch of nutmeg, then freeze for when you do a casserole.

8. Cheese

Cheese is one of the few dairy products that lasts a long time. Yet somehow, it’s still one of the most wasted foods, with 3.1 million slices of cheese thrown away daily. Not only is it a lot of unnecessary food waste, but it’s also a waste of resources if you think of how much energy, water, time, and money goes into producing cheese. You have to care for the livestock, process the milk, transport the cheese and distribute it to stores—all of which increase our carbon footprint, contributing to climate change.

But there are actions you can take to help cut down on CO2—and it starts by saving your perfectly good leftover cheese from the bin using these simple zero-waste solutions. 

Quick fixes for leftover cheese

  • Make a cheese sauce by melting bits of leftover cheese into a bechamel you can then use as the foundation for your mac ‘n’ cheese, lasagna or cauliflower casserole.
  • If you bought in bulk or know your cheese is about to go bad, freeze it! Check out our quick guide on how to freeze your cheese like a pro.
  • For hard cheese, grate leftovers on top of nachos or any pasta dish.
  • Bought too many wheels of brie or camembert? Then you’ll love this decadent baked brie recipe from Trois Fois Par Jour.

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