On average, households with children generate 80 per cent more avoidable waste than those without kids, according to a recent City of Edmonton food waste review.
That is no surprise to Dora Berry, a mother of two, even though she has years of experience as a resourceful cook, sustainable landscape designer and active composter.
“I can see that,” she said. “I can understand that. My kids are 10 and eight and we’ve made a lot of changes over the years. But prior to that — before those changes happened — it was really hard.”
Berry says in the past, her family’s active life made avoiding waste difficult. She and her husband both work and her kids are in school plus extra-curricular activities.
“They’re busy. They are running around and they don’t always eat what you put in front of them.”
But as Berry’s girls have grown, she has prioritized saving not just food and time, but money as well. According to the National Zero Waste Council, an average Canadian household squanders $1,100 a year by wasting food.
More than anything, Berry wants her girls to share her mindset.
“You just don’t waste food,” she said.
Here’s a look at how Berry has trimmed back on the food her family tosses.
Buy for the week
A nod to her Italian heritage, Berry resists the urge to stock up on a few weeks worth of food and only purchases fresh food she knows her family will eat within the week. She consciously portions out her purchases, right down to only buying the number of apples she is confident her family will consume over the next seven days.
“We come home and hopefully right away wash everything and put them in the fridge. We have a crisper that the kids can just open that drawer and if they’re hungry grab a carrot or celery. It’s accessible. It’s ready to go.”
Grow a garden
Berry grows fruits and vegetables in both her front and backyard and uses the produce to supplement their grocery shopping. They pick what they need and leave the rest.
Meal prep for two days
Berry either cooks a double dose of dinner so there are leftovers the following day, or she will earmark a specific ingredient for something else. For example, if she cuts up a big zucchini for a pasta, she will plan to use the rest in a different recipe the following day. She doesn’t even use the word leftovers, it’s just “tomorrow night’s meal.”
“We also freeze quite a bit too. So if we plan for two meals and then the next night we end up doing something different, that second meal will go in the freezer.”
Berry says she and her husband also avoid food waste by allowing their daughters to portion out their own dinner servings. She encourages them to start small and return for seconds or thirds if they are still hungry.
“But don’t start off with a heap because even as adults, sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs,” Berry said.
Berry’s family didn’t make these changes overnight. It took years of making small, practical changes to get down to two black garbage bags on the curb every three weeks.
“We’ve lost the mindfulness because of convenience and we need to just realize that, yes, our lives are busy and it needs to be easy so we can do all the things we want to do, but when we are rushing to the grocery store, just to slow down… and say, ‘What’s the better option?'”