Archive for Food Issues

The Power of Food to Heal

The late, great Anthony Bourdain once said “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”

Part of what I love about food is how it has the ability to bring people together, how it has the ability to quietly dissolve barriers between people who don’t see eye-to-eye. I challenge you to sit down at the table of someone you don’t think you have a lot in common with, and see how much in common you have once you’re done the meal. Eating with someone is a way to explore them–their culture, their dreams, their background. 

Sometimes my love of food takes me to interesting places, and a couple weeks ago, that place was Save On Meats in Vancouver’s DTES. 

Full disclosure: I live not far from here; though far enough west to be in a different postal code. The 4-block radius around Main and Hastings is considered to be the city’s poorest and most challenging neighbourhood. Here you’ll find addiction, homelessness, physical and mental illness, and hunger. 

So when I got an invite from my colleague, Sherri, to go and cook a meal for these folks, I had some anxiety about it. I wasn’t even 100% certain what I was signing up for, but I had a free Monday night, and it sounded like an interesting adventure, and a way to use my cooking skills for good and not evil (my friends are complaining I’m trying to make them fat). 

So I showed up at Save On Meats at 5 pm on a Monday night (and was grateful I knew a few of the other volunteers) and met Ash MacLeod, one of the co-owners (the other is Mark Brand). He explained that Save-On is a social enterprise, part profit-driven restaurant, part charity. Through their Better Life Foundation, they serve about 1,000 meals per day to residents of the DTES, primarily to those living in local SROs. 

He talked about the importance of community, and how isolating it is to deal with issues of addiction and poverty. We were there as part of the Plenty of Plates initiative, which invites local residents into the restaurant and then serves them a 3-course meal for free. While there certainly are lots of soup kitchens and charities that hand out food to local residents, some have an agenda (often a religious one), and few, if any, offer them a social experience in which to enjoy the food. Going to a restaurant to eat is something many of these people almost never get an opportunity to do. 

Sherri Sadler fundraised $3000 so that we could do this that night. Save-On has developed recipes that manage to get the menu down to $3.50 per person, and the entire thing is staffed and run by volunteers. Save-On donates the space, and all the drinks. 

There were about 20 of us, and we quickly divided ourselves into front- and back-of-the-house staff. We started at 5 pm with nothing, and were ready for service by 7:30 pm. 

The menu consisted of salmon croquettes (I believe the salmon was donated) with a dill aioli, a chicken alfredo pasta, and a scratch-made chocolate cake with a berry sauce and whipped cream. 

In all honesty, I spent a lot of the evening hiding out in the kitchen, but I really enjoyed creating with and getting to know the other volunteers. If I did this again, I think I’d try to do more serving and get a chance to know the guests a little more. 

I think there is often a perception of “us” against “them.” But the reality is, we could easily be them. We live in an extremely expensive city. Lose your job, without the right supports in place, you or I could end up in a similar situation. Compassion is the key. They’re people. We’re people. And food is the bridge. 

For more information, please visit: abetterlifefoundation.



Let’s Make Less Waste

Last year, I watched the documentary Just Eat it.  Jen and Grant are a local couple who decide to make a three-month commitment to not purchase groceries, but rather to scavenge every bit of food. It sounds weird, right? Who would take up dumpster diving if they didn’t have to? Well, it’s an incredibly interesting film, and if you haven’t watched it yet, it’s worth checking out.

Photo Credit: AdamCohn via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: AdamCohn via Compfight cc

I really hate throwing out food. Last year, the City of Vancouver introduced a mandatory food scraps program, and I was stoked. I spearheaded the introduction of the program into our building (which has 100 units), and it went really well. Now our food scraps go to Worm Works to create compost, instead of to the landfill.

Recycling! Yay! Composting! Yay! We’re reducing the amount of garbage we create, and therefore, our carbon footprint.

But what if we could reduce it even further by creating less waste? We waste a lot of food here in the Lower Mainland: 190,000 tonnes a year, according to David Suzuki. That translates into about $700 a year in groceries we are throwing away!

I can really be a food hoarder. Because I’m a food blogger, I like to have a stocked pantry, because I never know when I might need something to create a certain dish, and I hate having to run to the store all the time. When it comes to pantry items that don’t go bad, that’s probably okay, but sometimes I end up throwing out whole produce, and that makes me mad.

There’s a new website called that aims to help. Not only is it packed with tips about to reduce the amount of food you throw away, it even has menu planning! Kinda cool.

Let’s Make Less Waste!

    1. The freezer is your friend: I bought the smallest deep freeze I could find. It’s a tiny, apartment-sized chest freezer, and I love it. Freezing is a great option. You can buy in bulk, separate and freeze in smaller containers, or I often make big batches of cookies or soup or sauce and freeze in individual portions. I also buy frozen fruit in bulk that I use daily for smoothies. I buy big bunches of bananas, peel them, cut them into chunks, and freeze them on a cookie sheet, before storing them in a ziploc bag, again for smoothies. I love my freezer.
    2. Learn how to store produce for the long run: I’ll buy a pack of lettuce with three heads in it, bring it home, chop it, wash it, spin it dry, and then pack it into mason jars. It’ll stay fresh like that for a week or more. You can do the same with kale or spinach. Click here for more ways to store your produce.
    3. Plan your meals: one great way to reduce waste and save money is to plan your meals for the week. This means taking inventory of what you’ve got on hand (and needs to be used up), and then planning next week’s meals around that. Then go to the store and only buy what’s on your list!


    1. Make RC soups, stews, stirfrys and stocks: “RC” stands for “Refrigerator Cleanout,” not “Rebecca Coleman,” though you’re welcome to use my recipes. 😉 You can freeze the ends of things you’re not going to eat, like say, the kale stems, in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Once you have a bag full, throw it in your slow cooker with some onions and garlic, the carcass of a chicken if you have one, and let it simmer for 24 hours. You’ll be left with the most beautiful, rich stock for soups or risottos. You can do the same with leftover vegetables to create soups. You can always puree it into a smooth soup–that covers a multitude of flavours and textures. Tomato sauce is also great for throwing leftover veg into, and, again, you can puree it if you want to hide them better. All of these are also freezeable. I will also roast or stir-fry leftover vegetables for lunches. You just need to add some protein to make it a full meal.
    2. Give it away: I often double recipes, but I end up giving half of the recipe away. Why not help feed someone else?
    3. Buy ugly: I often shop at Sunrise Market, and they get a lot of “leftovers” there. A couple weeks back, they were selling 2 packages of blueberries for $1. I bought a bunch, brought them home and froze them, they are now making an appearance in my daily smoothie. 2016 is the year of the ugly fruits and vegetables. They don’t have to be pretty!
    4. Juice it! Speaking of ugly fruits and veg, I have a juicer, and it doesn’t matter if the fruit is a bit overripe, or it doesn’t look good when it’s just going into the juicer, it still tastes good when it comes out the other side. You can even use the leftover juice pulp to make bread and crackers.


  1. Grow your own! You can easily grow things like lettuce in a balcony box. I also grow herbs, strawberries, kale, and cucumbers (if the bugs don’t eat them). For more info on balcony gardening, click here.

What are your favourite waste- and money-saving tips? Share them in the comments below.



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