Archive for Food Issues

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 LoveFoodHateWaste.ca 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.

 

 

Slow Cookers for the DTES

As a food blogger, I often work closely with PR agencies around the city. They invite me to events, to try new products and restaurants. It’s a great relationship, and it is beneficial for both of us.

I recently had an email from Rachel over at Dunn PR, alerting me to a new project that they are volunteering on. Let me tell you about it.

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Last month, I wrote a post about food deserts, and how tough it is to eat healthy on a tiny budget. Many people who live in the DTES live on a budget of $25 or less a week for their food. As you can imagine, this is a big challenge, and they often can’t get through the week without the help of food banks, or soup kitchens.

Whole Way House is a charitable organization located in the DTES, and they service the residents of an SRO called The Avalon, located at Main and Pender. Whole Way House provides community services, like family dinners, games nights, haircuts, pet therapy, and a community garden.

One of the challenges of living in an SRO is that you have no kitchen. Many residents have a small fridge or maybe a toaster oven or a hot plate. But they don’t have a full, functioning kitchen. Cooking healthy food can be a real challenge.

Whole Way House is partnering up with Chef David Robertson, of The Dirty Apron cooking school, to do crock pot cooking classes for the residents of The Avalon. Slow cookers are the perfect tool for people who live an SRO. You can cook an entire meal in there, start to finish, and you make those meals healthy soups, stews and curries. In addition, they are incredibly safe, and the long cooking process makes most things you make in there quite flavourful and delicious.

Chef Robertson has been a supporter of Whole Way House for a while. He lives in the neighbourhood, and has a friend that works there. In the past, he’s hosted fundraisers for the charity, has offered his Dirty Apron kitchen so they can cook their Christmas turkeys, and and regularly donates leftovers from the cooking school.

“We all have a role to play in the community,” he says, when I interview him in the kitchen classroom at The Dirty Apron. “I see food as a medium to help in the community.”

Whole Way House’s mandate is combat lonliness in the DTES, and create that sense of community, so when they asked him if he would teach a slow cooker cooking class, he said yes.

He will teach the first class on February 29, and it will be a riff on the Boeuf Borgignon recipe in his recently published Dirty Apron Cookbook.

“Stew is perfect for slow cookers,” he says. “It’s rustic, and it doesn’t demand a lot of specialty tools. They basically just need a knife and cutting board.”

The recipe is inexpensive, and can easily feed a number of people. The class will include a shopping list, including how much each item costs.

I took Chef Robertson’s recipe to the Sunshine Market on the DTES and shopped for the ingredients. All together, it cost me under $12.71 to purchase the ingredients (with bacon left over). This recipe will feed 3-4, especially if you include a side dish, like pasta, potatoes or bread.

Here’s the Chef demoing the recipe on a recent episode of Breakfast Television:

How can you help?

UPDATE: the slow cooker cooking class was a big success! Thanks to everyone who donated.

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