Spending too much on groceries? Cut the waste to save on food

Spending too much on groceries? Focus on waste

Canadians throw out $31 worth of food per week


With families feeling the pinch in their grocery bills Canadians are doing everything they can to save on food. Some are switching grocery stores while others are buying cheaper alternatives. But many continue to overlook the one area that can have the biggest impact on lowering their food spending—cutting waste.

$31 a week. $1,600 a year. That’s how much food ends up in the average Canadian green bin. “A lot of people have a habit of wasting food,” says Ralph C. Martin, a professor at the Ontario Agricultural College, department of plant agriculture, University of Guelph. That’s a problem. While almost a third of Canadians say they find it hard to afford food, a recent Canadian food waste poll sponsored by FoodSaver, a purveyor of vacuum sealer storage systems, found as many as one-in-seven families have no remorse when it comes to throwing it out.

From the store to the green bin

The national survey was conducted by Angus Reid and tracks the opinions of 1,026 adult Canadians who are primarily or jointly responsible for grocery shopping and cooking across the country.

As for why so much food is being tossed, many of the reasons are predictable. Food goes bad too quickly (57%), it’s past its expiration date (44%), cooked too much (19%), and kids who don’t finish their meals (11%).

Source: FoodSaver Canadian Food Waste Poll

In an attempt to save money, some Canadians are buying bulk, switching grocery stores and, in some cases, even shying away from fresh food. More than half of the respondents reported they are buying more processed or preserved food because they can’t afford to buy fresh. But these approaches may not be the most effective way to control your costs.

Focus on waste

According to Martin, the families who are controlling their food costs aren’t the ones who are scrimping at the grocery store. Food awareness is a big factor in controlling costs, he says. Households where a family member has a special diet tend to have less waste, he explains. Buying bulk and shopping at discount stores may not be the solution either. As counterintuitive as that sounds, there’s some evidence to support this.

Grocery shoppers can get lured into spending more by focusing too much on the cost per unit, but in order to get that price stores require you to buy in larger quantities. “You are better off buying less and eating it than buying more and throwing it out,” says Martin.

Spending more on things like organic groceries, may even help some families save. The Canadian Organic Trade Association reported in September that the average household who buys organic food spends $27 more a week than a typical household. But as Martin points out, if you are spending more your family has a greater incentive to cut waste. You’d be better off buying organic, says Martin, noting that you’d still save $4 bucks a week—provided you don’t waste.

Surprisingly, despite nearly three-quarters of the people who say they have trouble affording produce, it still ranks as one of the foods most likely to be thrown out. (Not sure where to start curbing your waste? The infographic below shows you the foods that are wasted most often).

What foods are most likely to get tossed?

Hover over or tap the dots to see the numbers.

Source: FoodSaver Canadian Food Waste Poll

It’s worth noting that less than 5% have trouble affording deserts and they rarely go wasted—which suggests, if there’s a will to curb waste, there’s a way.