Want to save money and reduce kitchen waste? here’s how

A team of students from the University of Northern British Columbia have created a free online course to teach people how to reduce their kitchen waste, save money and help the planet at the same time.

With food prices 9.7% more in May this year than in May 2021, many people are looking for ways to save money in the kitchen.

In 2020 and 2021, a team of UNBC students developed a free online course to help people save money – and the planet – by reducing food, plastic and other waste in the kitchen. Their timing couldn’t be better.

The Eco Living Kitchen initiative grew out of the Fraser Basin Council’s Co-Creating a Sustainable BC program.

“The kitchen is a space that involved a lot of consumption. It’s a space that also produces a lot of waste,” said Helga Holler-Busch, outreach coordinator for Eco Living Kitchen.

“When it comes to food waste, we have to plan our meals very carefully. We have to go back to the mindset of our grandparents or great-grandparents…when it comes to tolerating things that don’t seem perfect. If there’s a stain on that apple on the counter, cut out the brown stain and throw it in a cobbler. That milk in the fridge that has reached its expiration date… you can still use it in coffee.

The Eco Living Kitchen team, comprised of Holler-Busch, Ann Duong, Shauna Kelly and Hannah Lawrence, developed a series of seven 60-90 minute workshops on topics including meal planning and smart shopping; reduce, reuse and recycle in the kitchen; grow your own food, even in a small space; composting; sustainable hunting and fishing; food fermentation and preservation; and use leftover food to prepare tasty and healthy meals. Workshop videos are available at Eco Living Kitchen YouTube channel.

Eco Living Kitchen also shares tips and information about their Facebook and instagram channels, Holler-Busch said.

Eco Living Kitchen’s top three tips for reducing food waste are:

  1. Meal plan and use it to inform your shopping list. Don’t buy too much of one thing.
  2. Prepare large dishes like chili, Dahl, casseroles and soup that can be frozen and used for more than one dinner.
  3. Organize your refrigerator according to what needs to be eaten first. This works well if you have snacks in your household. Have a special bin for things that need to be eaten/cooked first.

Reducing the use of single-use plastics like plastic bags, plastic food wraps and straws is good for the earth and can save money in the long run, Holler-Busch said.

“These Ziplock (bags) are reusable, if you wash them and don’t use them all the time for raw meat,” Holler-Busch said. “You can reuse a lot of food packaging.”

There are many reusable kitchen products on the market right now, such as metal straws, metal tea infusers instead of single-use tea bags, and reusable food wraps, she said, but their purchase represents a significant initial investment. In addition to keeping single-use plastics out of the landfill, reusable products save money in the long run.

“Beeswax wraps are very popular right now and are easy to make,” Holler-Busch added. “There are plenty of tutorials available online.”

In addition to developing the online workshop, Eco Living Kitchen hosted a series of on-campus cooking events where professional chefs came to the UNBC campus and taught students how to cook a meal. The students prepared the meal alongside the chef, then ate together.