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Easy ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen

I’m positively evangelical on the topic of reducing kitchen waste. Righteously so, I think, given that the 2.2 million tonnes of avoidable household food waste created annually by Canadians is equivalent to 2.1 million cars on the road, according to Love Food Hate Waste Canada, an awareness campaign delivered by the National Zero Waste Council.

But even the most careful cooks will have some waste. The FoodCycler FC-50 that Vitamix launched last year may be an answer for some. It transforms kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment (aka fertilizer) that can enrich indoor or outdoor gardens, is free of pathogens, and can be stored for months.

The FoodCycler reduces the volume of kitchen food waste by up to 90 per cent.

About one cubic foot, the unit can live under a sink or on a countertop. A removable waste bucket has a snugly-fitting carbon-filter lid; I had no problems with odours from the basket, or with pesky fruit flies.

The machine takes fruit cores, vegetable peels, dairy, chicken bones, and more. The cycle is supposed to run between three and eight hours; it’s always been done in four or less with the loads I’ve made.

I first tried the FoodCycler ($500) in my home in the city. Feeding a family of four, with a diet that’s heavy on plant-based choices, I was filling it up every on average once a day.

While I found it effective, I am also notoriously reluctant to give up counter or cupboard space. I’m also very happy with Toronto’s municipal green bin program, but I know that friends in condos and apartments don’t all have access to that service.

Indeed, one audience that’s given the unit rave reviews online is homeowners living in multi-residential urban settings where there may be no composting program, or places where outdoor composting encourages varmints.

With that in mind, I took the FoodCycler with me for a three-week working stint at my cottage, where all waste has to go to a dump, and where there is no community composting program. 

It was very useful. There’s less smell and fewer drippy messes inside–as food waste goes into the recycler rather than a garbage bag. There’s also less stink—and no pests so far—in the garbage container that stays out in a bunkie between dump runs, which I’ve also cut down on.  In winter, I appreciate fewer trips to the bunkie—and the dump—even more. 

The flowers and herbs I grow in pots all got a dose of the soil enhancer, and did so well on it that I’m considering starting an indoor herb and micro-green garden.

My houseplants thrive on the compost that comes from the FoodCycler.

Many online reviews say the process is odourless; but once or twice, my mix has exuded a slight, vaguely vegetal odour. It’s completely inoffensive to me, but if I didn’t like it, I’d simply turn the machine on at night when I am out of the kitchen. There is absolutely no odour from the finished material.

Another way to reduce waste is to save leftovers, and to freeze certain ingredients— say tomato paste—to add to later meals. Rubbermaid’s Twist and Seal On the Go bowls make this easier.

Use small containers for healthy snacks and right-sized treats.

BPA-free, microwave-, dishwasher-, and freezer- safe, they also come with a tray that fits inside the bowl. Good for pre-portioning overnight oats or yogurt, while the inset can hold chopped nuts, fruits, or seeds to stir in before eating, or for a sliced veg and hummus/dip combo snack. Prices start at about $3.50.  

TIP: Those of us who like a treat but watch portion sizes can fill the littlest one with peanuts, dark chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of unsweetened coconut.

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