With food prices 9.7 per cent higher in May this year than May 2021, many people are looking for ways to save money in the kitchen.
In 2020 and 2021, a team of UNBC students in Prince George developed a free online course to help people save money – and the planet – by cutting food, plastic and other waste in the kitchen. Their timing couldn’t be better.
The Eco Living Kitchen initiative came out 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,” Eco Living Kitchen outreach coordinator Helga Holler-Busch said. “When it comes to food waste, we need to plan our meals very carefully. We need to go back to the mindset our grandparents or great-grandparents had… when it comes to tolerating things that don’t look perfect. If there is a spot on that apple on the counter, cut out the brown spot and throw it in a cobbler. That milk in the fridge that has reached its expiry date… you can still use it in coffee.”
The Eco Living Kitchen team, made up of Holler-Busch, Ann Duong, Shauna Kelly and Hannah Lawrence, developed a series of seven 60 to 90-minute workshops on topics including meal planning and shopping smart; reducing, reusing and recycling in the kitchen; growing your own food, even in a small space; composting; sustainable hunting and fishing; fermenting and preserving food; and using food scraps to make tasty, healthy dishes. Videos of the workshops are available on Eco Living Kitchen’s YouTube channel.
Eco Living Kitchen’s top three tips for reducing food waste are:
- Meal plan and use that to inform your shopping list. Don't buy too much of any one thing.
- Make large dishes like chili, Dahl, casseroles and soup that can be frozen and used for more than one dinner.
- Organize your fridge according to what needs to be eaten first. This works well if you have snackers in your household. Have a special bin for things that need to be eaten/cooked first.
Cutting down on the use of single-use plastics like plastic bags, plastic food wrap and straws is good for the Earth, and can save money in the long-run, Holler-Busch said.
“Those Ziplock (bags) are reusable, if you wash them out and aren’t using them for raw meat all the time,” Holler-Busch said. “You can reuse a lot of food packaging.”
There are a lot of reusable kitchen products on the market now like metal straws, metal tea balls instead of one-use tea bags and reusable food wrap, she said, but purchasing them means a large up-front investment. In addition to keep single-use plastics out of the landfill, the reusable products do save money over the long-term.
“Beeswax wraps are very popular right now, and are easy to make,” Holler-Busch added. “There is lots of tutorials available online.”
In addition to developing the online workshop, Eco Living Kitchen hosted a series of Cooking on Campus events where professional chefs would come to the UNBC campus and teach students how to prepare a meal. The students would prepare the meal alongside the chef, and then eat together.