Plan. Prepare. Enjoy.
The Good Food program helps you plan, prepare and enjoy healthy family meals more, while wasting less. With the help of our simple tips and tools saving time, money and food waste can become a reality, one meal at a time.
Over the past year, the amount of green bin waste has increased by 20 per cent and it has been estimated that households throw away roughly $1500 per year in wasted food!
In an effort to reduce food waste York Region Food Network in partnership with York Region recently launched The Good Food Challenge. This challenge was designed to help participants waste less food so they can save more money, time and energy in the kitchen.
Although registration for this challenge has closed, it’s never too late to discover new ways to waste less and save more in the kitchen.
You can still access some of the Good Food Challenge activities or check out some of the simple tips below.
- Plan your meals first and use a grocery list
- Use recipes with simple ingredients. For healthy recipe and meal plans visit #Let’sCook30
- Save leftovers for another day’s dinner or lunch
- Organize your pantry and refrigerator to better see what you have on hand
- Choose local, farm fresh produce and products that last longer
- Label and date containers and practice FIFO – First In, First Out so older items are used first
- Store fresh produce properly so they last longer. Quick tip: set your vegetable crisper drawer to high humidity and your fruit crisper drawer to low
- Include the kids in the planning and cooking process – they’re more likely to eat the meals they’ve helped make
Download our Good Food checklist of simple tips.
Loving Leftovers — A great way to save time and money
Love your leftovers
Leftovers get a bad rap, but they are such an easy way to save time and continue eating healthy foods. When you take the time to plan and prepare a nutritious dinner, why waste what’s left?
Tips for Managing Leftovers
- When plating your food, portion out smaller amounts and go back for seconds. Uneaten food on your plate goes in the green bin, but uneaten food still in the pot or casserole dish can be saved for another day
- When meal planning, try to plan back-to-back meals that incorporate ingredients or leftovers from the previous meal; leftover pasta with sauce that’s a main dish one day can become a side dish the next
- Pack leftovers for lunch
- Refer to these Food Safety tips on how to cool and store your leftovers safely
- Label your leftover containers with the date and try to eat them within two to three days
- If you don’t want leftovers, pay attention to the quantity of food you’re preparing so you make just enough rather than too much
- Good food doesn’t have to look good. Remember that a good healthy meal can be a mix of all sorts of leftovers (as long as they were made from healthy ingredients)
How To Cook With Leftovers
With some creativity you can turn your leftovers into a new dish. Here are a few sites that offer delicious recipes for leftovers, but don’t stop there - many more can be found online
AllRecipes.com – offers many recipes to use up your leftovers
BigOven.com – search recipes by leftover ingredients
Cooking for one or two: creative use of leftovers – a resource from Dietitians of Canada
DID YOU KNOW?
York Region waste audits show that roughly 10% of the food thrown away in the green bin is uneaten leftovers. Better portioning and having a plan for leftovers can help reduce this waste.
Planning makes great meals easier
Go Easy — Start with a simple plan that works for you
Do you often find yourself scrambling to make a meal at the last minute, scouring the cupboards and fridge for ideas while your kids are wondering, “What’s for dinner?”
You’re not alone.
But that kind of haste usually produces less-than-nutritious meals and a lot of stress.
The answer is a plan. Making a weekly meal plan can help make cooking and enjoying meals with your family easier.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start small. Keep it simple. Do what works for you and your family. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to plan every meal for every day.
Get in the habit. The more you plan your meals, the easier it becomes.
Two useful links:
- Follow Canada’s Food Guide. Enjoy a variety of foods from the four food groups, focusing on meals that contain vegetables and fruit, whole grains, milk or soy beverages, and lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, and beans.
- Take stock. A well-stocked pantry, fridge and freezer make cooking wholesome meals easier. Check out this resource from Dietitians of Canada on healthy foods to keep on hand at home.
Helpful Tools — Great meal planning templates and apps are a click away
There are lots of tools and apps for those who want to start meal planning. Here are four options to help get you started.
Mealime - meal planning website and app (basic plan is free)
Big Oven – Recipe website with meal planning app
Cooksmarts – Meal planning app (free trial period)
Plan to Eat – Meal planning app (free 30-day trial)
Easy Meal Planning Tips
- Set realistic goals, one meal at a time
- Make it a routine; set aside a small amount of time each week
- Plan meals that use similar ingredients so you can use up everything you buy
- Make good choices by using healthy foods and ingredients
- Meal planning is an opportunity to try new recipes; pick simple ones with healthy ingredients
- Plan to use up your most perishable items early in the week
- Plan for leftovers; have at least one leftover meal per week
- Get your family involved; let kids help plan their favourite dishes
- Add some fun; try theme nights like Taco Tuesdays, Fajita Fridays, or Spaghetti Sundays
For more advice and tips visit:
- Kids in the Kitchen – printable resource of tasks that kids can do to help out
- Eat a Rainbow – printable daily calendar to help kids eat good food everyday
- Seven Tips for Healthy Eating – print one out as a good reminder
- Eat Right Ontario – offers 7 Steps for quick and easy menu planning
- Healthy Shopping Tips – has many ideas to help you make healthier decisions while shopping
- Cookspiration – is a website with inspirational recipes based on your needs
- Healthy eating for fast-paced lives – a resource providing menu planning and healthy eating tips
- How to read food labels – video resource from Eat Right Ontario
List for Success — A simple list makes shopping faster and smarter
Meal planning and shopping lists go hand in hand. Without a list, it’s easy to return home from the store and realize you forgot a key ingredient. With a list, you’ll have just what you need.
A shopping list will save you time in the store. It will also save you money. By sticking to a list you’ll spend less on impulse purchases, which are often less healthy.
Some smart tips:
Post a list in the kitchen so everyone can update it as items are used and needed
- Include quantities or measurements from recipes so you only buy what you need
- Shop in your cupboard or refrigerator first; you might already have items on the list
- Try this handy shopping list template to help you get started
- Use the two hour rule – refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of purchasing
DID YOU KNOW?
For every six bags of groceries we buy, on average, one bag gets thrown away untouched. Meal planning can help reduce this waste.
Proper storage means less waste
Keepers — Proper food storage will save you wasted money
Do you feel frustrated when vegetables wilt in the fridge? Or wasteful when you have to throw out an almost-full tub of cottage cheese or yogurt? Proper storage and knowing about best before dates will help stop spoilage and wastefulness.
Food Storage Resources and Tips
Keep packages of raw meat, poultry and fish on the bottom shelf of your fridge where it’s coldest. Place on a plate or tray to keep juices from dripping onto other foods.
- Prevent food from spoiling by keeping your refrigerator set at 4oC (40oF) or colder.
- Not sure where to set the humidity dial on your crisper drawers? Vegetables fare better in high humidity, while fruits prefer low humidity.
- Label and date containers so you know when they were first opened. The same goes for leftovers, so you’ll remember when they were made.
- When restocking your pantry and refrigerator, move older items to the front so they get eaten first.
- Some food lasts longer on the counter, not in the refrigerator, such as avocados, peaches, bananas, and tomatoes. For tips on other vegetables, check out our guides below.
Some valuable guides:
- Refrigerator Makeover – printable tips for optimal food storage
- A to Z Produce Shelf-Life – printable fruit and vegetable storage tips
- Food Storage Handout – learn where fresh foods should be stored in your kitchen (source: David Suzuki Foundation).
- Cold Storage Guidelines – learn how long food can last in the freezer and refrigerator
- How to wash your fruits and vegetables
Quick Video Resources:
- How to store your fruits
- How to store your vegetables
- Simple steps to freeze food safely
Best Before — Best before dates are not what most people think
Most people think best before dates are when our food will turn bad. Not true.
Best before dates on food packaging are about freshness, taste and nutritional value.
Before the date, your food will taste its best and will still hold the nutrient content claimed on the label.
Best before dates only apply to unopened foods. Once opened, perishable foods that can spoil easily, such as milk, cheese, and other dairy products should be eaten soon and preferably before their best before date. Keep in mind, when perishable foods are not kept at their proper temperature, the best before date is no longer accurate.
Unopened, non-perishable foods, like crackers, canned goods and cereal can be eaten up to one year after their best before date.
Conclusion: you can eat most foods after the best before date has passed. They just won’t be at their best.
Some additional resources on best before dates:
- Best Before Dates – an e-bulletin from Healthy Measures on how to best interpret the dates on your food
- What does the "best before" date on food packaging really mean? – CBC’s, The Current, dispels the myths around best before dates
DID YOU KNOW?
York Region studies show that on average over 10 percent of the food thrown away in the green bin is food that’s been “bought and forgot,” or reached its best before date. Understanding how to store food properly and what best before dates mean can help reduce this waste and save you money.
Big Benefits — Here’s how good food makes a big difference
When you make good food your priority, you accomplish so much: more family time together around the table, better health for growing kids and hardworking adults, less waste and more savings through better meal planning.
Better Health: It starts at home
When you plan, shop for, and prepare meals made from nutritious ingredients, you reduce the number of quick-serve meals, frozen dinners and take-out your family consumes.
You’ll also ensure your family is getting more of the good stuff (vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and healthy fats) and less of the bad stuff (fried foods, added sugar and salt).
Family Time: Good food brings families together
More family time at meals can happen in any household. It just takes a little more planning, having the ingredients you need on hand and taking advantage of your leftovers.
The other secret: include your kids in meal planning and preparation. It helps them learn and makes them feel part of the process.
Money Savings: Plan to reduce your grocery bill
When we’re busy, we tend to buy more on impulse. Quick-serve and frozen meals are designed for that very impulse, but they cost more and are less healthy.
The solution: a shopping list based on a meal plan for each week.
You’ll be amazed at the savings you can achieve, and the good food you can prepare (faster than you might think).
Less Waste: Spoiled food can cost you a bundle
The cost might shock you: approximately $1,500 per household per year!
The solution: basic meal planning and proper food storage.
Do you love Pinterest? Do you love Good Food?
Well, we have a reason to love them both just a little bit more. Visit the York Region Pinterest page for some great tips, tricks and Good Food printables that can help you gain more family time together around the table, better health for growing kids and hardworking adults, and more savings through better meal planning and food storage.
To learn more about Good Food, please contact us at @email or call 1-866-665-6752.