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Food Waste Challenge

Week Two – “Planning”

“The most expensive food you buy is the food you waste”


Congratulations on completing Week One! Knowledge is power! Now that you know how much avoidable food waste you generate in a typical week, you can do something about it! We hope you had a chance to take five minutes to complete the 3 short reflection questions before moving on to this week’s challenge. If not, click here to do that now.

This week we get started making behavior changes that will help us minimize avoidable food waste – with the aim to keep healthy food out of the green bin and save us money.

Most of us spend way more money on food than is necessary. For a lot of people, it’s the second biggest expenditure, right after their mortgage or rent. Did you know that your food expense is one of the easiest ones to control? The key is simple – plan ahead what you will eat before buying your groceries! (from

Planning is one of the most basic organizational tools. We plan our vacations, we plan our “to do” list for the week or our schedule for the day, but fewer people bother to plan their eating. But sitting down each week to spend a few minutes planning your meals for the week will absolutely save you time, effort and stress during the week.

Here’s why meal planning is worth your time:

  • It will help you to eat healthier. You are more likely to choose healthier options for you and your family if you plan ahead. You’ll avoid making last minute, less healthy choices like fast food.
  • It allows for easier meal prep. You’ll shop for what you need in advance and have all your ingredients on hand. No last minute trips to the store!
  • It will lower stress by saving you from the 4:30pm “What am I going to make for dinner?” crisis.
  • It will save you money. You’ll use your meal planner to create a grocery list of only ingredients you need. You will no longer wander the aisles, grabbing items on sale and products you won’t necessarily use. Each item will have a purpose for that week and will get turned into a meal instead of slowly rotting in your fridge.
  • You can probably guess this next reason – careful planning of meals can lower your family’s household food waste.

How does the Challenge Work?

Your Task: You will use your laminated meal planner from your Just Eat It, Caledon! Waste Reduction Tool Kit to create your own meal plan for the week ahead. Before filling it in, it’s time to think about you and your family’s eating habits.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Which nights of the week am I busiest, with less time to prep a meal? This day’s meal could be simple and quick.
  • What time of day do I want to do my cooking? With so many of us working from home these days, it may be logical for some of us to shift the main meal of the day to lunchtime, depending on everyone’s schedules. Perhaps dinner will remain the main meal of the day, but you may want to do the meal prep early in the morning to save time.
  • Is there a day of the week I normally like to order in or pick up a meal?
  • What are some of our favourite meals that I might like to include this week?
  • Would I like to incorporate a new recipe I have been meaning to try?
  • Who will be doing the cooking each day? If possible, try to rotate or share this responsibility, especially if you have a spouse, teenagers or adult children in the house. Younger children can help with meal prep and cooking too!

Looking for help making your meal plan? Check out our resources section for links to some great meal planning apps. Most of these apps will not only offer creative meal suggestions, but they also contain a grocery list function you can fill and bring with you to the store.

The Cardinal Rule when meal planningUse What You’ve Got – Don’t Let it Rot!

One of the keys to effective meal planning to reduce food waste is to take an inventory of what you have in your fridge, freezer and pantry before planning meals or going to the store. Take a picture of your freezer and fridge contents if necessary and identify food that you can use. Make these food items part of your meal plan. Got wilting veggies? Freeze them and use in a soup this week. Extra meat could become part of a casserole. We will be talking about how to make the most of leftover food next week, but for now, keep in mind that you want to use up what you have before you restock.

Let’s Start Planning!

Once you have taken inventory of food you currently have, grab your meal planning sheet and your dry-erase marker. You can use this tool to create a rough version of your meals for the week ahead, and in the weeks moving forward. As you create your meal plan, keep a sheet of paper handy to record the items needed for each meal, or use one of the meal planning apps. These items will form your grocery list for the week, along with any staple items you usually like to stock. Shop for your groceries as you usually would – online or in person. As you go through the week, keep a close eye on your green bin and your avoidable food waste. Our goal is to use planning to help us buy and consume food smartly – and avoid having to put healthy food in our green bin.

Food for Thought! We’re all in this together! We can’t wait to hear how your meal planning experience goes this week. Please share your comments with us on our community feed so we can all learn from each other. Don’t forget to fill in the reflection questions for week two!


Food Ambassador:

Dawn Perry from Fermentonics

An interview with Dawn

Community Champion:

Patti Foley

Patti is an advocate for Caledon. As a former Regional Councillor and a long-time community volunteer she is passionate about communicating information about its issues, news, events, people, non-profits and businesses.

Patti talks “Meal Planning“.

Week 2  – Reflections:

Open reflections

Food for Thought - Community Feed

  1. Happy Saturday Just Eat It, Caledon! Participants!

    We just wanted to share this great resource we found for those of you with little ones. After week one I realized that a lot (and I mean A LOT) of the avoidable food waste my family creates is from the food my toddler and preteen don’t eat.

    It was easy to work with my preteen, the solution, let her plate her own meals! What a difference this change made in our avoidable food waste this week. My picky toddler is going to be a bigger challenge. Check out “Waste Less with Kids” from Love Food Hate Waste Canada (

  2. Rather back to last weeks’ challenge….. anyone has suggestions about storing onions?
    My garden fresh onions last for months…. but when they are gone, the store-bought onions only seem to last a few days. I feel this might be due to their cold storage for transport?!
    Welcome any thoughts folks….

    • Hi Alison, one thing I learned recently is that onions like the darkness and they don’t like to be stored with potatoes. One of them produces an off gas (sorry can’t remember which) that speeds up the spoilage of the other. So I am keeping my onions in one of my large kitchen drawers in a little cardboard basket. Potatoes are safely keeping their distance in another drawer.

  3. Meal planning apps allow you to personalize meal plans that appeal to your dietary needs (i.e. vegetarian, low sugar, keto, gluten-free, etc…), includes recipes that are easy, possibly require few ingredients and, if desired, can be ready in 30 minutes or less.

    How many of you have tried a meal planning app? Our resources this week include a list of the most popular meal planning apps – and, some do come with a price tag. Each of these apps include a variety of recipes to help build your meal plan and grocery list for the week.

    I thought I would test one out. While I love the idea of trying out at least one new recipe a week I didn’t want to create a meal plan with 6 to 7 recipes that my family has never seen. I started a free account with Mealime and picked 3 vegetarian meals that I thought my family would enjoy. In addition, I made sure to pick recipes that may have several of the same ingredients to help minimize prep and waste this week.

    Once you choose your recipes, the app generates a grocery list organized by department (i.e. produce, spices, dairy, etc…) – and includes the quantity amount. The app also has the added bonus of allowing you to delete ingredients that you already have on hand. Can’t wait to test these new recipes on my family!

    We would love to hear about your experiences with meal planning apps? And, are there any we should be adding to our resource list?

  4. We have been trying to do at least 2 meatless meals a week and shakshuka has become a favourite option. I am not certain but I believe its origin is reputed to be north african. For anyone unfamiliar it is basically eggs poached in tomatoes. It also calls for onion, peppers, garlic, so it’s also a good way to use up “end-bits” of these. Add spices (cumin, paprika), and a sprinkle of feta near the end, and (at least for me) a bit of fresh or (in the winter) dried basil. Hubby likes his eggs a little softer so I always have to keep track of whose is whose lol.

    • Patti, this dish sounds and looks delicious! Will have to test it out on my family. One of our favourite meatless meals is a bolognese sauce made with mushrooms instead of ground meat 🙂

    • Love this idea, Patti. Our favourite meatless meal is cannelloni with ricotta mushrooms and spinach… usually made with leftover or homemade pasta sauce.

    • Thank you for this! These were grape tomatoes that were a bit shriveled and mushrooms that would have soon been waste. A delicious breakfast! So much better than the fried eggs I was thinking of thanks to seeing your post! (hope the picture come through)

    • There is an Italian recipe (Uova Purgatorio), when you have leftover sauce you cook eggs in it the following night, add some crusty bread and a salad and it completes the meal.

  5. I’m not so good at detailed meal planning, but can be creative with what I have. When you don’t have picky eaters, it’s incredible what you can put together that actually taste pretty good! Never be afraid to experiment when making dishes. There are so many things you can substitute ingredients for, in recipes. Like yogurt for sour cream. We’ve used ranch or caesar dressing on baked potatoes. Another “desperate measure” was using a can of mushroom soup when we had no red pasta sauce, now it’s a favourite. This week I made cookies with banana, oak flakes, apple sauce, cranberries, cinnamon and vanilla. That’s it.

  6. Brines
    Ever consider reusing the leftover brines from your pickles, olives etc….? They can be salvaged too from becoming food waste.

    You can add them to homemade salad dressings, for soaking nuts & or seeds for making into vegan spreads & healthy crackers.

    Or just as a healthy gut shot. What is a “gut shot?” A little drink of your dill pickle juice,
    Leftover kimchi or sauerkraut brine etc… measured out, (or “eyed”) in a shot glass.

    I love to take my leftover brines & make them into pickled eggs for us to enjoy at home. That’s how I originally experimented and came up with a bunch of recipes that I now have for sale.

    All pickled eggs that are for sale are never from leftover brines. I make them fresh every batch & use part brine & part organic apple cider vinegar.

    If you have never tried pickled eggs, when they are farm fresh, pastured & graded, with local herbs & ingredients, you will be surprised with how tasty these are. Perfect as a quick go to for breakfast, snack or a protein-blood sugar fix.

    Good luck on week #2 with meal planning everyone!!!

    • I buy Dawn’s fermented carrot sticks and also her dill pickles. They are always delicious! And I look forward to drinking the brine – I just fill a small shot glass and enjoy the tangy yumminess. It’s delicious “medicine” for gut health.

  7. Congratulations to Michelle M.! She is the lucky winner of our weekly raffle! Michelle will receive a $50 gift card from the restaurant or food retailer of her choice in Caledon!

    All registered participants who complete the weekly reflection questions are entered into the draw. Don’t miss your chance to win each week when you submit your answers.

  8. Hi,
    I used to meal plan when my kids were young. Now I go through phases of writing the menus out or keeping them in my head. It always goes better if I write it down…I waste less and stress less about what or if I took something out of the freezer to thaw. This week is an excuse to get back on track. Due to Covid my 2 Adult kids plus 1 are now living with us (grateful they are with us and we feel fortunate to be able to help them in this way)not much gets wasted but planning would really help with groceries and dinner prep. Looking forward to checking out the other apps and sites for inspiration 🙂

  9. I often cook enough for two nights, giving me a simple heat up night later in the week. I order groceries for delivery, which forces me to sit down and plan ahead. Working well!

    • We have been ordering as well during the pandemic. It has made me even more diligent about meal planning. We often go as long as 9 days between, where I used to shop 2 or 3 times a week.

  10. I am new to planning meals, as I am accustomed to deciding day to day. But I really want to get into this habit. My challenge is that our two young adult children are living with us at the moment and they are not plant-based eaters as my husband and I are. The mother in me has me catering a bit to their meaty tendencies – and I know they are too old to be indulged this way! But for this week and this week only the left side of my meal plan has vegan options while the right includes meat. They will prepare the meat options and next week I will get them to do their own planning too! Is anyone else going through a similar challenge?

    • Great idea to let them takeover the meat portion of the meal!
      I like how you’re using your meal plan work sheet, I don’t usually plan morning meals. I always have eggs and healthy cereals and bread as staples and we go from there. I’m thinking of making a 2 week plan. I plan on snapping a picture and then I’ll have a month of menus to either repeat or pull from to make up the next month…

  11. We hope everyone is managing to give meal planning a try. It’s a new habit for a lot of us. We compiled a few planning tips for you to think about. Have a look below!

    Ideas for How to Plan – To make meal planning successful, you need to create a pattern that fits your life, and is easy to remember. Everyone will have a different way they go about meal planning. According to Super Healthy Kids, a sample week could go something like this: Meatless Mondays, a pasta dish, a fish dish, a chicken dinner, a crockpot meal, and usually a soup. A meal routine like this makes it easy and swift to fill in the blanks. Other families may opt to include Mexican Night or Italian Night, Comfort Food Night, Breakfast for Dinner, or Pizza Night. You may even choose to have a Lazy Night, where everyone grazes from what’s on hand, or cooks for themselves. Having the same theme or pattern each week is inspiring and saves you time aimlessly browsing the internet for new ideas. Remember, it’s perfectly ok to repeat family favourites on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Go with what works for you!

  12. Some recipes require store bought items which creates waste both in food and in packaging. For example the feta spinach tart. Why cut the puff pastry in a circle, use the whole pastry as a square, avoids the left over pieces when cutting in a circle. Buy fresh basil or grow your own and make your own pesto in blender. Saves money and no waste. Freeze until needed. I tend to look for scratch recipes. Less waste with packaging.

    • I hear you on this Niki…. Every meal, sort of needs a ‘second meal’. For example, if you buy feta cheese for a Greek salad, you have to plan a pizza to add the remaining cheese to. Another items is tomato/pasta sauce. I usually buy this in a jar so you can store for a day or two. After making one dish with pasta, I often make chicken Parmesan or enchiladas to use up the the leftover sauce. Sometimes planning has two-steps, and if your family is like mine…. they don’t want something similar two-days running – I have to skip a day and use the day after!


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