Using Permaculture Principles to Reduce Food Waste

By Amy Quarry
Owner, Long Table Grocery –

Here at Long Table we base much of our business model on the 12 Permaculture Principles. Originally and most commonly applied to gardening and agriculture, they have immense value in the creation and design of all kinds of systems whether they be agricultural, social, economic, or business structures.

Long Table Grocery

Two of the most well-known principles are “Produce no waste” and “Obtain a Yield”. Producing (or reducing) waste is something that is top of mind for many people right now, particularly when it comes to food waste, and something that we take very much to heart at Long Table in our systems and practices. Obtaining a yield is at the core of all business—to obtain a yield, or profit, for our work is what makes any business possible.

In our kitchen, our business model is designed to use the produce that is left each week from our subscription boxes and market for our cafe menu salads, soups, and baking, turning something that would be a total loss into a yield. That’s why each day the menu options change, based on what we have left over. We also process the excess produce into preserves, freezer veggie packs, and ready-to-serve freezer meals. Using this system, we have been able to keep our food waste under 1%, which is a big deal for a grocery store. Most traditional grocery stores average anywhere from 15–50% food waste, and we have been able to increase our sales by turning something that would otherwise be thrown out into a sell-able product.

Here are a few of the practices we use at Long Table to reduce our food waste. You can use these at home to reduce food waste in your own kitchen:

– Shop smart and realistically. Only purchase what you need, and only cook what you will eat. If there are leftovers label them with the date and eat them within four days.

– Keep a large Ziploc bag in the fridge and put the odds and ends of chopped vegetables in it as you prepare meals. Once a week toss them into a stir-fry, soup, or pasta sauce.

– Regularly make a “clean-out-the-fridge” vegetable soup or stock using only items that are in your fridge, freezer, or cupboards. Challenge yourself to not purchase ingredients.

– Learn how to quick-pickle fruits and vegetables to store in your refrigerator. This is the fastest way to preserve items you aren’t going to eat right away. You can do it in small batches, they keep for weeks, and they add a delicious kick to all kinds of dishes.

– Every so often serve a picnic inspired meal. Pull out all the random jars of jams, mustards, and pickles and serve with cut up veggies, charcuterie meats, olives, crackers, cheese, fruit, and bread. Don’t over-think this—just pull all the things out of your fridge and put them on a tray together. Chances are you will have a delicious meal, and you will clear some space in your fridge and cupboards, too.

– Get in the habit of adding extra fruits and veggies to dishes when they need to be used up even if the recipe doesn’t call for it. Shred a carrot into your pasta sauce. Chop a zucchini into your eggs. Slice a tomato onto your toast. If it needs to be used up before it goes bad, challenge yourself to use it in something.

– If all else fails and you can’t use up the food in your fridge before it goes bad, share it. Take it to the lunch-room at work. Send it to your kid’s school to share at snack time. Donate it. Do something with it other than throwing it out.

It can take time to change our habits but having strong systems in place makes it much easier. We have found that any energy we put into implementing the permaculture principles is returned to us many times over, but it is a process that takes time. It is human nature to initially resist change, but according to yet another principle of permaculture, when we “creatively use and embrace change” we are well positioned to continue to help build a more sustainable system and world for future generations.

Long Table Grocery is a locally owned, independent food hub that provides good food sustainably sourced and rooted in the Cariboo region of BC. As well as bi-weekly subscription Harvest Boxes it operates a fresh food grocery and no-waste cafe and hosts cooking workshops and community-based food events throughout the year. It is our goal that shopping at Long Table Grocery is easy, convenient, and a meaningful way to make your purchasing dollars count towards building a more food-secure community for all of us. We currently work with over 40 North Cariboo farmers and food producers, growing community through food. Visit us at 141 Marsh Drive, Quesnel, BC or Follow us on Facebook at Long Table Grocery.

Amy Quarry is an entrepreneur, community-builder, maker, graphic designer, and localist. She loves her small town and strongly believes in the resilience of a community built together.


Cashew Cheesecake
Gluten Free, Vegan, Refined Sugar Free

From the Long Table Grocery Kitchen

Long Table Grocery Cashew Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:
100 g pecans
100 g almonds
3 Tbsp coconut oil or butter
2 -3 pinches salt

Filling:
175 g cashews
30 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp Stevia
1/8 tsp salt
15 ml maple syrup
30 ml melted coconut oil
1 Tbsp water

Method:

  1. Soak cashews for 4-6 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Place pecans and almonds in the food processor and process until very crumbly.
  4. Add the salt and the coconut oil or butter and process until evenly incorporated. Spoon into a glass baking dish and spread out evenly. Bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Blend soaked cashews in food processor with the remaining filling ingredients until the mixture is very creamy. Spoon into prepared crust and freeze.
  6. Thaw for 10-15 minutes before serving. Top cheesecake with your favourite chocolate or caramel sauce or fruit compote.

Recipe by Jessica Golden, Registered Holistic Nutritionist

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