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Cooking with Food Waste

Historically, many cultures made an effort to use all parts of the foods that they consumed. Indigenous groups in North America would consume bison meat, as it had high protein and low fat content. The hides of the bison were then used to make clothing.(1) This use of food waste was also seen during World War II, when fat and bones from the kitchen were saved across the country and then used as war materials, such as ammunition.(2) This was done out of necessity, as food and other products were not as dispensable as they are today.

Nowadays, instead of using every part of a food product, a lot of food ends up in the landfill. According to the National Zero Waste Council’s 2017 research on household food waste in Canada, there are 2.2 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year.(3) Not only does this food waste mean that there is money lost, but it also means that the resources used to grow, produce, and distribute the food are wasted too. On top of that, when food decomposes in the landfill it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.(4) The simple act of throwing a half-eaten apple in the garbage has a big impact.

There are many parts of food that are seen as uncommon to eat that can be used to add a lot of flavour and nutrition to a meal. For example, when cooking with meat, some parts are labelled as good to eat, such as chicken breast or ribeye steak, while other parts that are not commonly consumed are thrown out, like animal bones or fat. Certain parts of fruits and vegetables are also not commonly used and consumed. This includes parts of fruits and vegetables such as rinds and peels, but it can also include a fruit that has a bruise on it or a vegetable that has started to wilt. Often, these portions can be used to add flavour to dishes, such as soups, salad dressings, or drinks.

Lazy Beet Leaf Rolls

Makes: 6 servings

There are many unexpected ways to cook with food by using its different parts. This is a surprising and easy way to try new dishes. Not only is it nutritious, but it is also good for the environment and will reduce the weekly grocery bill. This does call for a bit of simple creativity in the kitchen, but before composting or throwing a food part out, do a quick internet search for how it could be incorporated into a recipe, such as these lazy beet leaf rolls.

As beets grow down into the ground, they have luscious leaves that spring up above. While there are many recipes for the use of beets, beet leaves are often overlooked. When washing and preparing beets, the leaves are usually chopped off and thrown away, however, they are full of nutrients and can make delicious additions to a lot of dishes. Beet leaves can be used in any recipe that calls for leafy greens, such as salads, soups, and casseroles. These lazy beet leaf rolls are a great way to reduce food waste and make use of all parts of a beet.


1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups uncooked rice

4 ½ cups water

10 cups chopped beet greens, stems removed (loosely packed)

¾ cup chopped fresh dill

1 cup 18% cream


1. Preheat the oven to 300ºF and grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large saucepan over medium heat and add the uncooked rice, stirring for a few minutes. Add in the onion and garlic and stir for a couple more minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Once cooked, remove from the heat and let cool.

3. Heat the other 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add in the beet greens and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until wilted. Add the dill and cooked rice, then mix to combine.

4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Drizzle the cream overtop. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the cream is boiling at the edges.

5. Remove from the oven and enjoy while warm!

For more information on food loss and waste explore our Nourishing Minds publications here.


1 The Canadian Encyclopedia—Bison, 2013

3 National Zero Waste Council—Food Waste in the Home, 2017


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