by Christina Iaboni, MHSc, RD

With the high price of groceries, nobody wants to be wasting food. However, the average Canadian household wastes 79kg of food per year according to the 2021 UN Food Waste Index and most of it is avoidable. Almost half of household food waste is produce, so before you go to throw something out, think about what you can do to save it. Here are 7 meal ideas to help you empty the fridge and reduce food waste.

1. Frittata

A frittata is an Italian egg dish that combines eggs, vegetables, and cheese. It’s a great way to use up vegetable odds and ends. A frittata is first cooked in an oven-proof skillet or frying pan and then finished in the oven. Start by sautéing vegetables like chopped broccoli stalks (don’t waste those), onions, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, squash, and potatoes in an oven-proof pan and then add beaten eggs and cheese over top; this makes for a hearty frittata. Fresh herbs like parsley, basil, and dill can be added in as well for more flavour. Frittatas are similar to omelets, but can feed more people and don’t need to be flipped.

2. Dutch baby

A Dutch baby is a big family-style fluffy pancake that will impress everyone when you set it down on the table. It is easy to make: Blend the batter in a blender, pour it into a hot skillet with butter, and then bake it. The batter will rise up to the edges of the pan, which results in a golden and puffy outer crust with a soft custard-like centre. You can make it sweet or savoury. For a sweet version, add apples, pears, stone fruit, or berries that need to be used up, and then top it with powdered sugar or maple syrup. For a savoury version, top it with fried eggs, smoked salmon with herbs and cheese, roasted grape or cherry tomatoes with herbs, or caramelized onions and goat cheese. It’s a perfect weekend brunch option.

3. Potato hash

If you are craving a restaurant-style breakfast on the weekend but don’t want to pay the price, try making a potato hash. A potato hash comes together quickly in one skillet. Pan-fry potatoes until they are crispy and golden brown and mix in vegetables like onions, peppers, or whatever you need to use. Remember to leave the peel on the potatoes as they contain a lot of nutrients and add a crispy texture. Add in some leafy greens at the end if you would like. Top it with fried eggs, breakfast sausage, or a sprinkle of herbs for a restaurant-worthy meal ready in under 30 minutes.

4. Baked pasta dishes

Casseroles like cheesy baked pasta dishes are always a family-friendly option. To add more nutrients to them and use up produce, add onions, carrots, celery, grated zucchini, or chopped leafy greens to the tomato sauce. You could also layer sliced zucchini or eggplant in the pasta dish. Add dollops of ricotta or cottage cheese throughout the baked pasta for creaminess and top it with grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Even the pickiest of eaters will get their vegetables in when mixed into pasta and topped with gooey cheese.

5. Stir-fries or fried rice

Stir-fries or fried rice dishes are versatile and affordable. They are a great way to also stretch out proteins. A pound of ground meat in a stir-fry or fried rice goes a long way to feed a family. For a vegetarian option, use tofu – another cost-effective option. A simple sauce made of reduced-sodium soy sauce, honey, fresh garlic, and ginger works well in stir-fry or fried rice. You can use up any vegetables you have in a stir-fry or fried rice.  

6. Chilis, soups, curries, and stews

In the colder months, a hearty chili, soup, curry, or stew is a great way to use leftover produce or even fruit. Blending an apple or pear into a butternut squash, parsnip, or carrot soup adds a natural sweetness that pairs well with squash. Use any leftover vegetables you have in a simple soup and combine them with broth, pasta, and canned beans for an easy meal. Leafy greens, peppers, pumpkin, and squash can all be added to chilis or stews. Top them at the end with fresh herbs you have lying around as well to add brightness and freshness to the cooked dish. These dishes also freeze well, so if you can’t eat it all right away, freeze portions in containers for an easy meal another day.

7. Fruit compote

If you have fruit left at the end of the week that is starting to bruise or is just past its peak, try making a fruit compote. Chop up the fruit and add it to a pot with a touch of water, cinnamon or cardamom, and a little bit of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Cook the fruit down until it is soft and jam-like in texture and consistency; cooking brings out the natural sweetness of fruit. Fruit compotes work well for apples, pears, berries, and stone fruit. Use the compote as an oatmeal topping, on ice cream, French toast, pancakes, and waffles. Homemade fruit compote will last a few days in the fridge, can be frozen, and is absolutely delicious.

Most of us are throwing out more food than we realize. With a little creativity and experimentation in the kitchen, you can reduce food waste and save money. Before you go to throw something out, think about what you can do to save it – you may just find your new favourite recipe.

About Christina

Christina Iaboni is a registered dietitian and healthy living blogger. She aims to empower people to improve their health by eating nutritious foods. She also creates easy and affordable recipes that people can feel good about serving to their family. To check out her recipes, visit

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