Waste-free cooking: a New Year’s resolution

By Marisa Romano

Spencer Clafton is a first-generation Canadian with a sense of frugality in the kitchen. He learned it from his Guinean grandmother who prepared nutritious meals with simple ingredients and a lot of creativity. A graduate from Humber College with cooking experience in Italian kitchens, Clafton has worked in the restaurant business for 11 years. As an executive chef in Toronto and Ottawa, he has witnessed the large amount of waste associated with high-profile cooking. Saddened by it all, he is now approaching a new career path, but he still satisfies his craving for handling food and helping others by volunteering in the kitchen of Centre 507 where food needs to go a long way. He knows a lot about no-waste cooking and how to use those edible parts of meats and vegetables that we usually do not bring to the table. He shares a couple of easy start-up recipes that help us strive for waste-free cooking.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more that 30 per cent of the food produced worldwide for human consumption is never consumed. Annual food loss and waste are large enough to feed more than twice the number of malnourished people worldwide.

And that is not all that is spoiled. With the unconsumed food goes the loss of resources (land, water and energy) and work put into producing it, and according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), food sent to landfills and compost piles generates 8 to 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, contributing hugely to global warming.

Food is lost before reaching stores because of bad weather, plant pests and diseases, problems with distribution and storage or just because it does not meet the “sellable” standards.

But beyond that, it is at home where we waste the most: we buy more than we can eat, discard what does not look good and do not use fruit and vegetables in their entirety.

While the FAO helps farmers to curb crop loss worldwide, and UNEP works towards reduction of food losses in production and waste at the retail and consumer levels, we can also play a role by striving for no-waste cooking. With surging grocery bills when many are struggling in the economic downturn, strategies to reduce what we put in our composting bins also saves money.

Buy less and more often, meal planning and batch cooking with the use of the freezer for short-term storage of prepared and perishable foods are wise and workable solutions. But what about those edible scraps that we reserve for the compost pile?

If you have already defaulted on your New Year’s resolution or have not yet committed to one, you may consider opting for reduction of food waste and in the process, curb your grocery bill. For hints on “how to” and to find no-waste recipes, search the internet.


Marisa Romano is a foodie with Italian roots and a flair for sharing her love of food.


Vegetable stock

Carrot peels, mushroom stems, celery bottoms, onion peels, parsley stems, leftover herbs and any other vegetable scraps can be used to make a vegetable stock (avoid broccoli, cauliflower and the like). Add meat and bones to make a richer preparation. Bring to a boil, simmer until reduced by 1/4 to 1/3 of its initial volume. Strain and store in your freezer. Use it for your weekly meals in soups, stews, chili, gravies, sauces and risottos, but also as a substitute for oil in dressings and when sautéing and as a liquid in mashed potatoes.


Spencer’s Easy Broccoli-Cheese Soup

With this recipe, you can use unwanted broccoli stems, leftovers from your cheese board and your vegetable or meat stock.

Spencer Clafton’s easy Broccoli-Cheese Soup is a great way to use up unwanted broccoli stems and leftover cheese, in our quest to reduce food waste.
Photo: Marisa Romano


4-5 large broccoli stems
½ large onion
1 garlic clove
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ litre stock
1 cup grated leftover cheeses (try smoked cheese or 2 tbsp cream cheese – recommended!)
1 cup cream
Broccoli florets to taste
Salt to taste



Place broccoli stems in a food processor with onion and garlic and shred until fine. Sauté the mix in olive oil until soft, then add the flour and make a roux. When ready, add stock and cheeses. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Ten minutes before serving, add broccoli florets to add crunch, a squeeze of lemon juice to balance the fat and cream to round up the taste.


With surging grocery bills when many are struggling in the economic downturn, strategies to reduce what we put in our composting bins also saves money.

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