1. Home
  2. Society

Here are some ways to cut back on grocery costs — and reduce food waste

Laurie Bruce is a volunteer with Foodsharing Ottawa, an organization focused on rescuing surplus food from local businesses and redistributing it to charities, non-profits and neighbours.

Laurie Bruce is a volunteer with Foodsharing Ottawa, an organization focused on rescuing surplus food from local businesses and redistributing it to charities, non-profits and neighbours.

Photo:  (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

RCI

Finding discounts is possible and can save food destined for the dumpster

It's no secret that grocery prices are high and many Canadians are feeling the pinch of soaring inflation and food costs (new window)

There's a growing trend of supermarkets and grocery stores offering their leftover food items at discounted prices. 

It's a way for customers to save on groceries — and save food that would typically be destined for the dumpster.

Here are some ways you can reduce both your grocery costs and your food waste around Ottawa. 

Foodsharing Ottawa 

Walking out of the Hintonburg Market with more than 10 kilograms of produce, Laurie Bruce is already thinking about the different ways they can become everyday recipes. 

You can make all kinds of different things with it, like stir fries or soups, fruit salad, those types of things, she said.

Bruce isn't going to be keeping any of the sweet potatoes, apples, onions or leeks she's just picked up.

Instead, she'll be dividing them up to give them away.

As a volunteer with Foodsharing Ottawa, Bruce picks up surplus food from the market a couple of times a month. 

It might get distributed to local charities or handed out for free through the organization's Facebook group Share It - Don't Toss It! 

The goal is [to] have no food waste. It's shared among the community with other people who need it, she said. 

Foodsharing Ottawa originally started as a way to rescue surplus food from restaurants, bakeries, stores and farmers' markets and then donate it to local charities like food banks and shelters. 

The group has since branched out by creating their public Facebook group, through which they can encourage their drivers to donate a portion of their rescue to their neighbours and get others involved. 

The bigger donations kind of help the group and then get people more interested in taking things from their pantry, Bruce said. 

If they have things just past the [best before] date, or they're going on vacation and they have food that [will] maybe go to waste, they post it on the group and people will come and pick it up. 

Too Good To Go 

The Mid-East Food Centre near St. Laurent Boulevard is one of around 300 stores currently partnering with Too Good To Go, an app to help businesses prevent food waste. 

For more than year, they've been selling leftovers from their hot food buffet on the app, along with bags of groceries that are close to or have passed their expiration date. 

We really liked the idea because we can try to help other people get food for a reduced price, said Zubeida Hawwa, assistant general manager at the food centre.

The store typically has enough leftovers to fill around three to seven hot food orders a day, along with roughly five surprise grocery bags. 

They really like it. They come back for it, especially students, Hawwa said. They don't have time to cook and they're limited with their budget, so it's ready food for them and with a lower price.

Orders sell fast, which Hawwa said isn't surprising. With the high cost of living, she sees all kinds of people using the app. 

It feels very good to help other people have their meal for the day and in their budget, she added. 

Too Good To Go launched in Ottawa about a year and a half ago. All Ontario Metro grocery store locations are on it and it also recently partnered with Tim Hortons. 

In recent years, apps like it — including Food Hero and Flash Food — have become increasingly popular.

Olio 

Tackling food waste starts at home, said Tessa Clarke, co-founder and CEO of Olio.

Founded in the U.K., the Olio app allows users to list food or household items that can be picked up locally. 

We have enough food to feed everybody. The problem is that people aren't connected up, so we can't get that food seamlessly being distributed at that local community level, Clarke said

There's been a dramatic increase in the amount of people wanting to access free food, Clarke said. A typical food listing on the app will be requested within 20 minutes.

There's a lot of people out there who are looking to save some money and to live more sustainably."- Tessa Clarke, Olio

Olio has been available in Canada for a few years, and Clarke said it has a small but growing community across the country. 

There's a lot of people out there who are looking to save some money and to live more sustainably, she said. 

Olio also partners with large businesses and supermarkets to allow volunteers to pick up and distribute surplus groceries or items that would otherwise be thrown away.

CBC News with files from Matthew Kupfer

Headlines