Cooking and Food Skills

Reducing Packaging Waste

Welcome back to our series on environmental sustainability! Today, we’re talking about the importance of reducing packaging waste in our everyday lives. From grocery shopping to meal prep, there are plenty of ways to minimize the amount of plastic and packaging that ends up in landfills.

Bring Your Own Bags

One of the easiest ways to reduce packaging waste is by bringing your own reusable bags when you go shopping. Whether you’re picking up groceries or browsing the farmers market, a sturdy reusable bag can help minimize the need for additional bags.

Reuse Your Bags

Instead of tossing out your bags after each use, consider reusing them. Use them for future shopping trips or repurpose them for other household needs. Here are some ideas:

  • Save milk bags to see if there are local organizations accepting them for repurposing.
  • Wash and dry milk sleeve bags to use as small freezer bags.
  • Clean and dry Ziploc bags for reuse instead of acquiring new ones.
  • Keep bread bags for use as liners in thin bathroom garbage cans.

Whenever a plastic bag comes into your possession, ask yourself where else you could reuse it in your home.

Reuse Your Containers

Another effective way to reduce packaging waste is by repurposing containers. Whether it’s glass jars, plastic tubs, yogurt containers, or clamshells, there are countless possibilities for giving these items a second life.

Glass Jars: don’t throw away those empty glass jars—turn them into storage containers instead! Clean them out thoroughly and use them to store dried goods like beans, rice, pasta, or some baking ingredients. Glass jars are perfect for keeping pantry staples fresh and organized.

Plastic Containers: Clear plastic containers can be incredibly versatile when it comes to storage. Use them to organize small items like nails, screws, buttons, or craft supplies in your workshop or garage. By repurposing these containers, you not only reduce waste but also keep your space neat and tidy.

Yogurt Containers: Instead of tossing empty yogurt containers into the recycling bin, give them a new purpose in your home or garden. Yogurt containers make excellent plant pots for starting seedlings or propagating cuttings. Simply poke some holes in the bottom for drainage and fill them with soil. They’re a budget-friendly alternative to store-bought plant pots.

Strawberry Clamshell Containers: Reusing strawberry clamshell containers is another clever way to reduce waste. These containers already have holes in the bottom, making them perfect for planting seeds or seedlings. Simply fill them with soil, plant your seeds, and place them in a sunny spot. Remember to place a recycled tray underneath to catch any excess water, ensuring your plants stay healthy and your floors stay dry.

Plastic Trays: Those plastic trays that come with packaged foods can serve as useful bases for potted plants. Place them under plant pots to catch excess water and prevent spills, protecting your floors and surfaces. Plus, they’re easy to clean and reuse again and again.

By thinking creatively and finding new uses for containers, you can extend their lifespan and minimize waste in your home. So, before you toss anything into the recycling bin, ask yourself if it could serve another purpose first!

Choose Loose Produce

When shopping for fruits and vegetables, opt for loose items instead of pre-packaged ones. Not only does this reduce plastic waste, but it also allows you to select only the amount you need, reducing the likelihood of food waste.

Make Your Own

Instead of buying pre-packaged foods like cookies or granola bars, consider making your own at home. Not only is it more cost-effective, but it also allows you to control the ingredients and packaging.

Pack Your Own Lunch

Eating out can be convenient, but it often results in unnecessary packaging waste. Instead, pack your own lunch using reusable containers and cutlery. Not only is it better for the environment, but it’s also healthier and more budget-friendly.

Buy Second-Hand Items

In our journey towards reducing packaging waste and fostering environmental sustainability, another impactful step we can take is to buy second-hand items. Not only is this practice more affordable, but it also offers a host of other benefits that contribute to a greener planet.

Affordability and Convenience: Buying second-hand allows you to acquire items at a fraction of the cost of buying new. Whether you’re in need of furniture, clothing, electronics, or household goods, shopping second-hand can save you a significant amount of money. Additionally, many second-hand items come fully assembled, saving you the time and hassle of putting them together yourself.

Unique Options: One of the joys of shopping second-hand is the opportunity to discover unique and one-of-a-kind items. From vintage clothing to antique furniture, second-hand stores offer a treasure trove of unique finds that you won’t find in mainstream retail stores. Embrace your individuality and add a touch of character to your home or wardrobe with second-hand gems.

Reduced Packaging and Carbon Footprint: By opting for second-hand items, you’re not only saving money but also reducing the demand for new products. This means fewer resources are consumed in the manufacturing and packaging process, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions and environmental impact. Additionally, by giving pre-loved items a new lease on life, we prevent them from ending up in landfills where they could take centuries to decompose.

Community Impact: Shopping second-hand also supports local businesses and charities, as many second-hand stores are run by non-profit organizations or small businesses. Your purchases contribute to the sustainability of these establishments and help them continue their valuable work in the community.

When choosing to buy second-hand, we can make a positive impact on the environment while also enjoying the benefits of affordability, uniqueness, and convenience. So next time you’re in need of something, consider checking out your local thrift store or online marketplace for second-hand treasures!

By making small changes to our shopping, home, and eating habits, we can all do our part to reduce packaging waste and create a more sustainable future. Remember, every little bit counts!

Growing Your Own Food

In our quest for environmental sustainability, one of the most impactful actions we can take is growing our own food. Whether you have acres of land or just a small balcony, there are plenty of ways to cultivate fresh produce right at home.

Container Gardening

You don’t need a sprawling garden to grow your own food. Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs can thrive in containers such as buckets, planters, or even water. Here are some easy-to-grow items for container gardening:

  • Tomatoes
  • Herbs (basil, parsley, mint)
  • Lettuce
  • Peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Kratky Method

Looking for a low-maintenance way to grow fresh produce? Consider the Kratky method which is growing plants without soil. Instead, plants are grown in a nutrient-rich water solution, making it ideal for small spaces and indoor gardening.

Did you know that the Cambridge Food Bank gives mostly fresh foods in our emergency food hampers? Consider growing extra fruits and vegetables this season and we’d be happy to accept your donations.  Sign up here if you’d like to show your interest in doing so.

Supporting Local Farmers Markets

Another great way to reduce the environmental impact of buying groceries is by supporting local farmers markets. Not only are you getting fresh, locally grown produce, but you’re also reducing the carbon footprint associated with transportation and packaging.  Consider visiting the farmer’s markets in Cambridge this season.

By growing your own food and supporting local farmers, you can take a big step towards a more sustainable future.

The Art of Food Preservation

Welcome back to our series on environmental sustainability! Today, we’re diving into the world of food preservation. Whether you have a surplus of fresh produce from your garden or leftovers from last night’s dinner, there are plenty of ways to make sure nothing goes to waste.

Freezing Produce and Meals

If you find yourself with more produce than you can use in a week, consider freezing it for later use. Many foods including fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, milk, eggs and leftovers can be blanched and/or frozen to preserve their freshness. Similarly, cooked meals can be portioned out and frozen for quick and easy dinners on busy nights.

Cooking with Leftovers

Leftovers don’t have to be boring! Get creative in the kitchen by repurposing leftovers into new meals. For example, yesterday’s roasted vegetables can be added to a frittata or turned into a hearty soup. By using up leftovers, you not only reduce food waste but also save time and money.

Making Jams and Preserves

Preserving fruits in jams and preserves is a delicious way to prolong their shelf life. Plus, it’s easier than you might think! Start by gathering your favorite fruits and follow a simple recipe for homemade jam. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying it is to enjoy homemade preserves all year round.

Ready to get started? Check out this Canadian Food Preservation Guide for tips and techniques on food preservation.

By mastering the art of food preservation, you can save money by making the most of your food and reducing food waste in your home.  Composting should be a last resort. 

Tackling Food Waste at Home

Welcome to the first installment in our series on environmental sustainability! At the Cambridge Food Bank, we believe in being more than just a food bank. We strive to empower our community to make meaningful changes, starting with tackling food waste. Did you know that the average Canadian household throws away about $1,766 worth of food each year? That’s not just money down the drain—it’s also a significant environmental issue. But fear not, because there are simple steps you can take to make a difference.

Planning Meals for the Week

One of the best ways to reduce food waste is by planning your meals ahead of time. Take a few minutes each week to think about what you’ll be eating and make a shopping list accordingly. This not only helps you avoid buying more than you need but also ensures that you use up ingredients before they go bad.

Embrace Leftovers

Leftovers often get a bad rap, but they can be a lifesaver when it comes to reducing food waste. Get creative with your leftovers by incorporating them into new meals or packing them for lunch the next day. Remember, food that ends up in the trash is not only a waste of money but also a waste of resources.

Take Inventory Before Shopping

Before heading to the grocery store, take a quick inventory of what you already have in your fridge and pantry.  Take a picture of each as this will help you avoid buying duplicate items and ensure that you use up perishable goods before they spoil. Plus, it’s a great way to save time and money!


Despite our best efforts, there may still be some food waste that cannot be avoided. Instead of tossing it in the trash, consider composting it instead. Composting not only reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfills but also produces nutrient-rich soil for your garden. Check out this link to learn more about composting in the Cambridge area: Composting Guide.

By implementing these simple strategies, you can make a big impact on reducing food waste in your home and helping the environment.

Baking for a Cause: The Story of the Cambridge Food Bank’s Food Rescue Program and Their Amazing Preserves and Baked Goods

Our Story

At the Cambridge Food Bank, a remarkable transformation takes place. What starts as rescued produce needing a second chance turns into delicious preserves that not only sustain our participants year-round but also generate vital funds for our cause. In this blog post, we had the pleasure of speaking with Vi, the Food Rescue Coordinator, who shared the inspiring story behind the Cambridge Food Bank’s venture into the world of preserves.

Rescuing and Creating

Using fruits and vegetables, Vi and her team carefully handcraft a variety of mouthwatering jams, sauces, and relishes. By preserving these flavours, they not only prevent waste but also create products that capture the essence of seasonal abundance. Each jar tells a story of generosity, sustainability, and culinary delight. 

Seasonal Abudance

With an abundance of carrots, apples, pears, and other seasonal produce pouring in, Vi worked her magic, turning them into delectable sauces, jams, and relishes. From the mouthwatering carrot cake jam to the tangy dill pickles, the Cambridge Food Bank preserves became a testament to Vi’s culinary skills and resourcefulness.

Embracing Change and Learning

Making preserves dates back to 1795.  With changing regulations and advancements in preservation techniques, Vi embraces the opportunity to expand her knowledge. She’s learned the importance of maintaining proper temperatures, following correct procedures, and adapting recipes to suit modern standards and different produce characteristics.

The Sweet Taste of Success

The pride that Vi takes in her preserves comes from the joy she experiences when receiving positive feedback. The absence of additives in Cambridge Food Bank preserves ensures a healthier alternative for consumers. Vi’s commitment to creating natural, wholesome products stems from her desire to provide her own children with additive-free options and inspired her to master the art of homemade cooking.

Looking Ahead

Vi’s future interests lie in pressure canning, allowing her to explore new avenues and expand the Cambridge Food Bank’s preserves collection. She emphasizes the importance of understanding consumer preferences and ensuring food safety. By actively seeking feedback and conducting taste tests, Vi believes that the Cambridge Food Bank can continue to grow in popularity.

Heartwarming Stories and Shared Culture

Vi’s dedication to her work has fostered a sense of community among the volunteers. Through sharing knowledge and experiences, cultural differences have been embraced, bringing people closer together. The volunteers, eager to make a difference, leave the kitchen with a sense of fulfillment and return time and time again.

A Legacy of Compassion

When envisioning the future, Vi emphasizes the Cambridge Food Bank’s longstanding history and the commitment of its volunteers. Since her involvement in 1988, Vi’s family has played a vital role in supporting the organization. Looking ahead, she hopes that new volunteers will be welcomed with open arms, carrying forward the knowledge and passion for feeding those in need.


Vi’s journey at the Cambridge Food Bank exemplifies the power of resourcefulness, creativity, and compassion.  With each jar sold, the Cambridge Food Bank preserves continue to sustain participants, generate funds for programming, and remind us of the impact that a simple act of kindness can have on a community.

Five great reasons kids should learn how to cook

As parents, raising a child who is a picky eater can be challenging especially if you’re trying to develop a healthy eating style.  What if it didn’t have to be difficult?  Google can show us many ways to avoid picky eaters, but reading doesn’t create results, actions do.

The Cambridge Food Bank believes that raising a child who genuinely enjoys eating nutritious food takes practice.  Our Wellness Hub features a weekly youth program run by Vanessa, to help support parents in the Cambridge and North Dumfries area to raise children who are nutritionally diverse in their eating styles. 

Here are Vanessa’s top five reasons kids should learn how to cook

  1. Kids build confidence and comfort in the kitchen
  2. Kids are more likely to try new foods prior to forming an opinion of them
  3. It expands their pallets to more nutrient-dense foods
  4. It increases their kitchen knowledge, safety, and terminology
  5. It creates a sense of pride

The youth program is disguised as fun for kids but contains many educational lessons.

Parents share their child’s 2022 program experiences

  1. “Ada has learned how to do many things in the kitchen. She now has the confidence to make the family breakfast.”
  2. “The Food Bank programs provided simple and healthy recipes that children loved to make. The reality is, if my child makes it, she’s going to eat it. So the inclusion of so many fruits and veggies has made her diet more diverse.”
  3. “Vanessa makes the classes so much fun plus they get to snack and try new foods while they cook. Also, the look of pure pride on her face when she makes a delicious meal for her family is priceless.”
  4. “My daughter loves the programs because she likes to eat, wants to know how to do more in the kitchen and because Vanessa is awesome!”
  5. “I have so many stories to share about our experiences with the Food Bank classes. It has made cooking time, family time. But my favorite story has to be where my daughter and her friend spoiled their dinner on veggies and a healthy yogurt dip they made with Vanessa. Let me say that again, they spoiled their dinner on veggies!!! Unheard of. As stated before, these classes are great and I tell all the other parents about it. My daughter’s friends are constantly asking to come over for the classes and quite a few of these recipes have become family favorites.”

Visit our website to learn more about the 2023 Wellness Hub, contact Vanessa at 519-622-6550 ext. 109 or vtoncic@cambridgefoodbank.org

**This cooking program is provided at no cost and all supplies are included.