The Mature Market: How You Can Cut Your Grocery Budget — And Emissions

When Cameron Sabbour braved the 6 p.m. rush at his local grocery store on a Wednesday in June, he couldn’t resist buying half-price jalapeños and acorns and ripe bananas off the discount shelf.

Sabour, director of marketing for a digital startup in Ottawa, says buying food grocery stores that you want to get rid of helps him meet his grocery budget each week. It also means less food is thrown away while it is still growing.

“It’s a shame that this food is wasted,” says Sabour. “It’s just around the grocery store, nobody buys it, it gets thrown in the garbage.”

Research shows that grabbing groceries before they are thrown out has a green side effect, too: Reducing food waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

The economic and environmental benefits of purchasing these groceries at discount prices have allowed the Too Good To Go app to take hold all over the world, including Canada. The Denmark-based company allows companies to sell “surprise bags” of assorted food items that would otherwise have been discarded at a third of the retail price.

Since last July, Too Good To Go has appeared in Montreal, Quebec City, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto.

Meuwly’s Artisan Food Market in Edmonton has been using the app to sell groceries nearing completion since last month. The independent market sells charcuterie, dairy products, eggs, preserves, local vegetables and fresh, home-baked bread.

Peter Keith, co-owner of Meuwly, says he comes up with innovative solutions to reduce food waste, such as pickling produce that can no longer be sold or selling unused bones to a local ramen shop. Keith says reducing food waste helps generate revenue and is good for the environment.

However, Keith estimates that the market should discard up to $500 worth of groceries very close to their expiration dates each week.

“When you think about the amount of work, energy and resources that was invested in producing a small jar of jam,[getting rid of that]is actually a huge drain,” says Keith.

Research shows that grabbing groceries before they are thrown out has a green side effect, too: Reducing food waste reduces greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.

Food waste is responsible for eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to a 2019 report by the World Resources Institute.

The report shows that reducing global food waste by a quarter could bring the agriculture sector 15 percent closer to meeting its emissions targets for keeping global warming below 1.5°C. It also notes that nearly half of food waste comes from distributors, grocers and consumers.

That’s why Keith’s store started using Too Good To Go.

“There is a feasibility study for it as well as an environmental issue,” says Keith. “We leave a mark, and I think we need to leave things better than what we inherited.”

Keith is one of many business owners who have used the app in the year since its launch. Sam Kashani, Country Director of Good Too Go, says Canadians have embraced the platform “very, very quickly”.

Kashani says more than 3,000 companies across the country are using it, selling more than 400,000 meals that would otherwise be in vain.

Sabour says he has become more open to buying groceries at discount prices because it helped him make ends meet as his cost of living rose.

“I’ve noticed things have gotten more expensive lately. I bought two pizzas for about $70,” says Sabbour. “It makes me think, ‘Okay, you have to tighten your belt. “

Too Good To Go started operating in Ottawa last month. Kashani says more than 100 local businesses are already using the app to sell discounted products.

But while surprise bags can be fun for Canadians looking to make a difference, Sabour believes the strategy is too unreliable to attract people who won’t actually buy discounted food at the last chance.

“I kind of need to know what I’m going to do before I buy it,” says Sabbour. “If (people) don’t know the recipe for an ingredient, they don’t buy it in the first place.”

Keith says that as Muewly’s expands its inventory, he hopes to create different categories of surprise bags so customers have a better idea of ​​what they are buying.

“It’s usually (the lists on the app) the size of the bag and the number of items in it,” Keith says. “My hope is that when we start using this app, we can be more specific and make it more specific so that if someone doesn’t eat dairy, they won’t buy a bag full of dairy.”

If grocery stores and restaurants really want to make an impact on food waste, Sabbour says they need to find more reliable ways to use last-chance products or buy less food in the first place.

“[The app]will make life easy for a lot of people who struggle to eat…if they are smart enough to use it,” says Sabbour. “Maybe there is a simpler solution or maybe we can think about it further.”

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