Scraping plates off into the bin, tossing away that stew forgotten at the back of the fridge, binning the mouldy bread – we all do it from time to time with barely a second thought. While it may not seem like a big deal, Australians are collectively throwing out more than three million tonnes – $5.2 billion worth – of food every year. So as well as sitting in landfill producing greenhouse gases, food waste is also burning a hole in our hip pocket.
The environmental consequences are huge. Methane produced by our decomposing food has a greenhouse effect 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. But Australians aren’t alone in our wastefulness. In the UK, it is estimated that one-third of all food is thrown away – if it were stopped, it would be like taking one in five cars off their roads. It’s a similar story for other developed nations.
Tips to cut down your food wastage
- Plan your menu for the week and create a shopping list based on this menu.
- Check the fridge and cupboard before planning your menu. You may already have some ingredients that you could use and add to.
- Avoid two-for-one and buy-one-get-one-free specials.
- Don’t buy in bulk unless you’re sure you’ll use it all.
- Check best-before and use-by dates.
- Consider serving sizes and how much your household eats when preparing meals.
- Measure the amount of food prior to cooking to prevent making too much.
- Use wilting vegetables in soups and casseroles rather than binning them.
- Use overripe fruit in desserts and cakes.
- Before going on holiday, use perishables to make soups, casseroles, curries or pasta sauce and freeze them for your return.
- Make croutons from stale bread. Cut it into pieces and dry-roast in the oven until golden brown. Store in an airtight container and use within five days.
- Make your own stock from leftover meat and vegetables. It can be frozen and used later.
- Grow your own herbs on the windowsill. This will save you money and you can pick only what you need.
- Ensure leftovers are put straight in the fridge or freezer.
- Keep leftovers at the front of the fridge shelf so they don’t get forgotten.
- Always read and follow the storage instructions on products you purchase.
- Make sure all food is sealed properly.
- Do a regular pantry audit and use items with the shortest dates. This can inspire your menu planning for the week.
- Know the difference between “use by” and “best before”. Use by means the item must be used by the date stamped; best before foods can be eaten after the date, but the quality may not be as good.
Composting reduces the amount of garbage that ends up in landfill, and makes great mulch for the garden. See our composting section on how to start your own.