Food waste

Aussie households bin close to three million tonnes of food each year.
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02.Two food waste diaries

Food wastage is a huge problem to tackle, but by doing your bit to reduce food waste, you can make a difference. CHOICE followed two households for five days to track their waste. We offer simple solutions you can use to save the planet, as well as your wallet.

Narelle Cornelius

  • Food-case-study-Narelle-Market researcher
  • Lives with her husband Mike and children Jordan, 11, and Ruben, 8

Feeding two fussy children prevents Narelle from prioritising waste prevention. “My kids don’t like eating leftovers,” she says. “I cook too much and it sits in the fridge for up to 10 days before being thrown out.”

Another problem she has identified is school lunch boxes. The kids sometimes come home with a full box and the food has to be thrown away. On the days that she logged her waste, the children ate all their lunch. “Some weeks we waste more, either because of uneaten school lunches or because I decide to clean out the fridge.”


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Food-Wastage-cost-tableOur home economist Fiona Mair says:

It’s easier to minimise waste with children than prevent it. If eating leftovers is a problem, Narelle should monitor how much her family eats and make just enough for one meal. Leftovers can be frozen and eaten by her or Mike at a later stage. Frozen leftovers make a convenient
lunch to take to work. As well as encouraging her kids to eat lunch and providing food they like, Narelle could use some insulated lunch boxes. Adding a frozen popper or freezer bricks can help salvage some of the food for the next day. Just be careful with high-risk foods such as meat and salad.

Other things Narelle can do:

  • Make sure she puts food back in the fridge and seals it completely
  • Compost fresh food scraps such as the silverbeet stems and the uneaten cauliflower

Narelle says:

I definitely could plan and monitor portion sizes. I often do reuse leftovers for my lunch, and occasionally for the kids’ lunches (such as roasts or sausages). Where possible I have my children eat leftover lunches when they get home. One of my boys, Jordan, won’t eat for one of several reasons – not having enough time, not liking it, forgetting to eat it or simply not feeling like eating whatever I’ve packed that day.
I do try to limit what I put in their lunch boxes (which are insulated) and speak to them regularly about what they like and don’t like. I also find out what their friends are eating to get new ideas. I think some children are lunch-eaters and some aren’t; I have one of each. I’ll certainly take these ideas on board.

Zoya Sheftalovich

  • Food-wastage-case-study-zoya_340wx232h-2-1CHOICE investigative journalist
  • Lives with her boyfriend Joseph

A self-confessed bargain shopper, Zoya generally shops to a list but buys in bulk to save money – even if she knows she won’t use it all. She cleans out her fridge every two to three weeks and the wastage diary reflects what she would typically throw out at this time. Food-wastage-table

“I’ve actually gotten better, if you can believe it,” she says. “I’m really concerned about wastage, so I knew I had a problem. I’ve been trying to bulk buy less and I haven’t been shopping in advance as much as I used to, as fresh food spoiled too much over a whole week. I also try to plan menus better, but that’s hard.”

Our home economist Fiona Mair says:

Zoya has already made an effort to reduce her waste, which is great, but she’s still tossing away a lot of food. She needs to plan out her meals for the week and create a shopping list based on this menu. This way she only buys what she needs. She also has a storage issue. Foods such as cheese and butter are going dry because they’re not wrapped properly and are open to oxidation. She needs to invest in some good quality plastic storage ware. Try storing cheese in cloth to stop it from going dry.

Other things Zoya can do:

  • Freeze leftovers
  • Use leftover wine in recipes such as casseroles or bolognaise or freeze in an icetray for future use in cooking
  • Freeze uneaten bread in a well-sealed bag to stop freezer burn
  • Start a compost bin for uneaten fruit and vegetables

Zoya says:

Good advice. I find it difficult to plan menus ahead of time as I tend to change my mind about what I want to eat. I know this is something I need to work on, so instead I’ve started only buying fresh ingredients for a few days in advance. I have to make more shopping trips, but at least I feel less guilty about throwing things away. I definitely have storage issues – my fridge is old and not working too well. But I’ll give the cloth for wrapping cheese a go – hopefully it will stop me from throwing things away. As for a compost bin, I don’t know how to compost but I’ll just have to learn.

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