Most of us love food. We love it so much that we often impulse buy when food looks too good to pass up. We overstock our pantries and fridges. We over-cater for events we host.
The truth is, for many of us, food is easily accessible and abundant. It is easy to over-purchase with wholesome intentions. However, the collateral damage of food wastage- regardless of intention- is rising food costs and the fact that nearly four million Australians experience food insecurity each year (25% of those are children).
Food waste is no longer an issue that can be shoved aside. People waste food at four levels: producer, distributor, seller, and consumer. It is undeniable that drastic shifts in policy and social norms need to happen to impact food waste at the higher levels. As consumers, the good news is that we can do our part at home- now- to make a dent in the problem.
Australians throw away $8 billion worth of edible food (up to 20% of our groceries) every year. In an average Australian household, one in five shopping bags end up in the bin. 35% of the average household bin is food waste. That is an enormous amount of waste in our very own kitchens!
The largest incentive to reduce food waste at home is simple: we save money.
Think how much household budget you could save, if instead of throwing away that 5th bag of groceries, you just didn’t buy it! Who wouldn’t love an extra 20% in their wallet at the end of the week? Here are a few tips on how you can get yourself and your family going:
Plan your meals a little more: This will keep your family organised, maintain healthy eating habits and save money. Remember you don’t have to plan every meal. Planning for four to five meals will allow for flexibility and unexpected leftovers.
Keep an ongoing list on your fridge: Jot down items as your run out of them. That way when you go to the shops you only need to buy what is on the list – instead of ending up with 2 extra cans of chickpeas you don’t need this week.
Store food properly: The way we store our food can have a big impact on how long it lasts. Here is my blog on some storage ideas to get you started.
Don’t impulse buy: Supermarkets are notorious for their 2 for 1 offers. They intentionally entice us to purchase more than we actually need. Consider if this is going to be the best, and most frugal deal for you. If the item will expire before you get a chance to use it – keep walking. Just buy what you need.
Love your leftovers: Use your leftovers to save a trip to the supermarket, your time and your dollars! Having a few pantry staples at your fingertips, such as eggs, rice or noodles will also help you create a new meal with your leftovers at any time.
Reduce fridge and pantry clutter: Abundance is appealing. We are led to believe that we are better entertainers, parents, partners and people in general if we have a well-stocked fridge and pantry. Here is my blog on how to reduce fridge and pantry clutter so that you don’t have “lurkers” hiding in the back of your cupboard.
Shop smaller, more often: This way, you are only planning a couple meals ahead. You can work off that list that you are keeping on the fridge. Many of us overestimate a week’s supply of food and often get to the end of the week, finding that food we over-purchased has spoiled.
Understand expiration dates: Surprisingly, legitimately bad food is the smallest portion of food wasted. On average, 90% of tossed food can still be safely eaten. The largest category of food waste is food we think is bad but could actually still be consumed. Here is my blog on understanding expiration dates.
Understand your schedule: If it looks like a busy week ahead, it’s ok to eat out. Just adjust your meal plan and buy less food.
Be a detective and plan ahead: Inspect your fridge and panty. Base your meals around foods that needs to be used up first. Bananas getting spotty? Plan to make banana bread or throw them into breakfast smoothies on a busy morning.
I would love for you to give some of these tips a try. See if you can save yourself some money just by being a little more careful about wasting food. It’s a win-win situation. You are making a dent in an immense problem while benefiting your own wallet!