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Nowadays just about everyone is chomping at the bit to buy groceries for less and nab themselves the best supermarket specials. However there’s one sure-fire way to lower your grocery bills which often gets forgotten about, literally – simply waste less food at home.

Australians actually throw out a staggering $8billion worth of household food a year. It seems an awful lot of us are suffocating under a mountain of uneaten leftovers, rotting vegies and petrified frozen meat, and then running out to buy more stuff.

However this is just a drop in the ocean when you consider the issue on a global scale. A recent study by the United National Environment Programme reports one-third of all food world-wide, worth more than $1trillion, gets wasted!

On the upside, last month France became the first country to ban supermarkets from destroying or throwing away unsold food, forcing them to donate it to food banks and charities. And this month Denmark launched WeFood their first supermarket selling produce close to its best before date. The supermarket is similar to several stores in Australia such as Victoria’s Not Quite Right chain. The store claims shoppers can save up to 80 per cent by selling other stores’ excess stock, discontinued lines and cancelled supermarket orders.

While these are all steps in the right direction, each consumer can do their bit to end food wastage. A NSW Government study found NSW households throw away $1,036 worth of edible food each year including $343 in fresh food, $281 in leftovers and $94 in frozen food. All up Aussies chuck out a jaw-dropping 4.9 million tonnes of food each year. That works out to around 631kg of waste per household – the equivalent of a fully-grown buffalo.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the study found that young people aged 18 to 24 and households with incomes exceeding $100,000 were the worst wasters. The main reasons for the startling pile-up included people not finishing their meals, and leaving food lurking in the fridge or freezer for too long.

Victor Sun from Fox Symes and Associates says some people don’t even realise how much they are consuming, wasting or buying when it comes to food.

“When we analyse people’s bank statements, you can clearly see sometimes where people are spending large amounts of money,” he says. “They might be hitting the supermarket three or four times a day. You have to wonder why. Often there’s no planning behind those decisions.”

If you plan, prepare and store food correctly, not only will you contribute less waste to the planet, you’ll also save up to $90 a month.

To cut down your waste, try these tips:

Make a plan and stick to it

  • It’s vital that you make a list with your weekly meals in mind and budget for it accordingly. Don’t be tempted to buy things not on your list. “Budgeting is critical, but it will only work if you’re committed to it,” says Victor. “You have to be disciplined.”
  • Analyse purchases. Victor advises that people study their grocery bills to learn what the most expensive items are and to see if they can cut back on things.  “Not many people analyse bills and bank statements to see how their money is allocated, but more people should.”
  • If you’re buying in bulk, remember that you’ll only save money if you use the food before it goes off.

Store things properly

  • Place the oldest items in boxes, jars and cans at the front of your cupboard so you use them first before buying new stuff.
  • When bringing meat home, freeze all items not being used within a few days.
  • Store fruits and vegetables in their correct fridge compartments and use plastic bags to preserve their longevity. Store bananas, tomatoes and apples separately to other perishables as they give off gases making other things spoil quicker.

Prepare appropriately and do a regular stock take

  • Observe how much your family eats and only cook the consumable amount. Whilst leftovers might be good once in a while, don’t aim to have uneaten stuff after every meal.
  • Once a week get creative and try to make a stew or soup out of vegetable and meat odds and ends.
  • If you have leftovers in your fridge, aim to always eat them the next day.
  • Look through your pantry and freezer regularly and use whatever’s in there within a few months.

What households are wasting money on each year

Food type Yearly waste Weekly waste
Fresh food $343 $6.60
Leftovers $281 $5.40
Packaged/long-life $151 $2.90
Drinks $94 $1.80
Frozen food $94 $1.80
Home delivered/take away $73 $1.40
Total $1,036 $19.90

*Source: NSW Government study of 1,200 residents

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

  • Hate seeing food go to waste and it mostly happens from not eating everything that has been served to you. So these days when I have guests I serve everything on serving platters and people can have as much or as little as they like and not take that piece of pumpkin they ‘don’t like’. What’s left over can be cooked as bubble’n’squeak fir breakfast. If you have children give them smaller serves and let them have more if they really want it and you know they’ll eat it. Sometimes eyes are bigger than tummies!

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  • Making a meal plan using what I find in my freezer and pantry certainly helps the shopping budget. And i have a day a week i make meals i can freeze.

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  • Great tips, we spend so much at the supermarket and although we write a list generally it goes out the window and we have a trolley full of stuff we don’t particularly need.

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  • I know when some of my supermarkets have a market day for specials and where u can fill a bag of mixed veggies and fruit for $4 and I go to the butcher and buy meat packs and one of my supermarkets I visit have meat specials also.

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  • I make a list and try to stick to it as to not over spend. Also l hate throwing food out as it cost alot to buy!

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  • I need to work on this, I’m pretty good at writing a list and sticking to it at the supermarket, as well as sticking to my menu for the week. But I could always improve.

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  • Absolutely true. I hate seeing food going to waste. I cook just what I know we are going to eat, or I cook double and freeze the rest. It’s so important to always check the pantry because we often forget what’s in there.

    Reply

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