Avoiding food waste
The average household throws away around $2,200 in food a year, or around one in every five shopping bags of groceries.
When food breaks down in landfill it produces methane, which is 28 times more powerful at warming the planet than carbon dioxide. Throwing away food also wastes the energy and resources used for production, transport and packaging.
You can significantly reduce food waste by following some practical steps at home and the grocery store.
How can I avoid food waste?
Plan your meals
Meal planning for the week is easy and fun. It will also help you buy the right amount of food so you can avoid unnecessary leftovers. Here are some tips that will help:
- Write a shopping list and stick to it, making shopping cheaper and less stressful.
- Check your fridge and pantry first, as you may already have some items.
- Have a snack before you shop to avoid impulse food purchases.
Buying bulk dry goods such as rice and pasta is useful, but fresh ingredients don’t last as long. You should reconsider bulk deals or specials, as they're only cheaper if you use all the ingredients. Buying locally grown food that's in season will help support local farmers and food systems.
Storage is key
Food storage is vital to minimising waste. Here are some tips that will help:
- Store food in clear containers or jars so you know how much is left.
- Keep food that's closer to its use-by date near the front of the fridge or pantry, and in your line of sight.
- Store food properly. Our Food storage chart (green design) and Food storage chart (collage design) have great information on where and how to store food.
- Visit the Wholegrains Council website for advice on how long to store grains.
- Eat foods before their use-by date has passed. A best before date indicates when a food is at its best and can be consumed after this date.
- Make sure you include the date and contents on leftovers in the fridge and freezer.
- Let your leftovers cool in the fridge before you put them in the freezer.
- Separate freezer food into smaller portions so you only defrost what you need.
There are some great ways to reduce food waste during cooking:
- Cook only what your household needs. Check out this portion calculator for more information.
- Use the whole vegetable or fruit if you can, including the skin, stalks and leaves. Check out these Sustainability Victoria's recipe ideas for commonly wasted food items.
- If fruit and vegetables are close to their use-by date, turn them into soups or add them to smoothies.
- Use vegetable scraps to make stock. Put them in a pot with enough water to cover them, bring it to the boil and then simmer for one hour. You now have homemade vegetable stock!
More food waste resources
- Sustainability Victoria's guide on avoiding food waste at home
- Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations
- Sustainable Table
- Staples from scratch resource
What to do with unavoidable food waste?
For any unavoidable food waste you might have (like fruit pips or avocado skins), you can use a compost bin, worm farm or your food and green waste recycling bin. The resulting compost will bring vital nutrients back to the soil.