7 Handy Tips to Reduce Food Waste
20 September 2022
Is your bin filled with expired food? Read on to save your hard-earned money while also teaching your child about healthy eating and sustainable habits!
Every year, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted – and that’s just in Australia. What’s worse, 70% of food that ends up in landfills and incinerators was perfectly inedible when discarded. To fight food waste, the United Nations established the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste Reduction to campaign for sustainable solutions to food waste from the farm to your plate.
To contribute to the conversation, we’ve listed seven handy tips to reduce food waste and save your hard-earn money. These aren’t life-changing adjustments, but something as simple as buying an ugly cucumber is the first step to introduce your child to sustainable habits and healthy eating.
1. Buy Ugly Food
Firstly, keep an eye out for disfigured or misshapen fruit and veg at the supermarket. A shocking amount of fresh produce is discarded by farmers that don’t meet supermarkets aesthetic standards, with 45% of all produce being thrown away. Ugly produce is often disregarded by shoppers and left to the reduced bin, with many of that nutritious produce thrown out as supermarkets discard up to 10% of their food.
Thankfully, some supermarket chains have identified this needless waste through marketing ugly fruit separately, such as Coles ‘I’m Perfect’ range and Woolworths ‘the Odd Bunch.’ Importantly, this demonstrates how consumer spending habits directly influence the policies of the big players in food waste.
2. Make a List
Have you ever wondered why milk is always at the back of the store and the produce is waiting for you at the front? Or why the chocolate bars are tantalisingly placed at the checkout? The design of supermarkets and the placement of their products are specifically engineered to make you buy on impulse, therefore making a list is vital to ensure you only buy what you need.
Additionally, a list promotes mindful shopping. When buying those birthday cake flavoured biscuits, ask yourself – do I really need this? Often you realise you actually don’t, and they end up going stale before eventually meeting the bin.
3. Keep Leftovers
Meal-prepping and freezing meals is a wonderful way to reduce your household food waste as you can prepare meals on weekends or cook several days worth a few nights a week.
A recent survey found that Australians throw away in one in five bags worth of groceries, which is equivalent to around 312kg per person each year – equalling $2,500 wasted annually per family.
Pre-cooking meals reduces waste, saves money on takeout and promotes healthy eating habits for your child (you can get them involved in the cooking too!).
4. Understand Use-By and Best-Before Dates
Many people don’t understand the difference between use-by and before dates. While use-by dates are required on meat products and cannot be sold after this date, best-before dates are only an estimation of when food will be at its highest quality. Essentially, this is guess work by the manufacturer, which can result in consumers conflating best-before and use-by dates.
One study estimated that 24% of Europeans believed food is unsafe to eat beyond its best-before date. Some UK supermarket chains have even taken steps to prevent this misconception, with Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S removing best-before dates on many produce, milk and yogurt lines. This is in line with research outlining that the three most wasted foods are fruit, veg and bread.
5. Buy Local
Your local farmers market or baker are a fantastic way to reduce waste and support your local community. Local food markets control their own food production and distribution chains, so they’re not constrained by supermarket aesthetic standards or large-scale transit concerns.
Additionally, local traders have a better understanding of how much they need to make and what sells. Moreover, they often have better systems in place to handle leftovers, such as allowing staff to take home leftover stock or even giving it away before closing.
There are countless not-for-profit organisations that specialize in taking leftover food for homeless shelters, compost or animal feed. While some supermarkets partner with these groups and even allow customers to take discarded produce for animal feed, they are often hampered by legal waivers and forms.
Organisations such as FareShare, Foodbank Victoria and Empower Australia are just a few foodbanks that are always looking for donations!
7. Grow your Own!
Starting a veggie garden is a great bonding opportunity for you and your little one. It teaches them the wonders of nature, sustainability and the benefits of clean eating (and you control the pesticides).
We love gardening at Explorers. Our Educators and children maintain our herb and veggie gardens, and families are welcome to take home produce to enjoy! Children engage in the planting process and even harvest the veggies, which are then cooked by our chefs and enjoyed in daily meals.
In conclusion, food waste is an unavoidable part of food production, but we can take steps to reduce it from the farm to your fridge. You don’t have to become a food waste advocate, but the first step is stopping at the supermarket to ask yourself – do I really need garlic bread flavoured potato chips?