Why you should take a ‘shelfie’

Food waste costs Australia around $20 billion a year. So how can you reduce the amount of food that ends up in the bin?

Perhaps it’s that limp lettuce that you never got around to eating, that half-eaten can of baked beans that has turned a nasty shade of green, or that stale loaf of bread.

If you’re like most households, you are probably throwing away between $2200 and $3800 of food waste each year.

Australian households throw away 3.1 million tonnes of edible food every year – that’s the equivalent weight of around 17,000 747 jumbo jets.

Australia hopes to halve its food waste by 2030 and last November, the government launched its National Food Waste Strategy to encourage more of us to think before we buy.

And food waste doesn’t only harm our hip pockets, says Joshua Bishop, head of sustainable food at WWF Australia.

“Wasted food also wastes the resources that go into producing it. The food system is the leading cause of the loss of biological diversity in the world – 70 per cent of biodiversity loss is attributed to the food system,” he says.

Food production involves greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water use, more forests being cut down, wetlands being drained, and pesticides and fertilisers going into soil – a waste of precious resources if the food ends up in the bin.

food waste

So how can you cut food waste?

  • Take a “shelfie”: Do a stocktake of your fridge and pantry before you go shopping so you only buy what you need.
  • Plan your meals: Use up the ingredients you have before they perish or go out of date. Check out our tips on meal planning for families.
  • Check date labels and know what they mean: “Use by” = food has to be thrown away if it passes that date. “Best before” = food can be eaten after this date as long as it’s been stored correctly. “Display until” = a stock control message for retailers.
  • Rescue stale food: Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs, and grate and freeze odd bits of cheese to sprinkle over pasta.
  • Choose vegetables that last longer: Such as cabbage, squash, potatoes and onions. Buy smaller quantities of foods that have a short shelf life, for example salads and leafy greens. Read more on how to make healthy choices at the supermarket.
  • Order for your stomach, not your eyes: When you eat out, think about what you order from the menu. How hungry are you, what size are the portions being served, and how much are you really likely to eat?
  • Request doggy bags: If you don’t finish your meal, ask to take the leftovers home (make sure you store it correctly).

Want to boost your environmental cred? Find out how to go organic on a budget and how to keep your home free of nasty toxins. And read more on living sustainably in The House of Wellness October liftout, available at your local Chemist Warehouse store.

Watch James Tobin go in search of the solution to food waste in House of Wellness TV:

Written by Sarah Marinos.