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Want to save money and help the planet? Here’s how to reduce food waste

Have you ever wondered how to stop wasting money on food? A great way to spend less on food is to reduce food waste – and we’ve got a smorgasbord of tips to help you get started

According to research by the Australian Government, Australians throw away about $20 billion of food every year, or 7.6 million tonnes of food (that’s about 300kg per person or one in five bags of groceries!). That’s a lot of food and an awful lot of money.

Have a think before chucking out your food that you might actually be scraping away your money into the bin. With cost savings in mind, we’ve put together some food waste tips to show you how to reduce food waste so you can spend less on food.

Supermarket tips to reduce food waste

Just by taking a little extra time when buying groceries, you’ll spend less on food and reduce food waste later on. Here are some tips to keep in mind at the supermarket:

  • Take a shopping list to avoid impulse buying. Planning meals in advance can help you spend less on food, but is also an easy way of making sure you only buy food you need and will use
  • Avoid impulse buying and don’t go shopping on an empty stomach
  • Take stock of what you already have in your pantry and fridge before heading to the supermarket – that way you won’t end up with three bags of carrots in the fridge
  • Buy less groceries but get them more frequently. Buying fresh produce every few days rather than once a week will mean your fruit and veg is fresher and you won’t end up buying an enormous amount of food, only to throw it out at the end of the week
  • Understand expiration dates. Learning what ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ mean could be the difference between throwing away a fridge full of edible food and cooking up a delicious dinner with what you already have at home
  • Never buy a chilled food package that feels swollen. The swelling suggests that the contents inside are going off
  • Check the use-by date. Keep in mind that food items are often marked down for quick sale because they’re about to expire
  • Some fresh foods are better than others to buy in bulk. Before you buy a big quantity of fresh produce, keep in mind the longevity of the product, how quickly you’ll use it and if you have room to store it
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Refrigeration tips to reduce food waste

If you’re stuck on how to stop wasting money on food, then look no further than your fridge or freezer. One of our top food waste tips is to batch cook and freeze meals when food is getting close to its ‘use-by’ date. Use your fridge and freezer to their full potential and reduce food waste with these food waste tips:

  • Keep your fridge set at three to four degrees Celsius – this will keep your food fresh the longest
  • Don’t over-pack your fridge — if it’s too full, then air can’t circulate properly
  • Rotate older food to the front
  • Foods with the shortest shelf life (berries, ripe peaches, etc) need to go in the coldest part of the fridge (the bottom)
  • Before freezing milk, remove a little from the carton to avoid the contents expanding and bursting the container
  • Protect your veggies (except mushrooms) from the air by storing them in the fridge in reusable zip-lock bags. Mushrooms fare better in the fridge in a paper bag
  • Some fruit and veg do better out of the fridge – avocados, tomatoes and bananas need to ripen at room temperature before being refrigerated. Once your bananas have ripened, you can put them in the fridge for up to two weeks. The skin will turn black, but the fruit inside will be fine.
  • Butter will store longer in the fridge and longer still in the freezer – keep only a few days’ supply on the counter, especially during summer.
Four bananas in a row from left-right. The first banana is spotless, while each banana afterwards is at a further stage of decomposing - reduce food waste.

Food storage tips to reduce food waste

The right storage can add days, weeks and months to your food. A great way to spend less on food and reduce food waste is to learn the best storage methods for the food you have. Some of the most useful storage tips are listed below:

  • Create a vacuum pack by sucking or squeezing the air out of the bags you store your fruit and veg in. Exposure to air speeds up the decomposition process.
  • Fresh herbs (except basil) are best wrapped in a damp paper towel and refrigerated in an airtight container. Herbs can also be frozen in a plastic bag for up to a month and defrost nearly instantly. However, basil will turn black in the fridge – leave it on the bench in a glass of water.
  • Citrus fruits are hardy, so they can usually be stored on the counter for up to two weeks, and much longer in the fridge.
  • Fruits and veggies produce ethylene gas as they ripen, and as they absorb the gas they ripen more quickly. Some fruits produce more ethylene than others and it’s good to store these fruits separately (unless you want your other fruit to ripen quickly). Some of the worst culprits include: apples, nectarines, apricots, avocado, rock melon, peaches and pears.
  • Onions and potatoes last longer if stored in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or cupboard.
  • Found a bad apple? Remove spoiled fruits and veggies to stop others from spoiling more quickly.
  • If you find a bulk bargain on meat, remember to divide the pack into meal-sized portions before you freeze it.

Food preparation tips for reducing food waste

Food waste tips don’t end once you start using the food. There’s still a whole bunch of things you can do during the preparation stage to reduce food waste. Some of our best food waste tips for food prep are:

  • Wash fruit and veg just before use. The exception is berries, which can be gently rinsed in a 90:10 mix of water and vinegar before being returned to the container and put in the fridge. The vinegar kills mould spores.
  • Fruit that is too ripe to eat may still be used for cooking. Over-ripe bananas are perfect for banana bread.
  • It’s okay to eat around the rough spots. Small bruises on fruit or specks of mould on cheese can be safely cut off before the food is eaten.
  • Leftovers don’t have to be fed to the dog. Serve them up for lunch the next day or pop them in the freezer for next week.
  • Meal planning is a great way to avoid waste and stick to your food budget. Plan a weekly menu of meals and only buy what you need.

Are you ready to spend less on food and reduce your food waste?

If you’ve been wondering how to stop wasting money on food, then we hope these food waste tips will mean you spend less on food, while helping you reduce food waste and helping the planet at the same time. If you’ve reduced your food waste but still want advice on how to budget for meals or spend less on food, then call MyBudget for a chat.

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This article has been prepared for information purposes only, and does not constitute personal financial advice. The information has been prepared without taking into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on any information in this article you should consider the appropriateness of the information having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs.