Five clever changes to reverse food waste

Five small changes you can make to reverse your food waste.

Apple core leftover food waste

Australia has a problem with food waste, and it’s having a negative effect on our savings and our planet. According to research, Australians throw out up to 20 per cent of the food that they purchase. In other words, you’re throwing out one in every five bags of groceries that you buy and losing $1000 each year.

What small changes can you make to reverse this waste?

1. Cook ‘kitchen sink’ meals

If you have a few items in the fridge that are expiring soon, the best way to use them up is to cook them into an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ meal. Combine some neglected carrots, spinach that’s getting a tad wilted and leftover rice and you have yourself fried rice. Or bake a few chopped up veggies with spring onions and eggs for a frittata.

2. Don’t get hung up on use-by dates

There’s a tendency in our culture to get hung up on food safety. Hygiene and freshness are important but an excessive amount of concern about food ‘going off’ means that we’re throwing out perfectly good food. Use-by and best-before dates can be understood as more of a guide for freshness rather than lifespan. Some nutrition experts suggest using your senses to make a judgement call on whether food is still okay to consume: if it looks, smells and tastes fine, it probably is.

3. Freeze items in advance

It’s cost-effective to buy some items in bulk and use them over a period of weeks or even months. If you’re not going to use a whole carton of chicken pieces by the expiry date, it’s a good idea to freeze portions in individual bags and pop them in the freezer. It’s also handy knowing you have something to cook for dinner too (as long as you remember to defrost it in advance). You can safely freeze almost anything (except canned food or eggs in their shells). Most frozen food can be kept for four to six months without a big loss in quality.

4. Keep perishables in sight

One of the biggest factors contributing to food waste is forgetting to use it before it spoils. Many people use the vegetable crisper to keep vegetables fresh then forget that they’re there. Keeping particular foods in designated parts of the fridge will help you find it more easily. Using clear containers, recording use-by dates and keeping food at eye-level are great ideas too.

5. Follow the ‘first in, first out’ system

The rule of thumb for any restaurant is the ‘first in, first out’ system, whereby the items that will expire soonest remain in the front of the fridge or pantry and are used first. For example, if you have a couple of cartons of eggs, put the one that will expire first in front of the one that will last longer.



    To make a comment, please register or login
    9th Nov 2016
    Next time you are going shopping do a menu based on what is in the cupboard/fridge/freezer. Use what you have before buying any more.
    9th Nov 2016
    Some of my end of week larder meals are really unusual, but it's food and definately cannot be wasted. Takes cooking shows to the next level.
    9th Nov 2016
    I am not sure you should tell oldies not to worry about the use-by date. I threw out my mother's 1974 use-by food only to find she had gone to the bin when I went home and put in back in her pantry!!
    Old people don't smell that well and sometimes their sight is failing too! My son as a rule when accepting cooking from the elderly clients. Say thank you for any food you are given - but don't eat it!
    9th Nov 2016
    A couple of provisos with number 2:

    Supermarket fruit and vegies don’t have the nutritional value of fresh food from days of yore, even less as they age in transport, on the shelves and finally at home. But at least they have some fibre, which is better than many package foods saturated with sugar, salt and fat - unless you eat the cardboard.

    And be very careful that you don’t keep some foods too long. I agree with Rosret - such a recommendation could be very dangerous for older people in particular. Perhaps ignore “best-before” dates, but I don’t know about “use-by” ones.
    9th Nov 2016
    being on my own its hard to find items like meat that would be a single serve in supermarket, (only 1 butcher in my town and pensioners can't afford his prices) so I always buy in bulk and either do a slow cooker recipe and freeze in meal sizes, or split (mainly chicken ) into meal sizes and freeze, have done this for years, also when I can get to Aldi I buy a couple of loaves of their bread and freeze and take out slices when needed, sometimes it feels fresher when thawed, we have a green grocer in town who only opens 2 days a week Tuesday / Friday so you don't have to buy a heap in 1 shopping trip, works well for me
    9th Nov 2016
    also only buy meat / chicken when its on special or marked down with only a couple of days display left, Freeze Freeze Freeze
    9th Nov 2016
    "Five clever changes to reverse food waste" make that "Six" - simply ban Tupperware. It entices people to make extra food to "save for later" but it is inevitably tossed out a few days or weeks later. It also seems to breed in the darkness of the cupboard, two pieces always seem to become 10 or more within a couple of years :-)
    9th Nov 2016
    I think I am the lucky one here after cooking for forty plus years and having my own restaurant I do not waste any food I shop for the meals I am going to make that week I always keep staples in the cupboard eg: pasta, rice etc and when I shop I am thinking ahead I always look for specials especially if it is a staple and will keep for a long time I tend not to do meals but will keep a good sauce for another time I make all my own sauces as I then know how much salt, sugar are in them I am a diabetic and need to keep track of such things
    Young Simmo
    10th Nov 2016
    Mrs Macs pies, and 4 and 20 sausage rolls solve all my problems. Oh yeah, wash them down with 1 or 6 cans of VB, to keep a balanced diet....HIC.
    13th Nov 2016
    Point 2 is pointless if you want to eat healthy. Fresh is best, supermarkets already store food too long in coolers before you even buy them. Go to a farmers market or buy online from Farmhouse direct. I just got the best freshiest sweet potatoes delivered cheaper than what I can buy in the supermarket which are often too old already.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles