How to save food
The best way to reduce food waste is to avoid creating it in the first place, and a bit of planning can help you do just that.
Food planning – in whatever form works best for you – will save you time and money. It will help you make the most of what you already have and ensures you only buy the things you really need.
Good planning involves checking what you already have, planning your meals and knowing what you need to buy.
If planning every meal of the week seems daunting, you can try planning two to three days ahead, or for just your week-night dinners.
Smart shopping can save you from throwing away thousands of dollars a year in wasted food. And there are a few basic principles to remember.
Know what you need to buy before you go. Writing a shopping list is essential but so is checking the fridge and cupboards first so that you know what you have.
Planning your meals around food that is in season is usually cheaper and these items are often fresher so they last much longer.
If you find sticking to your in-store list difficult, then try to avoid shopping when hungry or with children, as this increases the likelihood of buying more.
And remember, bulk-buy deals or two-for-one specials are only good value if you actually end up using everything that's included. It’s not a bargain if it ends up in the bin.
Waste-free cooking can be easy and makes cooking more fun and less stressful.
The best things you can do to cook without waste are:
- cook to a meal plan
- get creative to use up ingredients
- cook the right amount to avoid leftovers.
A meal plan can save you both time and stress and will help you use up what you’ve bought.
If you find yourself with spare ingredients or leftovers, take the opportunity to get creative so that you use them up. Search online for recipes that use the specific ingredients you have or check out some of our simple recipes for commonly-wasted items.
Cooking the right amount for what you need also helps reduce waste. If you want to avoid leftovers, it makes sense to be more cautious with your portion sizes. But if you love your leftovers, deliberately preparing larger portions to freeze or eat for lunch can actually save food, money and time.
Think some of your food is beyond rescue? Think again!
If leftovers are the result of younger fussy eaters, there are lots of ways to involve kids in the food journey.
It’s important to remember a few basic food safety rules to ensure you stay healthy and reduce your food waste.
Wash your hands before and whilst preparing food.
Keep food out of the temperature 'danger zone'. Between five and 60 degrees Celsius is the range where bacteria, a common cause of food poisoning, can quickly reproduce. Be sure to store food in the fridge within two hours of serving.
Prevent cross-contamination. Always keep raw meats separate from ready-to-eat food.
Make sure all food (particularly seafood, poultry and meat) is cooked thoroughly.
Visit the Better Health Channel website for more information on how to cook, shop, store and eat food safely.
Storing food correctly means your items can last weeks or even months longer, but it can be difficult to know what should go where.
Do you keep your eggs in the fridge or pantry? Do tomatoes go in the fridge crisper or fruit bowl?
Download and print these handy A4 storage guides. Keep a copy on the fridge so you can check that you’re storing food the best way to get the most value.
- Download the storage guide for Fresh produce in your fridge (PDF, 2.17MB)
- Download the storage guide for Fresh produce in your pantry (PDF, 2.15MB)
Below are some tips to get the best out of your food, whether they're in the fridge, freezer and pantry.
For better food quality when freezing, try these tips out.
- Avoid UFOs (unidentified frozen objects). Label and date food before freezing so you can tell what’s what.
- Simplify. Freeze leftovers in single serve portions for a quick weeknight meal.
- Save some dough. When defrosting bread, take care to remove any ice within the pack, as this can thaw and make the bread soggy.
- Trim excess fat from meat before freezing, to reduce the risk of spoilage.
- Puree fruit and vegetables with high water content before freezing. High water content fruit and vegetables, such as tomatoes, strawberries or apples, are often better pureed before freezing. Freeze in portions to use in smoothies, jams or pie fillings.
- Cooked rice and pasta can be frozen. Always freeze separately to the sauce, so that they last longer.
- Get creative! Yoghurt can also be used to make icy-poles if portioned into icy-pole molds or used to create yoghurt based frozen desserts (e.g. yoghurt ice cream).
Is your fridge keeping food as fresh as it could be?
- Keep things cool. Your fridge should be 3–4 degrees Celsius. You can use a small thermometer to check it’s at the right temperature. If it isn’t, it may need a professional service.
- Avoid overcrowding. Air needs to circulate to keep things cool.
- It’s okay to be shallow sometimes. Put leftovers in the fridge in shallow containers so they cool down quickly to help extend their shelf life.
- Store raw foods and cooked foods separately. Raw meat should be sealed and kept on the bottom shelf to avoid any leakage and/or dripping.
- Do a quick fridge check. Check seals to make sure doors are closing properly and check to make sure you don’t have any unnecessary of out-of-date items.
Storing food in the right way helps keep it fresh and tasty for longer. Have a go at some of these for getting the most out of your pantry:
- First in, first out. Stack newer items at the back and bring items that are near use-by date to the front.
- Declutter. Clear your pantry so you can see everything easily. This will go a long way to making sure nothing gets neglected.
- Know your dates! Best-before doesn’t mean a food is unusable, it simply means that after then, the food may start to deteriorate. There’s no need to bin it; just use it ASAP!
- Airtight storage. Half empty packets of food should be kept in sealable containers. Things such as stackable jars become a great way to keep food fresh and your pantry tidy.
- Bag clips. Pegs, elastic bands, or proper bag clips will help prevent spillage and keep foods fresher.
- Jot it down. Keep a notepad close, so you can keep track of foods you run out of as you go. You’ll never forget something, or double up again!
While two-thirds of household food waste could have been avoided, there are always certain items that are unavoidable such as avocado skins, egg shells and tea leaves.
These scraps still have valuable nutrients that can be put back into the system rather than going to waste and ending up in landfill.
When food breaks down in landfill it can create methane – a toxic greenhouse gas that damages both human health and the climate.
There are a range of ways you can ensure unavoidable food waste is put to good use rather than ending up in the rubbish bin.
Food scraps in green bins
Some councils accept food scraps in their green waste bins. Check your local council website to see if your council offers one.
Set up a home compost, bokashi bin or worm farm
There’s an option for every household type – see which one suits you best. Some councils even offer discounts on equipment.
Find a compost near you
Some councils offer community composting sites, or you can sign up to compost sharing apps such as ShareWaste.
About Love Food Hate Waste
Love Food Hate Waste aims to raise awareness of avoidable food waste from Victorian households. Each year Victorian households send over 250,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste to landfill, presenting a financial loss for households and also impacting on our environment.
When food is thrown in the bin it is sent to landfill. Because of the way food waste breaks down in landfill, it can create methane; a greenhouse gas. Unless well managed it can lead to potential environmental and public health risks as methane and leachate can migrate from landfills into the surrounding environment.
The campaign is brought to you by the Victorian Government and delivered by Sustainability Victoria. It is linked to the successful campaign of the same name developed in the United Kingdom by WRAP UK and delivered in New South Wales by the Environment Protection Authority.