How to save food

Last updated: 1 March 2021

Planning meals, shopping smart, cooking waste-free and storing food correctly reduces food waste and saves money.

Planning

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.

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Shopping

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.

Cooking

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.

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Food safety

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.

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Storage

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?

Find out with our storage guide for fresh produce.

Disposal

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.