Six simple ways to save money by slashing your food waste


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COVID-19 might achieve in weeks what we food-waste-warriors have failed to do in years.

For too long, total pests like me, have been leaning over shoulders, feigning horror. "You're not throwing that out, are you?"

I'm so bad that I eat abandoned food that I don't even like off mates' plates, in a passive-aggressive stance against food waste. I hate myself for it. But I hate food waste more.

coronavirus reducing food waste

I get it.

It's hard to be inspired not to waste stuff when it seems there's a never-ending supply.

Cut to April 2020. Hands up, who is now counting squares of toilet paper?

It's been hard in a lucky place like Australia to convey that we live on a precious planet with finite resources.

Now as COVID-19 puts us in social-iso, it also raises the real or imagined concern of food scarcity.

Now that we've seen (most of us for the first time) empty shelves and ration signs, we miss the luxury of walking into a fully-stocked shop. This is something most of us used to take for granted.

When we throw out a tomato, loaf of bread, or half bottle of wine (surely no-one's still doing that) we throw out all the stuff that went into making it. This isn't only the water, energy, fuel and labour to grow and transport it, we're throwing out the money we used to buy it.

According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation, food is the single largest component in landfills, with almost one-third of the food supply going to waste.

And for a little myth-busting: edible food in landfill doesn't magically create compost.

It creates methane, a toxic gas worse than emissions from our cars.

This is why eliminating food waste is a massive part of tackling climate change, and something we can, and must, all do.

Given we cant nip to the shops whenever anymore, now is the time to build better habits to eliminate food waste.

Each one of us sends almost 300kg of food to landfill each year.

Let's stop this now. Here's how:

1. Keep food scraps for chooks, worms or compost

Food scraps aren't rubbish, they are resources. Our soil needs them in order to feed us.

Many local councils are accepting food scraps into the green garden organics bin, so check your council's offering.

Chooks: Since COVID-19 domestic chooks are like hens' teeth as people scramble to bed down their egg supply. This is good, not only because I fit two chicken/egg puns into one sentence, but chooks eat food scraps which means they don't go to landfill. And your food scraps feed a chicken which makes an egg to feed you. In nature, nothing is wasted.

Worms: If chooks aren't your jam, get a worm farm.

Please avoid cheap, badly-made ones. They'll break, be too small, or smell.

I promise I've tried them all. Get the mac-daddy Hungry Bin from Wormlovers. (No, I don't get a kick back. But I do get a kick when I order worms and they arrive through the post!)

Worm wee from the worm farm is also liquid gold for your plants.

Compost: Composting is another way to send vital nutrients back to the soil.

Make sure to check which food scraps you can and can't compost, and don't forget to add shredded paper and garden clippings to get the right balance.

2. Shop to a list

Enough said.

If you don't need it, don't buy it.

Excess usually gets wasted.

3. Eat your leftovers

I don't want to hear you complain that "had it yesterday". Have it again!

Whatever it was yesterday, re-fresh it today by adding a new taste (lemon juice/korma paste/miso) or texture (avocado/nuts/fresh herbs).

4. Freeze and blend

Your freezer is your best friend in achieving zero-food-waste. Fruits or veggies going limp? Cut and freeze.

When you're ready, blend them into beautiful nutritious smoothies or soups.

5. Grow your own

Limited space? With a little sun + a vertical garden wall you can grow good herbs.

They will not feed an army. But during COVID-19 self-iso, look for little joys like some home-grown mint, coriander or parsley on top of a salad.

Victory Gardens during World War 2 saw around 40% of American fruits and veggies being grown by families in their gardens and any spare plots of soil.

Even MONA, Tasmania's Museum of Old and New Art, has declared "f*** lawns" as the team turns its useless lawn into a thriving vegetable garden.

6. Know the dates

Best-before is not an expiration date, and food is often safe after these dates.

Use your eyes and your nose. If it looks and smells fine, it's probably safe to consume.

For random ingredients hiding in the back of the panty, throw it into a Google search for new ideas on jazzing up old staples.

Any questions, hit us up at: [email protected].

For more ideas on how to look after our people and our planet, sign up for our movement and help create a better world at

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Tamara DiMattina studied public relations at RMIT and went on to establish Trumpet PR + Marketing, a communications business focused on strengthening communities through positive behaviour change. She is the founder of Buy Nothing New Month, a campaign for conscientious consumption, and The New Joneses, a living pop-up installation embodying stylish, waste-free, conscious living.

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