Reducing food waste can save you hundreds


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It's awful how much food I waste.

It might not seem like much at the time - a carton of milk here, some limp vegetables and old fruit there, some leftovers - but over the weeks and months it really adds up. It ends up costing me quite a lot by not checking the use-by date or using all the vegetables and fruit I buy. The silly thing is that I hate waste.

I'm not alone in buying more than my family needs. Food waste costs the average Australian household $616 a year, according to the National Waste Report released in May this year.

An individual wastes around $239 each year. I'm trying to be on better terms with the contents of my fridge and cupboards and know what is in them and when I should use it by. I'm using the freezer more to keep food fresh longer. I want to know that I can whip up a quick meal with what I have and stop wasting money.

The National Waste Report estimates that Australians throw out an average of 361 kilos of food a year, or around 936 kilos per household. This organic matter isn't good for the environment because when it goes into landfill it decomposes and turns into methane which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In the bigger picture it is also a waste of the resources, water and energy used in the production, transport and supply of food, according to the report.

"Food waste is the biggest component of our garbage," explains Frank Sartor, minister for climate change and the environment in NSW. "It makes up a massive 40% of the total rubbish in our household bins."

A total of 4.45 million tonnes of food waste was thrown out last year by households and a further 3.1 million tonnes by businesses.

There is some light on the horizon as organisations such as Foodbank, OzHarvest, FareShare, Food 4 Life and SecondBite are turning excess food into nutritious meals for the homeless and the needy. Foodbank Australia alone distributed 16 million kilos of donated food and groceries last year that would otherwise go to waste because it is nearing its use by date, slow to sell or is in excess of demand.

Some companies such as Woolworths are working towards reducing organic waste, which it aims to reduce to zero by the year 2015. It has diverted waste to be processed into compost, fertiliser and electricity and in 2009 it was one of Australia's largest food donors, providing 1.35 million kilos of consumable food, which is the equivalent of 1.5 million meals.

Several Australian state governments have followed the UK's Love Food Hate Waste campaign that has reached more than 1.8 million people and prevented more than 137,000 tonnes of food in the UK from being chucked out.

How? It provides useful advice about food to keep it fresher longer and how to use and prepare food. It's a resource for people like me who want to cut down my food waste. Check out for tips and tools on how to reduce food waste.

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