According to the state government’s Love Food Hate Waste program, households in NSW throw away the contents of one in five of their bags of groceries.
In dollar value, this adds up to $3800 each year for the average household – that’s money that can go towards savings or a holiday rather than, quite literally, being thrown in the bin.
So how can you be food-savvy, save (and maybe even make) money, help your community and be good to the environment too?
Stop before you throw away groceries
Before you throw food away make sure you understand the difference between the “use by” and “best before” labels.
“Best before” means the food should still be safe to eat for a while after the date but may have lost some quality.
Food labelled with a “use by” date means that it can’t legally be sold after this date and should not be eaten.
Use your food waste to meet your neighbours
Whether you bought too many groceries that you know you won’t use or cooked too much for dinner, waste is avoidable if you put it on a free food sharing app such as Olio.
Olio allows you to list online food you would otherwise throw out to give away to people. Those who are close by can claim it.
This way you can waste less food, get to know some of your neighbours and even pick up something great for yourself too.
Think outside the box – food doesn’t have to end its life as food
Love Food Hate Waste found that that over half those surveyed saw items like peels and coffee grounds as unavoidable waste and more than a quarter didn’t regard them as waste at all because they believed they could not be used or reused.
We’ve all heard about composting and worm farms, but have you ever thought about upcycling common household food scraps to make other useful products?
A great example is to turn your scraps into cosmetics or skincare products, such as body scrubs or lip balms, saving you money and helping you avoid single-use plastic packaging.
Coffee grounds, raw sugar and many oils used in the kitchen, as well as spices such as cinnamon and clove, are common pantry staples that you could combine to make your own body scrub.
I don’t know about you but my forays into baking usually end with a lot of leftover products like bicarb soda.
But unused items, such as bicarb or arrowroot powder, are multipurpose powerhouses and can be used to make your own deodorant or a gentle exfoliating cleanser.
There are plenty of recipes online, or sign up to a fun workshop like those from Parva Skincare in Sydney.
You never know where your new skills could take you – it might even lead to a lucrative side hustle!
Be like Santa – make a list and check it twice
Better than recycling is pre-cycling. This is a principle that encourages consumers to avoid buying things that will generate waste.
Make a list of what you need or take a photo of the contents of your fridge so you don’t forget what groceries you already have.
Love Food Hate Waste estimates households spend a larger portion of their food budget on fresh items. Fresh food also accounted for the highest dollar value of food thrown out, almost a third of what they spent.
Remember: supermarkets are designed to entice you – stay focused, stick to your list and don’t be tempted to stray to the other aisles!
From waste to waist
Finally, the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given when it comes to clever shopping for groceries is: don’t go to the supermarket hungry.