If you're guilty of chucking out those biscuits past their best before date or forgetting about the dried herbs on the pantry shelf, you're not the only one. Globally, one third of the world's food goes to waste. A figure so high that, if food waste were a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only USA and China.
Food wastage is clearly bad for the environment. In Victoria alone, 250,000 tonnes of perfectly edible food is wasted by households per annum – enough to fill Melbourne's sky scraping Eureka tower. That kind of food waste is capable of producing up to 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year. Why? Because food waste that ends up in a landfill site, has the capacity to produce methane when it breaks down.
Still feeling good about chucking that last choccy muffin into the bin?
But wasting food is hurting our pockets too. Australia wastes $8 billion of food a year, but more recent research shows the average Victorian household bins the equivalent of a staggering $2,200 in groceries each year.
And while food safety is of course paramount -- always adhere to 'use by' dates people -- Sustainability Victoria food wastage expert Kellie Watson believes that our time poor lifestyles has contributed significantly to the amount of food we waste.
"But by taking just a few minutes before each shop, or making a menu list each week and checking what we already have in stock, you'll drastically reduce food wastage, and save lots of money too," Watson says.
So, which foods are we wasting most and what practical measures can we take to stop?
Below are the top five foods wasted in Victoria. And while the figures are shocking, the solutions for reducing waste and reusing leftovers are surprisingly easy.
In fact, they can be applied to just about any Aussie household...
1.Bread (And Pastries, And Biscuits)
With bread costing -- on average -- nearly three dollars for a loaf of supermarket white, binning this pantry staple can add up. Yet every year, Victorians put 64,500 tonnes of bread (as well as pastry and biscuits) into landfill. Accredited practising dietician Caitlyn Rabel says it doesn't have to be this way. "I store my bread in the freezer and only pull out slices as I need them. That way a loaf can last me most of the week." Caitlyn also says that if the last few slices -- and crusts -- are looking a bit dry, blitz them into breadcrumbs. "Homemade breadcrumbs are so much nicer than the ones from a packet, throw in some herbs or leftover grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavour," says Caitlyn. Oh, and you can freeze those breadcrumbs too!
2. Pre-Prepared Or Home-cooked Meals
Each year, Victorian's chuck out 51,000 tonnes worth of lovingly crafted homemade dishes and easy to cook pre-prepared ready meals. But it doesn't have to be this way. "Go with leftovers for lunch the next day or freeze -- as soon as possible -- for another meal," says Kellie Watson. "Or, if you're a smaller household, adjust your portions when you're preparing. Most recipes are for four, simply halve the ingredients to avoid making too much."
3. Dairy And Eggs
"Eggs, yoghurt and cheese are items we waste a lot of," says Kellie Watson -- 35,000 tonnes worth to be exact. "To avoid dairy wastage, keep a close eye on use by and best before dates and stack things in the fridge according to their dates." Not sure what to do with excess eggs, cream, milk or cheese? "Frittata is your friend," says Summer Table cookbook author and 'frugal foodie' Jodie Blight. "Combine 10 eggs, 1/2 a cup of cream and 100grams of any cheese and pour into a grease-proof dish over a mix of any leftover veg (spinach, red onion and pumpkin for example). Cook at 200C in the oven for 30 minutes, or until set."
4. Fresh Vegetables
Tempted to chuck out those slightly soft, but still perfectly edible carrots, spare broccoli florets -- and their nutrient-rich stems -- or that handful of green beans languishing at the back of the fridge? Throwing them into a soup or stew instead is a great way to cut back on the 31,500 tonnes of vegetables Victorian's waste each year. "You can add anything into a soup or even a mash, and when it's blended up you can't tell that it might have been a bit sad looking prior," says Caitlyn Rabel. Plus, using up leftover veggies in a soup also counts towards your recommended five vegetable portions a day. "Simply roast all your veg in a bit of olive oil, with -- if you have some to use up -- garlic or herbs, then add them to some vegetable or chicken stock," says Caitlyn. "Simmer, blend and there you have a delicious and nutritious soup that's cost you very little."
5. Fresh Fruit
Storing fruit properly is the key to increasing its longevity, says Kellie Watson. "Keep tomatoes and bananas out of the fridge. Also keep your avocadoes out of fridge, the fridge will prevent them from ripening. But your berries and apples will last longer if you keep them in the fridge," says Watson.
The fridge will increase your fruit's lifespan while the fruit bowl items are visible and easy to grab when you're after a healthy snack. We can also maximise fruit's usability by doubling it up in both sweet and savoury dishes, says Jodie Blight. "Apples aren't just for grandma's pie – they're great in relishes or even grated into a slaw, curry or spaghetti bolognese for a bit of sweetness," she says. "Fruit gets binned at the first sign of a bruise or mushiness. If my excess bananas are looking a bit brown, in addition to banana muffins or bread, I mash and freeze them in ice cube trays ready to throw into a smoothie." With 22,500 tonnes of fresh fruit ending up in Victorian bin, its worth getting creative and clever with the contents of the fruit bowl.
To find out more about food waste in Victoria, how to use your leftovers -- including delicious recipes and practical storage advice -- and discover ways to plan meals and shop effectively, check out the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, brought to you by The Victorian Government and delivered by Sustainability Victoria. More information, tips and tricks can be found at www.lovefoodhatewaste.vic.gov.au
Want five more easy ways to make the most of your leftovers? Click here.